OLLI JOKINEN couched his words carefully Wednesday, taking pains -- twice -- to stress he is not criticizing former Jets head coach Claude Noel when he pointed out how all the goofing around that used to go on at Jets practice has come to an abupt end since Paul Maurice took over behind the bench.
"He's very demanding," the Jets centre said following practice at the MTS Centre. "This is not a knock on Claude, he was demanding, too. But at the same time, there's different ways to coach. With Claude, it wasn't like he was doing something wrong here. It was more that maybe his message didn't go through.
"And now you have a new set of eyes watching you. And you see a lot of guys paying attention, there's no screwing around between the drills. You see a lot of bobbleheads out there -- guys are nodding and listening. And that's usually what happens for the first week when there's a new coach.
"He wants us to do everything fast. He wants us to pass the puck hard. This is the National Hockey League... and you should be able to do those things automatically. And that's what he wants us to do -- start doing it in practice. And once you start doing those little things in practice right, it's going to be automatic in the games."
On Wednesday, Jets practice was conducted at blistering speed and by a head coach in Maurice who has demonstrated quite clearly this week he is unafraid to raise his voice and employ "colourful language" during practice in pointing out mistakes and making clear to his players what he wanted.
With all the yelling and cursing and bobbleheading going on during practice under Maurice, the 46-year-old was asked if he is one of those stereotypical "hard-ass" coaches that some in this community have long thought was exactly what this bunch of underachieving Jets players needed.
Sometimes yes, said Maurice, and sometimes no.
"Right now, this is what they need, in my belief," said Maurice. "They need someone to say, 'This is what we're doing.' And I love practice. I get out there, I get a little lathered, I get a little excited -- on the bench, too -- it's fun for me. So there is that.
"But there will come a time when I'm quiet, too. When things are going really well, I'll be quiet."
While he's had just two full practices and a morning skate to work with his team on the ice, Jokinen said Maurice has already begun to put his imprint on the Jets.
"It's little details he brings up. Where the stick needs to be. On the breakouts, where you need to be. It's not like maybe you can go there -- it's not like that. You have to go there. This is what you have to do. There's no grey area," explained Jokinen.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd said Maurice has also demanded his forwards "play above the puck. Too many times, our forwards were getting caught too low and they were sneaking guys by us. That puts our D in a tough position to have a big gap. And it makes us play more in our end than we want to."
Maurice says he's determined to take a slow and methodical approach.
"I've made the decision to not to try and do everything at once. We're going to focus on one thing at a time," said Maurice. "There were systems here before. They were good systems. (Noel) wasn't running something completely different than everyone else was...
"I want to do it slowly, piece by piece. We're keeping some of that stuff, but we're going to have the team focus change."
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