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Jets coach sticks up for Byfuglien

The Winnipeg Jets found the perfect cover to get away from the dire scenario that faces them for Wednesday’s Game 4 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks lead 3-0.

After a few of his teammates answered questions about their predicament today, Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien appeared in front of reporters after his team’s morning meeting and chose to answer every question he was asked with some variation of the phrase "we’ve got to stick together as a team."

That matter was brought to Jets head coach Paul Maurice. It's entirely possible he welcomed the distraction and decided to spar with reporters over Byfuglien’s choice.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/4/2015 (888 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Jets found the perfect cover to get away from the dire scenario that faces them for Wednesday’s Game 4 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Ducks lead 3-0.

'He’s not perfect and sometimes things aren’t right and that’s Dustin (Byfuglien) and we love him,' Jets head coach Paul Maurice said this morning.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

'He’s not perfect and sometimes things aren’t right and that’s Dustin (Byfuglien) and we love him,' Jets head coach Paul Maurice said this morning. Purchase Photo Print

After a few of his teammates answered questions about their predicament today, Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien appeared in front of reporters after his team’s morning meeting and chose to answer every question he was asked with some variation of the phrase "we’ve got to stick together as a team."

That matter was brought to Jets head coach Paul Maurice. It's entirely possible he welcomed the distraction and decided to spar with reporters over Byfuglien’s choice.

At first, Maurice was asked about Byfuglien’s game in the series, including his minus-three on Monday night in the 5-4 overtime loss.

"It gets magnified last night because of the minus number he has attached to that game and the penalty (drilling Ducks’ Corey Perry) that he took," Maurice said. "I think there’s been a lot of his game... as great an individual player he is, it’s still a five-man-on-the-ice game.

"So our expectations of him are to move that puck, close out in his own end and for the most part he’s been able to do that. Up until last night, I think at the end of the day he wasn’t standing beside the guy that put into the net. So you’ll be real careful before you take the stats sheet and decide on his game. The penalty, he can’t take. He’s been like the rest of us, there’s been good parts to his game and there’s parts that have to get better."

That’s when it got intense. Maurice was asked directly about Byfuglien’s choice of answers today.

"Four or five? Ten," the coach said about the number of times it was essentially repeated. "Somebody counted. Are you offended?"

But what about the lack of maturity, accountability, the coach was asked?

"So you’re asking me what Dustin’s like behind closed doors based on something that pissed you off?

"I think part of (the perception) is fairly accurate, not your assessment, but he’s got an awesome sense of humour. You won’t like that. Don’t underestimate the investment the players make. Here’s where I’m losing the argument before it even starts. You’re going to find one of the 650 other NHL players would have handled that nicely and be contrite and everybody would have thought that was good. He’s a very, very competitive man and not particularly happy with the result. More than anything he wants to win badly.

"So he doesn’t like the fact that he has to speak to the media today. And I’m reading the Twitter pop-ups and, ‘the guy makes so much money he should be happy to stand in front of the media and talk to them.’ And there’s a certain dynamic between media and some players that you feel he has the absolute obligation to come out and answer for everything because of the gift and the joy that it is to play professional sports and the amount of money a man would make.

"And at some point, as a competitive man, he has the right to come out here and say that. I want you to fully appreciate the number of F-bombs that he dropped on you in the back of his brain. Out of the sense of civility, he’s a kind and civil and giving man so the fact that he didn’t tell you how he really felt, I think is maturity.

"I’m not winning this argument. I’m getting killed for that. And I don’t care. There have been lots of days where I’ve come out and wanted to tell you where I’d like to tell all of you to do. It has nothing to do with you, personally. It’s just that you’re not in a good mood that day and you don’t want to talk about it. But somebody 3,000 miles away has told you, ‘You have to do this.’ And somebody’s getting fined, and you might. But he did do what he had to do. He spoke to the media. You didn’t like the answer. He’ll probably get over that."

After that virtual soliloquy, Maurice was asked about Byfuglien’s accountability.

"Now I’m getting my back up," he continued. "How would that look, holding yourself accountable? You have to, in your head, you have to know. You’ve asked me to describe it to you. I’m asking you, how does a player hold himself accountable in the room?

"That’s a fair question and my answer to that is, ‘Those conversations I have with players are private.’ This is a a full-time job for me. I got up a 5:30 this morning and did the video. So you can fairly assume that I’ve addressed most things that you might think I should. I also think I need to keep that private. I absolutely love the guy. I’ve moved him up front, back, he scored the overtime against Minnestoa. He keeps that room light and he’s not perfect.

"So he makes mistakes on the ice. I deal with them, we talk. He came out and has the right to say what he wants to you and I’m jealous. To be honest with you, I’d love to be able to come out and be able to have one of those days. I get about five answers in my head to every question I’m asked and one of them is so profane and inappropriate that my parents would disown me, even at my age. Well, my dad, maybe not much. I learned most of it from him.

"You’d probably enjoy it, too. You’d think it would be a nice break from the bull that I’m firing out most days. So I’m a little jealous. I wish he’d come out... no, I don’t. I’m glad he came out and did what he did. He’s not perfect and sometimes things aren’t right and that’s Dustin and we love him."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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