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Trying might help

Jets struggle to grasp concept of giving best effort each game

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BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Much as he might want to, Jets coach Claude Noel can�t be bashing players over the head with a baseball bat. He is looking for other means of motivation.

BORIS MINKEVICH Enlarge Image

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Much as he might want to, Jets coach Claude Noel can�t be bashing players over the head with a baseball bat. He is looking for other means of motivation.

There is widespread agreement in the Winnipeg Jets dressing room about the nature of the problem underlying Thursday night's 6-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks -- not every player actually put in a full effort that night.

But finding the reason why a team that has players on its roster who chose a matchup against the best club in the NHL to put in a half-hearted effort? That's a much more vexing question with no obvious answer.

"What would you like me to do?" an exasperated head coach Claude Noel rhetorically asked reporters following practice at the MTS Centre on Friday. "I can't take a bat and go to each guy and go boom, boom. You know what I mean? That's not part of the solution."

So what is the solution? Again -- no easy answer.

"I don't want to overreact to the situation," said Noel. "Worst thing you can do in my opinion is over-react to some things and then you can't untangle what you just tangled up. I think it's better to take the high road in situations like this."

Both Noel and Jets captain Andrew Ladd were blunt Thursday night in telling reporters the Jets did not put forth a complete team effort against the Blackhawks, with predictable results -- their third straight loss this season to Chicago and a season record now once again below .500 at 10-11-3.

And it emerged following practice on Friday morning Noel and Ladd weren't the only ones who thought some of their teammates had come along for the ride as passengers against Chicago.

"It kind of feels like the same movie over and over again from the last couple years," said Blake Wheeler. "You get some guys going, a couple guys aren't going. You get a couple different guys going, then a couple of different guys aren't going. I'm not sitting here acting like I'm on my A-game 100 per cent of the time because that's not the case.

"But when you're not going, it's up to you to find a way to get your game back in check. And for the most part we have a group of players that's able to do that. You have to be professional and find a way to get the most out of yourself. And when you're not doing that, it's time to look in the mirror and figure out how you do that.

"Because we're a team that relies on every person in this room. We're not a team that can rely on just one or two guys to carry us. It hasn't worked in the past and it's not going to work in the future. We need to get everyone on the same page going forward. Because when we do that, we're a pretty good damn team...

"And if you're not able to do that, then this isn't the league to be playing in."

While no one was singling out the laggards publicly, the fact winger Devin Setoguchi had his minutes cut and rode a lot of pine Thursday night would seem to point at least one of the fingers at him.

But Setoguchi said the problem against Chicago went deeper than any one individual.

"They were ready to go and we weren't," he said. "I think it was everyone's preparation. No one was ready to go... A couple guys were going and a lot of guys watched. And you can't have that."

So now what? Noel says he's gone back to the drawing board in a search for answers to a team that has now followed up a four-game win streak with a three-game winless streak. But whatever Noel comes up with, he says a win over the Minnesota Wild this afternoon at the MTS Centre would probably do the more good than he ever could.

"Winning builds confidence. It helps -- all of a sudden a player looks confident, team looks confident. And then it's like where did it go? And why did it leave? Well, that's what we fight for. Players do it and we do it as coaches."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @PaulWiecek

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 23, 2013 C3

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