Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Never a dull moment

No shortage of hot Jet topics these days

  • Print

LOS ANGELES -- From Babygate to the cold reality of another season ending in disappointment to a startling performance against one of the NHL's best teams, things are far from boring around the Winnipeg Jets these days.

The Jets could have checked out by now, having realized their playoff dreams have morphed into another late-season nightmare, but that hasn't been the case. They put in a strong effort on Monday in a loss to the Dallas Stars and Thursday they knocked off Joe Thornton and his top-seeded San Jose Sharks. The Jets, whatever their faults, have not quit on themselves.

"This was the first time we talked about the playoffs and our situation," said coach Paul Maurice, following Thursday's surprising 4-3 win over the Sharks. "We talked about what a steep hill we have to climb. We have to play hard for the faith in the room and the confidence in the room. We have to get to the place where we do things at the same pace and with the same compete level regardless of the surroundings and the environment, such as a playoff race. The compete level was real good and that's a good sign."

Here are some observations from a trip that began in Texas, moved over to California and will wind up in Phoenix next week:

Wheeler's a wheel

Blake Wheeler is Winnipeg's best player right now and he just might make a push to be one of the league's top wingers. He has always had the speed, size and skill to be a standout, but consistency has been lacking. A slow start to this season brought Wheeler into the line of fire and diminished his chances at making the U.S. Olympic squad. Through 21 games on Nov. 15, Wheeler had just 12 points. In the 53 games, since he's collected 50 points and become a legitimate point-a-game man. The Jets have some bright young players in Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba, but if this is the Wheeler the team can consistently rely on, there will be no bigger spoke in the wheel than No. 26. Through 74 games, Wheeler has 25 goals and 62 points -- just two shy of his career best.


Al's audition

All credit to goalie Al Montoya. From this perspective his string of six straight starts was a successful audition and he's deserving of a return engagement. Montoya went 3-3 and had a save percentage above .900 in all but one of those games. I don't see Montoya as the No. 1 answer for the Jets in goal going forward, but he's a serviceable second goalie, well-liked by his teammates and willing to do whatever the team asks of him.


Baby shower

Andrew Ladd was strong in his return to action on Thursday, scoring a goal and playing an effective game at both ends of the ice. Suggestions Ladd had somehow let his team down by missing a game to be at his wife's side for the birth of their second child were all wet. When this team went south earlier this season, resulting in the firing of Claude Noel, it was fair to put Ladd's leadership abilities under scrutiny. Paul Maurice likes Ladd as a captain and his teammates rallied around him this week. All in all, this is much ado about nothing and may bring the Jets a little closer as a team. It also sends notice to players in the league the organization cares about its players and their families. I don't know how that can be a bad thing.


No pop

Another game, another blank scoresheet for Evander Kane. The Jets power forward and one-time 30-goal scorer is in a terrible drought, having scored just three goals in his last 19 games. Kane has 11 points over that stretch, but he's a goal scorer and the Jets need him to put the puck in the net. Kane will be the highest-paid Jet in 2014-15 at $6 million per season and my bet is he'll be ready to take the next step and become a consistent goal scorer. It should be noted, Kane has been skating on a line with Eric O'Dell and whoever else fits that particular night for the last stretch of games. O'Dell is a nice story, but the Jets need to figure a way to unlock Kane's potential. Pairing him with the right centre is a mystery that needs to be solved.


Man's camp

Maurice hasn't decided whether he'll return to the Jets for next season, but if he does, it appears the workload will get a little heavier. Maurice gave his players a conditioning skate at the end of a practice in San Jose on Wednesday and when asked about it, he made clear it would be the norm rather than the exception.

"We're going to work harder," he said. "That wasn't even a skate. We need a man's training camp. We need to work harder."


Spoiler stuff

The Jets will roll into Phoenix next Tuesday to play the team that once lived in Winnipeg. The original Jets, now known as the Coyotes, have gone on a nice little run of late to put themselves back in a playoff position. The Coyotes own the last wild-card berth and held a five-point lead on their closest pursuer prior to Friday's action. The Jets are on the verge of elimination and they'll be in the role of spoiler when they get to Arizona. Reports have as many as 1,500 Jets fans planning to be in the building for the game, and they'll be rooting for the new franchise, not the old.

Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 29, 2014 C1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart: Another Kick At A Paywall

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Hay bales sit under a rainbow just west of Winnipeg Saturday, September 3, 2011.(John Woods/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS June 23, 2011 Local - A Monarch butterfly is perched on a flower  in the newly opened Butterfly Garden in Assiniboine Park Thursday morning.

View More Gallery Photos

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
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.


What are your feelings on NHL potentially implementing 3-on-3 overtime?

View Results

Ads by Google