Jets only worry about the next game, not trade rumours


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The Winnipeg Jets are certainly making a strong case lately there's no room at the inn when it comes to possible additions to the team.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/02/2018 (1927 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Jets are certainly making a strong case lately there’s no room at the inn when it comes to possible additions to the team.

After all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? And back-to-back blowout wins by the combined score of 13-3 might be a good argument for putting up the feet and hanging up the “No Vacancy” sign for a team currently leading the Central division.

But the reality is there likely will be some additional pieces to the puzzle added in the coming days — with a couple of injured skaters on the cusp of returning and the trade deadline just six days away.

Matt Hendricks imitates shooting a pool cue as Blake Wheeler (not shown) returns to the bench after a goal scored using his hand was disallowed against the Florida Panthers Sunday night. (Trevor Hagan / The Canadian Press)

So how exactly might these pieces all fit together?

“There’s two ways you can do it. You can worry about it, or not worry about it. I think probably the healthiest way is to not worry about it,” veteran centre Matt Hendricks said, following Monday’s optional practice as the Jets get ready to close out a 10-game homestand by hosting the Los Angeles Kings tonight.

“Your play dictates where you’re going to sit in the lineup. It’s on each individual in here to show up every night and bring their best. What gives the coaching staff and management, what helps them make up their mind, is the way we play. So trying to worry about it, that doesn’t help, that’s for sure,” said Hendricks. “Especially guys that haven’t been through this situation in the past. Just go out and let your play dictate where you’re going to sit in the lineup is the best way to do it.”

He speaks from first-hand experience. Hendricks was part of last year’s dynamic, young, skilled Edmonton Oilers club which made the playoffs. Hendricks found himself on the outside looking in when the games really began to count as a scratch. That situation might repeat itself this year, especially with so many bodies already in the fold and the Jets rumoured to be on the hunt for additional depth.

“That’s the ultimate sacrifice this time of year. You go home, can look in the mirror and be upset that you’re not playing. But when you show up here every day, you’ve got to have your teammate’s backs and be here for the right reasons. We’ve only got one guy in this lineup that’s ever won a Stanley Cup (Dustin Byfuglien),” said Hendricks. “So it takes everybody pulling on the rope together, whether you’re in the lineup or your minutes have diminished. No matter what it is or what it takes, you’ve got to be here to help your team.”

Winnipeg’s top line of Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor looks like one of the best in the league, so don’t expect any imminent changes there. The second line of Bryan Little between Mathieu Perreault and rookie Jack Roslovic have been dynamic as well, while Winnipeg’s top two scorers in Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers are currently skating on the third line with the versatile Andrew Copp. Then you have Hendricks on the fourth line with Nic Petan and Joel Armia.

Marko Dano is currently the only healthy scratch, but that could be about to change. Both Brandon Tanev and Shawn Matthias are close to returning from injuries. Both players skated Monday in non-contact jerseys.

Petan would likely be the first to come out of the lineup, but then what? And what happens when Adam Lowry returns, assuming that happens at some point as he battles yet another injury that is currently keeping him off the ice.

Things become even more cloudy if the Jets do bring in some outside help.

“We’ve got so many really good young players knocking on the door and proving they can play on this team. There’s tough decisions, who to keep in the lineup and who to take out. But that’s a good problem to have right now,” Little said Monday. “We can only worry about the next game. What happens off the ice or who’s in and out of the lineup is out of your control. When we get guys back the combinations might look a bit different than they do now, but we all know that. It’s part of the game. When guys come back from injury and they get back in the lineup, things change. We’re definitely going to welcome them back. Those are key guys you’re getting back in your lineup, so the sooner the better.”

Jets coach Paul Maurice was asked following Sunday night’s 7-2 win over Florida whether rookies Connor and Roslovic were making a strong case that the team has no need to add a top six forward at the deadline, as has been rumoured.

“I never wrote that. Not once. None of my blogs have that in there,” Maurice cracked.

Connor, who scored twice in that game and is up to 21 on the season, said he’s not spending any time thinking about what the lineup could look like down the road or how returning players or trade additions could impact his role.

“I’m not worried about that personally. I’m just trying to come to the rink every day and trying to get better and work on my game and focus on that,” said Connor.

And that, said Hendricks, is the best approach.

“This is an exciting time of the season for this group. We’ve taken a lot of steps to get here. We keep trying to improve our game. This league keeps getting better at this point. Every team’s striving to either position themselves better in the playoff run or get themselves into position for the playoffs. Teams are going to get better here after the trade deadline with acquisitions and stuff,” said Hendricks. “It’s fun to see the smiles on a lot of the young guys’ faces. It’s their first time getting into this position. They need to cherish these moments because they don’t come along that often. We’re comfortable with where we are but we want to continue to get better.”

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg


Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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