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Jets: The mourning after

Jets lament lack of consistency, know changes are coming

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The self-examination began swiftly for the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, the morning after their season-ending 4-2 loss marked a sixth straight season the franchise is out of the playoffs.

The Jets will be the ninth-place team in the NHL's Eastern Conference. Only the top eight make the Stanley Cup playoffs, which start next week.

"I talked to the team today," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "I expressed my disappointment but I didn't go crazy. I am disappointed. I liked the way we played at times, but not consistently. But I did see growth in our team. That's what encourages me in different ways."

He singled out the team's young players most for growth, in particular Evander Kane and goalie Ondrej Pavelec. But the common theme among many Friday was that matter of consistency, or lack of, during the 48-game regular season.

The team had the following stretches during the season: 5-8-1 to start, a 4-1-0 road trip, an 8-3-1 surge followed by a five-game losing streak followed by a seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1) before two final losses.

"A lot of highs and lows as a team," said veteran centre Olli Jokinen, who missed the final three games with a high-ankle sprain. "I think as a team, we feel like we should be good enough to be in the post-season. It hurts a lot not to be in the playoffs.

"A lot of guys had good years. At the same time, I personally didn't have a good year. I think moving forward, going into the off-season, we all can be a little bit better."

Centre Bryan Little added: "We're close this year. I just think consistency killed us, especially this year we needed to be consistent and we had that stretch we lost five in a row and that really killed us. When we learn to be more consistent, that's when we'll be a playoff team.

"Look at all the teams right now. They were good down the stretch when they needed to be and we weren't quite there."

Jets captain Andrew Ladd, who led the team in scoring with 46 points in 48 games, said inconsistency will bring change.

"I'm sure there will be changes and we as a group have to figure out a way to be more consistent," Ladd said. "Too often we shoot ourselves in the foot. We don't give ourselves the best opportunity to win every night. That's where it starts."

Veteran winger Antti Miettinen, one of nine unrestricted free agents, figures he'll be among the changes. He spoke directly Friday about that inconsistency, including himself.

"Tough questions. There was a lot of, how can I put it, excitement and hope and struggle and I think it was just like a roller-coaster for a lot of individuals and for the team as well," Miettinen said. "These two years have been really uneven, performance-wise, for the team and for a lot of players. To my career here, these two years, the team, me included first in line, I haven't seen (so many) players playing under their level, underachieving.

"I haven't seen that much in one team, as far as I've been playing."

The Jets' stated goal to start Season 2 in Winnipeg was to reduce goals against. It didn't change a bit -- stuck at exactly three goals against per game.

"It's a mentality more than anything," Noel said. "It's a belief system. As silly as it sounds... it's the attitude you take. Everybody's got X's and O's. It's a commitment.

"You believe in each other and you get mad when a guy doesn't do his part. If I'm a centre and the D screws up and I'm not happy ... I'm minus because of your ass. It doesn't make me happy. That's what drives the team as well, that accountability."

Friday, more details began to emerge about injuries that really took a bite out of the team late in the season.

Centre Nik Antropov missed serious time with a groin pull; defenceman Toby Enstrom's back just wouldn't allow him to play when he came back from his shoulder injury; veteran centre Jim Slater had a broken finger and never did get back; Kane was battling multiple issues.

"I got a wrist that might need some work done on it and I've got some nerve damage in my lower leg and foot," Kane said. "I had to get that taken care of before every game in order to play."

In addition, Zach Bogosian missed the final three games of the season after taking a blow to the head, Kyle Wellwood had a broken hand, Anthony Peluso had a similar hand problem and Zach Redmond missed the second half with the skate cut.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2013 C1

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Updated on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 9:25 AM CDT: Add Ladd video

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