Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Death to the Thrashers and their low standards

Winnipeg team needs Winnipeg ideals

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Despite having moved to Winnipeg and taken on a new name and colours, the Atlanta Thrashers still, unfortunately, exist.

But a renewed campaign to permanently extinguish them is upon us.

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Management and some players in the Winnipeg Jets dressing room have seen enough of the Thrashers' way of doing things and are now intent on eliminating any remaining DNA.

Management doesn't like the approach the group takes, as evidenced by recent comments from coach Claude Noel.

"We have to raise our standard of existence. We have a low standard of ourselves. That's what we are right now," said Noel. "That's part of trying to change your identity."

The Jets are winless in five tries and have a very difficult stretch coming up with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers paying visits to Winnipeg this week.

Noel isn't the only one unhappy with the way the Jets do business. Winger Tanner Glass called out his teammates this weekend, saying, "We've got some guys that are passengers right now and not buying into the things we want to do."

Veteran goalie Chris Mason says it's doubly frustrating to be with the Jets right now because the team has talent but hasn't commited as a group to playing winning hockey.

"I've played with hundreds of guys that are talented enough to be in the NHL, that for whatever reason didn't have the passion or didn't want to work. And it still happens to guys that are here," said Mason. "You can get comfortable just being here. The effort level is going to be there or you'll sit in the stands."

GM Kevin Chelveldayoff is undoubtedly unhappy with his team's performance. Sunday's news that he'd recalled veteran winger Jason Jaffray from the St. John's IceCaps was telling in the fact it was not done in response to an injury.

Jaffray has been summoned to bolster the Jets and to see if he can't be an improvement over any of the players Noel has been using to date.

"It definitely makes guys check themselves at the door. Maybe if they hadn't already understood that it's not acceptable to play the way we're playing, (Cheveldayoff) is sending a message -- that if you're not going to do what's required, then you're not going to be in the lineup, that they'll bring up other guys to do it," said Mason. "I, personally, think it's a good wakeup call for our team."

Jaffray won't solve all the Jets offensive problems but he will give the club another forward who holds himself to a high standard game in and game out.

"If the guys get the message, you'll feel a little threatened and not as comfortable as you did before. And it makes you kind of double-check yourself and maybe reassess things you need to get better at. You're never guaranteed to be here. It's definitely a wakeup call," said Mason. "It's indicative of our inconsistency. You're not going to win in this league with a bunch of superstars every night if you don't work hard."

There's a reason old-timers will tell you every player should spend some time on the farm and it's because it teaches them to never take their spot in the NHL for granted. Jaffray has had to claw for the 36 games he's spent in the NHL over a 10-year career that saw him start in the ECHL. Jaffray won't take a shift, a practice or workout off. He can't if he wants to stick around and put NHL dollars in the bank.

"It teaches you lessons in humility. Personally, I spent a lot of time in the minors and it really helped me kind of grow as a person, understand the hard work it takes to earn your place or chance," said Mason. "You appreciate when you get here how much of a privilege it is and how awesome it is to play in the NHL. I think personally, with the odd exception, it's a benefit to a player."

Humility isn't a strong suit in the Jets dressing room. Entitlement, however, is. That has to change.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 14, 2011 C2

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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