Jets earn a break in Banff after a couple of heated contests
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BANFF — They’ve come to one of the most picturesque places on Earth, a tranquil little slice of paradise that will serve as a home base for the next three days.
It may be just what the Winnipeg Jets need after a couple of heated contests against the Calgary Flames, including several questionable hits that had them seeing red.
Cole Perfetti being run from behind by Nazem Kadri. Mark Scheifele being crosschecked in the face by Nikita Zadorov. Connor Hellebuyck being bowled over in his crease by Noah Hanifin. Cole Perfetti being boarded by Dillon Dube. Dominic Toninato being crushed by Jonathan Huberdeau.
And to think: All of this occurred during the relatively low stakes of the preseason. What’s going to happen once the puck drops for real starting next Friday?
New Jets head coach Rick Bowness didn’t like what he saw in some instances from the opponent. But he loved the way his group rallied around each other, demonstrating the type of team toughness he believes will get them through the rigours of an 82-game campaign.
“You take a run at one of us, you take a run at all of us,” Bowness said following Friday’s 5-3 victory over Calgary. “We’re not going to hesitate to stick up for each other.”
When Bowness first began coaching in the 1980s, most teams enjoyed a policeman or two who might only see the ice a few shifts per game, typically with violence in mind. Those days are long gone, of course.
The Jets do have plenty of players who aren’t afraid to mix it up — Adam Lowry, Brenden Dillon, Logan Stanley and even former captain Blake Wheeler are a few who immediately come to mind. But then there are players like Morgan Barron and Ville Heinola who jumped to their teammates defence in some of the cases noted above.
“It’s a group mentality,” said Bowness. “We’re a team, and we’re going to stick up for each other. We’re a family.”
You’ll note Perfetti was twice a victim of a similar kind of hit, which led to questions about whether the 20-year-old forward had a target on his back.
Bowness said there’s a valuable lesson to be learned.
“I think with Cole we have to teach him not to put himself in those positions,” he said. “Some of the onus is on the guy that’s getting hit. A lot of the onus is on the guy finishing his check. But if you turn at the last second, sometimes you’re a little bit responsible. But no matter up, we’ll be sticking up for each other.”
The Jets have come to Banff for a trio of practices along with some team bonding. Defenceman Dylan DeMelo said the way they’ve rallied around each other already when the going gets rough shows they are a tight-knit group.
“You take a run at one of us, you take a run at all of us. We’re not going to hesitate to stick up for each other.”–Rick Bowness
“It’s going to have to be by committee,” he said.
“Obviously we have guys that can handle themselves better than others. You don’t have to go in there and start brawling everybody. As long as you’re in there in numbers and getting in the mix, that goes a long way. We had Ville in there a few times on Wednesday at home. We don’t want that guy fighting or anything. But to see him in there, and the guys, it’s important for this group and the cohesiveness and sticking up for each other.”
There goes Johnny: The Jets have lost one of their drafted-and-developed young talents. Defenceman Johnathan Kovacevic was put on waivers Friday afternoon with the idea of sending him to the Manitoba Moose. Unfortunately for Winnipeg, he never made it. Montreal snatched him on Saturday, giving the 25-year-old a chance to be on their big-league roster. Kovacevic made his NHL debut last season, appearing in four games with the Jets, and seemed to be on the verge of pushing for full-time work. Unfortunately, a crowded blue-line pushed him out of the mix, and now he’s found a new hockey home. Kovacevic appeared in 137 career games with the AHL, with 18 goals and 40 assists. He had a career high 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 62 games last year.
Bidding goodbye to Brad: Brad Lambert was one of the best stories out of training camp, as the 18-year-old showed off incredible speed and skill during a trio of exhibition games. But his time with the Jets has come to an end, for now at least, with Friday’s demotion to the Moose. Bowness predicted the young man will be back, sooner than later.
“He clearly is going to play in the league at some point. He just needs a little more experience,” said Bowness. “When you’re 18 years old, there’s a lot to learn. He’s just tremendous speed, tremendous skill. We’ve seen all that. Now, like any other young player, he’s got to learn to play without the puck and learn how to play at a higher pace against the professionals. We’re very, very happy with his camp. Very happy.”
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.
Updated on Sunday, October 9, 2022 3:42 PM CDT: Adds former to captain Blake Wheeler