Flash back, for a moment, to that electrifying summer of 2011, when the Jets touched down in Winnipeg and Andrew Ladd was among the first to sign on.
Yeah, when the Jets captain inked a five-year deal that summer, he expected the team to win some games.
Instead, after the Pittsburgh Penguins formally knocked them out of playoff contention on Thursday night, Ladd and his teammates turned up at the MTS Iceplex for yet another morning after. Another season ending at the buzzer, another spring watching other teams chase the Stanley Cup on TV.
For Ladd, a two-time Stanley Cup champion, that stings.
"The scary thing is, it seems like it's floating by," said Ladd before the Jets boarded a flight to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs tonight. "It feels like you just won a Stanley Cup, then all of a sudden you're four years out and you haven't had a playoff game... we've fallen short. We accept that as players, and we'll try to move forward."
How to move the Jets forward, well, that was a trickier question for players to address after the morning work-out at Iceplex.
Personnel moves? Those are inevitable, coach Paul Maurice said. It's just a given that you'll never get the same group of guys in a room together again. For their parts, Ladd, goalie Ondrej Pavelec and veteran Olli Jokinen -- a pending free agent -- declined to speculate on what pieces the Jets might need.
"We feel pretty good about the group," Pavelec said. "(There's) nothing that I can do about it. If they want to make a change, they'll make the change."
Maybe what the Jets need is more time for Maurice to work -- although with that comes the caveat that the Jets were 19-23-5 when Claude Noel was canned in January, and were 34-34-10 after Thursday's game. So the coach is not a magic bullet -- but Jokinen believes that under Maurice, the Jets have changed.
"Are the pieces here? Yeah, I believe so," the 35-year-old Finn said. "We've still got a lot of young players here, and it's been a good eye-opening and learning process since Paul came. His big thing is, you gotta be pro every day. You have to make hard decisions every day. You gotta make decisions in the summer: Are you gonna work out, or are you gonna sleep in?
"You gotta make a decision today (on) what do you need to do to be good tomorrow. I think the team is going in the right direction."
That statement left a question hanging in the dressing room air -- would things have been different if Maurice had been there all season long?
"That's speculating, you know?" Jokinen said. "All of what I'm saying, it's not a knock on (the) old coaching staff, because they did a good job here too. I think it's just that sometimes, their message didn't go through... Whatever Paul's doing, I think the message is very clear, and guys are buying in. You can have any kind of coach, if you don't listen and you don't want to do things the way he tells you, you're not going anywhere.
"I think that since Paul came here, that commitment, that buying in, playing in a team concept and sticking with the system, it's been there every game."
While most of the Jets didn't skate on Friday, rookie Mark Scheifele was back on the ice, alongside fellow wounded Grant Clitsome. It was the first time Scheifele skated with Jets trainers since he was injured on March 4 against the Islanders. Of note: the Jets are 4-8-3 since he went down.