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Called to the office

Coach holds one-on-ones hoping to improve team's accountability

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Jets captain Andrew Ladd (left) and Bryan Little know the players have to improve as individuals and a team before they can call each other to account for poor play.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Jets captain Andrew Ladd (left) and Bryan Little know the players have to improve as individuals and a team before they can call each other to account for poor play. Photo Store

More chicken-or-egg questions dominated Monday with the Winnipeg Jets, who were fresh from their latest troubling performance in a 3-1 loss Sunday to the Nashville Predators.

 

The Jets stand at 4-5 so far this season, and worse, are 2-3 in the six-game homestand that ends tonight against the Washington Capitals.

Is internal accountability going to make the Jets play better, or is better play going to make the Jets more accountable?

On that, the foothold is not easy, said captain Andrew Ladd.

"There are different situations but personally for me, I think simplifying my game, that's how I get back on track," Ladd began. "It's focusing on doing the little things, winning battles and skating and moving my feet and shooting the puck more, stuff like that.

"Each individual has to figure out what makes us tick. And then for me, that's it. That's what I'll try to do."

As a team leader, actually, THE team leader, how does that go?

"I don't think as a leader you can speak up or get on people if you're not playing as well as you can," Ladd said. "The biggest thing I can do is worry about getting my game to where it needs to be. Then let my actions speak for themselves."

The captain, who has three goals and four points and wouldn't be at the bottom of most performance lists, and the coach, Claude Noel, appear to be harmonious on at least that point.

"In order to make people accountable, you first have to have an A-game," Noel said, getting this question at the very end of Monday's interview and launching into a parting soliloquy. "Then you can stand up and say, 'Hey, you guys need to get better.' Or, 'You guys need to help us win.'

"You can do that but you can't do that when you've got a B-game. How do you stand up and tell somebody that you need to play better when you're not playing that great? You have to play well first. And then you can stand up and say, 'OK, I'm going to put my game on the line, I'm going to put my words behind my game.' That's how accountability happens.

"When you don't have many guys playing very well, pretty hard to stand up in the room and say, 'You guys need to get going.' Excuse me? So who would do that? You give me a list today of guys who would do that from last night's game."

The coach spent much of Monday coaching, he said. What he really meant was drilling down, as opposed to just directing traffic.

"It's always good to talk to your players," Noel said. "You can never talk to them enough. The problem right now is we're trying to put skill ahead of work. We've got it backwards."

Did he learn anything by talking to his players, including in some one-on-ones on the ice and in his office?

"You always do. It's all good stuff," he said. "The thing that I find is that we care, we've just got things in the wrong order. We've got to get them in the right order. That's my job. That's what we're trying to do today."

Jets centre Bryan Little, who has three goals and six points so far, said caring is not the problem.

"Guys really care," Little said. "Guys really want to win. It shows every day here in the dressing room and how upset guys are the way we're playing.

"We want to fix it. It's not all just straight-up work ethic. Sometimes we do work hard but we don't work smart. We do turn pucks over, squeezing sticks too tight or not playing simple, trying to do too much.

"So you can work hard but you can work kind of stupid. It's about putting it all together."

The lack of a consistent winning game so far is causing some anxiety in Jets Nation but Ladd said he doesn't want the dressing room to get caught up in it.

"I think you try to keep everything in the room, everything about this group in here and I think that's something we can do a better job of controlling -- shutting everything outside out and just focusing on what we need to focus on in here and not what everybody else is saying and thinking," Ladd said.

"At the end of the day, we're the guys in here doing the work and we have to show up and be accountable to each other."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 22, 2013 C3

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