There was one good sign for the Winnipeg Jets today as they contemplated a wasted week at home — three straight losses — ahead of a five-game road trip that starts Tuesday night in Buffalo (6 p.m. CT, TSNJets, TSN1290).
They have a new morale officer, Blake Wheeler, and he was pushing hard this morning on a positive, encouraging outlook despite the team’s 5-8-1 record through 14 games.
"It’s not that we’re not trying or (don’t) want to get the job done," Wheeler told reporters after this morning’s pre-trip practice at the MTS Centre. "I think we’re just suffocating ourselves with all the expectations and not getting the job done.
"At some point you’ve got to say, ‘Screw it,’ and forget all that, that outside influence and the stuff that we feel from the inside as well and just go out there and play the game because we’re a good enough team to win games. We’ve shown it.
"The difference is, I think, that we’re overthinking it right now."
Ignoring one empty-net goal, the Jets have played six straight one-goal games. They’re 2-4-0 in that stretch but have lost three in a row.
Wheeler, for his part, is without a goal in five games. But he said even in the wake of another disappointing loss, 3-2 to Boston on Sunday, there was no point having a long face either during practice or after it today.
"That’s what I’m getting back to," he said. "You go out there with a grimace on your face every day and you hate your life, stuff like that, nothing’s going to change no matter how bad you want to go out there and win games and get the job done, you can’t do it. This is too tough a business, too tough a game, to not go out there to try to enjoy it.
"When you’re out there enjoying yourself, things just happen. You don’t think, you’re just reacting and that’s when you play your best hockey.
"I think we’ve got to get some of that back into our room.
"Certainly that comes with winning but at the same time, you’ve got to start somewhere. We’re at that point where you just can’t come in here and be stone-faced every day and say, ‘We’re going to go out there and outwork the other team and be serious about this.’ You just can’t do it that way.
"You’ve got to go out there and enjoy what you’re doing and the rest will take care of itself."