Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fair-to-middling Jets rate 'C'

Over 20 games club just so-so, should improve

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SOME weeks ago -- back in the days just before the Winnipeg Jets' historic rebirth on Oct. 9 -- yours truly was killing time in the club's dressing room and spotted a couple of messages scrawled on a whiteboard.

The first read: 'Be Proud of Your Effort Today.'

The second: "Play Hard. Play Smart. Work Together."

I jotted the two messages down in a notebook but, thinking they were rather pedestrian, filed them away in the deep recesses of my little brain.

Then along comes Saturday afternoon when those messages bubbled to the surface again while watching the Jets dismantle the Philadelphia Flyers 6-4 en route to their third consecutive win and a 8-9-3 record at the quarter mark of the 2011-12 season.

And here's why: While the Jets have served up their share of duds through the first 20 games of the year, what we have seen in the last week might just be the perfect glimpse at the template head coach Claude Noel & Co. want the troops to follow.

'Be Proud of Your Effort Today.'

'Play Hard, Play Smart. Work Together.'

This isn't, after all, a star-studded squad that can take nights off and still eke out wins because the roster is flowing with talent. It has skill, some of it emerging, but it really is a team that needs contributions from everyone who pulls on a jersey every night.

We've had 20 games to watch this team begin its transformation after relocating from Atlanta -- no small task, that -- while working under new management in a new environment.

Finally, if we were to grade this crew on the first quarter it would be in the 'C' range -- it still is one game under .500, after all -- but encouraged by their work in the last week.

Put it this way, if this team still in the 'C' range by mid-erm -- especially with 13 home games before the end of the calendar year -- then this team has spun its wheels in the second quarter of the season.

"This is a new team in a new city with new coaches... it takes awhile to gel together and get on the same page," said Bryan Little after the win over the Flyers. "It's looking like it's starting to turn around."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twiter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 21, 2011 C4

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