Two veteran leaders of the Winnipeg Jets called for change after the team went down in flames Saturday in a sloppy 6-4 loss to the Dallas Stars.
It marked the end of a catastrophic week at home for the Jets. Already behind the eight-ball with their weak record against the Central Division -- now 3-11-3 -- they earned just one point in three games against division rivals.
"What I say doesn't matter," said Jets right-winger Blake Wheeler, who tied the game twice with goals 1:55 apart in the second period.
"It's what you do out on the ice. You can blow smoke as much as you want in the media. We've been blowing smoke for three years, everyone, myself, everyone that's stood in front of a microphone in the last three years, we've said the same shit. What do you want me to say. That's about it. I don't know what else to say."
After running a home winless skid to 0-3-3, captain Andrew Ladd, one of only three Jets to speak to reporters after the game, was asked if something drastic has to happen.
"I don't know," Ladd said. "It's not my decision to make. But obviously something needs to change."
Ladd wasn't eager to start comparing poor outings the Jets have had.
"It's the same thing over and over again for me," he said. "I'm not in the mood to rank it. The quality of chances we gave up... a team like that, their strength is their offensive attack and the guys they have up front. We gave them I don't know how many two-on-ones, breakaways. Their first two goals were just terrible changes. That's mental stuff (and) to me, quite frankly, is embarrassing."
When Wheeler tied the game 3-3 -- Winnipeg's third rally from down a goal -- at 14:53 of the second, Jets coach Claude Noel sent John Albert, Wheeler and Anthony Peluso out for the next shift.
Peluso wound up drilling Stars' defenceman Alex Goligoski from behind into the glass for a major boarding penalty and Dallas cashed it for goals by Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to go ahead for good.
"Why not?" Noel said. "Because he can't play? That line's been a good line. I've had no trouble with that line."
The eventual cost of the penalty was one the Jets could not afford.
"I don't think anytime you take a five-minute major is ever a good situation," Noel said. "I think that it put us in a tough situation... they scored two goals there. The difference in the game? Not sure it was the difference. We chased the game back, but the two changes (in the first) certainly didn't help us. That's not a way you want to start the game."
Changes, Part II
Beyond Wheeler's and Ladd's hope for changes, the team's actual line changes were also costly in the first.
Twice the team tried to switch up players without getting the puck deep into Dallas's end and both Seguin and Valeri Nichushkin went through the vacated space for goals on Ondrej Pavelec.
"I didn't think we played a very intelligent game," Noel said.
"It was reflected in their first two goals. I thought they were off bad changes.
"Obviously the five-minute major was costly and one of our keys to the game was controlling that line of Benn and Seguin. We weren't able to do that. They executed, just firing bullets at us."
Week to forget
Losses to St. Louis, Colorado and Dallas, all teams they are chasing, put a serious damper on enthusiasm around the Jets today.
After their 4-2 road trip through the East just allowed them to keep pace to the playoff line, Winnipeg will be double digits behind eighth spot in the conference by the time Monday's game in Columbus rolls around.
"It's a step back for sure," Noel said. "I haven't seen us play this way in quite some time. Collectively as a group, we didn't play very intelligent. What is that? Is that fatigue, mental fatigue? Sometimes it is. I don't know what it is.
"We're going to regroup from this game. We're not going to get ourselves at an all-epic low and we're going to try to keep a balance on things, regroup and start again."