Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Coach Noel frets about Jets

Looking to remedy club's special teams, inconsistent team play

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Tampa, Fla. -- The Winnipeg Jets are nearing the 24-game mark of this 48-game season and own a record of 10-11-1 to sit 11th in the Eastern Conference and second in the Southeast Division.

The Jets are six points back of the Southeast-leading Carolina Hurricanes and three points back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference.

The season has featured spurts of good play followed by stretches of poor results. The Jets are, in a word, inconsistent.

Here are some thoughts from head coach Claude Noel on the Jets as the season approaches the halfway mark:

 

-- On consistency: "The mid-season point, I'd have to say we're doing OK. A lot of people had written us off and we're still flirting with the playoff line and we need to continue knocking on that door. The part that keeps me up at night would be our inconsistency in our team play. We've gone through stretches where we've been good and not so good. That's the concerning part. That's the battle for me in a shortened season like this where you have to find a way to keep your team consistent when you have a different way of managing with travel and the number of games in a short span."

 

-- Veteran free agent signing Olli Jokinen has just five goals and seven points through 22 games: "Olli does a lot of things other than score points. If you talked to him I'd sure he'd be disappointed. But a lot of top six players, a lot of their production stems from the power play and that's been stalled. So that has a reflection. But Olli does a good job in the room and a lot of other things for us in a leadership aspect. So I'm not going to sit here and say I'm disappointed in him. I'd like a little more from him and I've discussed it with him. But in a game like (Tuesday) night's when you're a veteran guy who has been around, you need to take control."

 

-- On No. 1 goalie Ondrej Pavelec: "Ondrej started so-so but his game picked up when we were having success. I thought (Tuesday) night in the game he looked tired and I thought that from the standpoint of his positioning and his reflex movement. He's learning to deal with the maturity and responsibility of being the go-to guy. We have to play 16 games in the month of March. We have to manage him and keep him fresh. It might be time for him to take a little break."

 

-- On all-star defenceman Dustin Byfuglien: "Buff has a unique skill set. Those types of players don't fall off trees. Take the breakout for example. He can find an open guy under major pressure, he can protect the puck and find the guy in the middle of the ice and a lot of people can't do that. He can do it offensively and defensively. The challenge I face with Dustin, when I watched him play in Atlanta he always had a green light. There was no pattern of defending. The other four players on the ice were reacting to how he played and I thought that had to change. We want him to understand he's a defenceman first. He can still be an offensive defenceman but he has to fit under the structure we're playing. He's making strides in that area."

 

-- The Jets have scored just one power-play goal in their last 33 tries and are ranked 23rd in the league: "What you have to do is find the system that fits your personnel. Tampa Bay, for instance, plays the 1-3-1. That's great, I love the 1-3-1. But they have Steven Stamkos to play in the middle. They move it around and feed him. Sometimes our personnel can't make those plays. That's no disrespect to our players. You try to structure with what you have. There's no secret formula. A lot of teams do the same things. At the end of the day, it's execution."

 

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 7, 2013 D2

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