Jets coach visibly frustrated with club after season-ending playoff loss
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LAS VEGAS – Rick Bowness entered the media room at T-Mobile Arena on a mission, knowing exactly what he wanted to say before a single question was even asked.
The head coach of the Winnipeg Jets, his eyes watering with rage, had just watched his team put forth a lacklustre effort in a 4-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 that officially eliminated them from the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I’m so disappointed and disgusted right now,” Bowness started.
It was the first answer of a one-minute long post-game media availability by the Jets coach. When Bowness first sat down, he warned the assembled media that his time at the podium would be brief, resulting in just four questions asked by the Free Press.
“No pushback. It’s the same crap we saw in February,” Bowness continued. “As soon as we were challenging for first place and teams were coming after us, we had no pushback. This series, we had no pushback. Their better players were so much better than ours, it wasn’t even close.”
After a strong first half of the season, the Jets were in a fight for first place in the Central Division in January. But a stretch of inconsistent and uninspired play over the ensuing months – Winnipeg went 7-12-2 between Jan. 10 and Mar. 8 – saw them drop mightily in the standings, with the Jets clinching the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference on the second-last game in the regular season.
Throughout that time, Bowness took several different approaches with his players in an attempt to motivate. He wasn’t afraid to criticize his top-end players but seemed to soften his approach, at least publicly, as the end of the regular season neared.
Clearly, this wasn’t just a result of a rough playoff series, but the accumulation of frustration built up over months. On Thursday, that anger was ultimately released to the masses.
“Started back in January and February,” Bowness said, before doubling down on his criticism against the Jets’ top players. “We have to push back. There has to be a pushback. There has to be pride. You have to be able to push back when things aren’t going your way. We had no push back.
“Their better players were so much better than ours tonight. They deserved to win. They were the better team in the regular season, they were the better team in this series.”
”Their better players were so much better than ours tonight. They deserved to win.”–Rick Bowness
While Bowness didn’t single out anyone by name, it’s clear who he was referring to, given the lack of production from his star players over the best-of-seven series.
Notably, Mark Scheifele, who was injured early into Game 4, Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois. The trio combined for just nine points and were a minus-6 in the series. Connor and Dubois did little to impact Game 5, with Connor scoring late in the third period with the Jets’ fate already sealed.
Meanwhile, Vegas was led by their stars, including strong performances Thursday by Winnipeg native and Golden Knights captain Mark Stone, Chandler Stephenson, Jack Eichel and William Karlsson, a group that combined for seven points in the series-clinching victory.
It’s unclear at this point what the fallout from Bowness’ comments will be and how they might affect the Jets organization moving forward.
There should be more clarity coming in the next few days, with the Jets expected to host one more player availability over the weekend, followed by a season-ending press conference from general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.
After a slew of injuries playing hockey that included breaks to the wrist, arm, and collar bone; a tear of the medial collateral ligament in both knees; as well as a collapsed lung, Jeff figured it was a good idea to take his interest in sports off the ice and in to the classroom.
Updated on Friday, April 28, 2023 8:58 AM CDT: Adds sidebar with transcript
Updated on Friday, April 28, 2023 10:17 AM CDT: Adjusts formatting