Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The 'young' excuses are getting old

Jets learning, developing, but still not winning

  • Print
The Carolina Hurricanes' Riley Nash celebrates his goal on Al Montoya as Keaton Ellerby looks on.

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS Enlarge Image

The Carolina Hurricanes' Riley Nash celebrates his goal on Al Montoya as Keaton Ellerby looks on.

They looked lost and they looked tight. They panicked, they turned pucks over and then fished them out of the back of their net.

And it all unfolded in an ugly three-minute stretch of Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes -- Olli Jokinen referred to it a day later as a "blackout" -- that cost the Winnipeg Jets a crucial game at a critical stage of the season.

Afterwards, some of the Jets were once again asked about this notion of growing pains and the theory of having to mature and experience these pressure-packed moments to evolve into a playoff team.

Now if some of that sounds familiar, it's worth noting the same subject was also brought up in late March of 2012 and then again last spring about the same time as another playoff dream crashed and burned.

So, yeah, about this growing pains/young team thing...

'I would say that's part of the identity of your hockey team, that you won't let circumstances dictate how hard you're going to try'

-- Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice

"I don't like that term... 'young,' " Jets alternate captain Mark Stuart said Sunday. "I mean, everybody's young in this league now. You can't really use that. If you keep telling yourself that you're young, it's kind of a built-in excuse.

"You need to mature and look at your team as growing and not just keep saying, 'you're young... you're young.' The guys that are young on our team have matured a lot this year. They're ready and they're a big part of our group and will continue to mature."

FYI: the Jets, with an average age of 26.6 years, are tied with Buffalo as the third-youngest team in the National Hockey League -- slightly older than Nashville (26.5) and Edmonton (26.3).

But as much as the rapid development of Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele will be a big part of the positive takeaways from the 2013-14 season, there are also a dressing room full of guys who aren't getting any younger.

Stuart, for example, is 29. Ditto Toby Enstrom and Adam Pardy. Jim Slater is 31. Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien are 28, Blake Wheeler 27. And Jokinen, the elder statesman, is 35.

And every spring without playoff hockey is another lost chance to chase playoff glory.

"Different people are in different phases of their hockey career in terms of understanding how they need to play and what they need to bring every night," said Ladd. "Where I am in my career, I want to be winning hockey games and playing for Stanley Cups. We're still working toward that goal."

That was the positive spin that came from the Jets on Sunday as they gathered at MTS Iceplex for an optional skate before heading out on a five-game road trip that will define the season.

Don't look back, focus on Monday night against Dallas. As long as they aren't mathematically out of the playoff fight, they have a puncher's chance of staying alive.

"It's a pretty resilient group," said coach Paul Maurice when asked if he had to spend the day getting the collective chins off their chests. "We found a way to come back and the compete has always been there on that next night after a tough one. We're expecting the same.

"I would say that's part of the identity of your hockey team, that you won't let circumstances dictate how hard you're going to try. It wouldn't matter where you're at. That can't ever creep in, that despair in your room, regardless of the situation you're in."

The question that is being asked now -- and will most likely be asked all off-season -- is again this: How long do you wait for this group to figure all this out and take that proverbial next step?

The Jets are 13-8-4 since Maurice stepped behind the bench. And that's got to count for something.

"The last two months this team has been taking giant steps forward," said Jokinen. "With Paul coming in the players are starting to have a better understanding of what it means to be a professional hockey player, what it takes to play in this league every night.

"He's been helping a lot with your younger players and even our older guys. Since Paul came I think we've been playing a lot better. His message is, you get paid when you play the games. At the same time, on the off days you have to do things right to set yourself up for the good games.

"That's one thing we've been learning in the last few months. I think we've taken huge steps ahead."

Good point, that. But Maurice might also say this: Pro players get paid to win, too.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 24, 2014 C3

History

Updated on Monday, March 24, 2014 at 8:57 AM CDT: Formats tables

10:10 AM: Adds chart

10:25 AM: adds chart

10:34 AM: Replaces photo

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

    No

  • 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 winnipegfreepress.com. 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 winnipegfreepress.com. 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.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Inside peek at Real Pirates, new Manitoba Museum exhibit

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Down the Hatch- A pelican swallows a fresh fish that it caught on the Red River near Lockport, Manitoba. Wednesday morning- May 01, 2013   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Who has been the biggest disappointment on the Jets to start the season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google