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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets' Wheels a little flat

Winger off to another slow start, figures he's trying to do too much

Posted: 10/17/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

Last Modified: 10/17/2013 9:27 AM | Updates

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Montreal Canadiens' Francis Bouillon checks Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler during second-period NHL action at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg Tuesday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Montreal Canadiens' Francis Bouillon checks Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler during second-period NHL action at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg Tuesday. Photo Store

Blake Wheeler does not need a history lesson.

He knows it so well, if it were one of his classes today he'd almost surely be cutting it.

But here is the Winnipeg Jets right-winger reliving it again: It, of course, being a rocky start to the NHL season.

The 27-year-old power forward just hasn't seemed himself so far, with just one goal and two assists to show for the Jets' first seven games.

"I don't care about stats," he said Wednesday after the team practised at the MTS Iceplex. "Stats take care of themselves. I care about the body of work and what you do to get there.

"I'm a believer that if I play a certain way, the numbers are going to be what they are, what they have been. I'm more worried about the process."

'That's the way it goes. I'm honest with myself. I know when I'm not playing well'

In his first season in Winnipeg, Wheeler didn't score until mid-November, 19 games into the season.

In the lockout-shortened schedule, he disliked his early play, despite four goals and nine points in the first 10 games.

"That (2011-12) was a little bit larger sample size -- we're going to talk about this damn first year for the rest of my career here but that was 20 games and this was seven," Wheeler said. "That's the way it goes. I'm honest with myself. I know when I'm not playing well."

Jets coach Claude Noel gave a short, blunt answer to a question about Wheeler after Tuesday's 3-0 loss to the Canadiens.

He expanded on the Wheeler subject on Wednesday.

"I think most players, if they don't have the ability to look, that's what coaches are for, to look and see their games," Noel said. "The other thing is we all have access to video on their shifts. So you have a real foundation of knowledge you can sort through.

'At least in Blake's situation, at least he is able to look in the mirror and say he's unhappy with his game'

-- Jets coach Claude Noel

"At least in Blake's situation, at least he is able to look in the mirror and say he's unhappy with his game. I think he needs to do a couple of simple things. I think for him less is more. Probably in one or two clear areas he just needs to be better.

"We spoke today a little bit about it, so he clearly understands."

Less is more was certainly what Wheeler was thinking on Wednesday.

"I have a pretty realistic view of how I judge my game and you know, I haven't been real pleased for the most part," said the winger who led the team in goals, 19, last season. "For whatever reasons, at the beginning of seasons I think I come in and try to do too much, trying to get things going and do the right things.

"That's on me. I'm the kind of guy that, to play my game, I need not to be thinking and... just relax out there. It's one of those things where you feel like you're going so hard out there but you're probably not. You're a little bit late, a second late and you're in the wrong spots because you're trying to do too much.

"For me, it hasn't been a real good start. I haven't been happy with it."

Wheeler said he's got no issue with Noel getting on his case. He even admitted he can be stubborn at times.

"You guys have gotten to know me a little bit. I'm a little bit hard-headed, a bit stubborn," he said. "I normally take the approach when things aren't going well, you try to skate yourself through the wall. That doesn't work for me. It doesn't and it hasn't in the past. I did that my first year here and it took me a little bit of time, longer, to realize that isn't me."

Some factions have been on his case because he's passed up too many good shooting opportunities, but always keep in mind there that hindsight is perfect.

"I think it's a mentality," Wheeler said. "I've never been a shoot-first guy in my entire life. I'm not going to be Kaner (Evander Kane). I'm not coming down and getting 10 shots a game. That's just not me.

"My instincts tell me I think I have a guy open and have a better opportunity to score, then I'm going to pass to them.

"Sometimes it works out and I look great. Other times it doesn't work out and I don't look so great. You're right, there are some opportunities I've passed up where I definitely should have shot and I think that comes with overthinking things and trying to make a play where it's not there."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 17, 2013 D1

History

Updated on Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 6:55 AM CDT: Replaces photo, removes garbled fact box

9:27 AM: Video added.

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