Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 6/4/2015 (2392 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It was all very high-minded and conceptually sound.
When Paul Maurice landed in Winnipeg 15 months ago, getting the Winnipeg Jets to "play the right way" became paramount, because in that case, the rest would take care of itself.
It was music to the ears of his GM and the team's fans and certainly sounded like a proper plan for a better future.
As it has turned out in the pressure-packed final games of the 2014-15 regular season, that big-picture stuff is still involved somewhere, but it's looking like more of a frenetic street fight where guile and good timing are as important as systems and a good plan.
As far as the rest taking care of itself, well, the Jets are in a much better place than they were a year ago with four games remaining in the regular season. Then, at 78 points, they were out. Now, at 92, it's not quite taken care of but they have a path to the Stanley Cup playoffs straight in front of them, starting tonight at the Xcel Energy Center (7 p.m., TSN3, TSN 1290) against the Minnesota Wild.
The Jets are still a self-determining team, in a points tie (at 92) with the Los Angeles Kings and one back of the Calgary Flames with a game in hand.
Maurice, asked Sunday about the grand plan and the realities of the scratch-and-claw mode of the final week, seemed bemused.
"A good question," he said. "You probably have a different tone in your video the next day. So maybe a little bit more forgiving on mistakes because pressure changes how you move.
"But we're still talking about (those) things. There were two things we wanted to be good at in the game last night (Saturday's 5-4 home win over Vancouver) and we were pretty good at one and not so good at the other, so we went through both of them, just kind of a reassessment.
"I think where you will squeeze a player harder during the year on the second time or the first time he makes that mistake, you're still pointing out the mistake and the correction that you want but your confidence is everything now, feeling good about yourself and rebounding, especially after you come off a couple of losses like we did.
"You're driving the same point, you're just delivering the message a little differently."
Maurice the thinker can be Maurice the adaptable, too, as he tries to meld all the ways he has tried to reformulate the Jets' style to a time when points in the standings are really all that matters.
"(You're finding out) how quickly they can get to it, the different things that surround the game, the pressures of the game, the way it's called, all those things," he said. "Yeah, some guys really play their best hockey here and some guys... we're talking about both teams, Pavel Datsyuk is still handling the puck in traffic the way he would in October. And then some younger guys are a little harder on that puck. And for both teams, that's true throughout the league."
The emotions of the last 10 days have been extreme. There were scattered, less-than-best efforts against Montreal and Vancouver that resulted in wins. There were more buttoned-down and methodical games against Chicago and the New York Rangers that yielded nada.
'You're driving the same point, you're just delivering the message a little differently'‐ Jets coach Paul Maurice, on tempering criticism to recognize the pressure on players
As difficult as this current push seems, players see a night-and-day difference from one year ago.
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"We're right there," said veteran winger Chris Thorburn, who has seen his share of elsewheres. "The last few years by this point we've been out of it pretty much. Right now we feel we have a team, that if we get in we can do some damage.
"Our confidence is high, especially after yesterday's game and yeah, it's that belief that if we get in, we could do something special. We have a special group in there that is capable of doing that and with four games left, it's a matter of putting wins together and getting in."
Veteran defenceman Mark Stuart said there's no real comparison between this year and last.
"We're in a totally different spot with a completely different team," Stuart said. "We're just excited about it. It's going to be a big challenge but this is the best time of the year and the playoffs is even better.
"You want it to be in your hands. We know if we play well, we can beat anybody and do this on our own. That's what we're looking for."
Last week in the west
Opponents: Jets (tonight), at Chicago (Tuesday), at Nashville (Thursday), at St. Louis (Saturday)
Path to playoffs: A regulation win tonight will do it. Probably two points anywhere will be good enough but it's not exactly the easiest of weeks. A few days ago had hopes of catching Chicago, but Hawks are now sizzling.
Opponents: Los Angeles (tonight), Arizona (Thursday), Edmonton (Saturday)
Path to playoffs: Three home games, two of them against Western Conference bottom-feeders, should not overtax the Canucks.
Opponents: Arizona (Tuesday), Los Angeles (Thursday), at Winnipeg (Saturday)
Path to playoffs: Looking good in ROW, five points will surely do it and so, probably, will four. Massive contests Thursday and Saturday.
Los Angeles Kings
Opponents: at Vancouver (tonight), at Edmonton (Tuesday), at Calgary (Thursday), San Jose (Saturday)
Path to playoffs: Games against Canucks and Flames are key to the Kings' chances. Would like to qualify as a Pacific team, not a wild-card but what's the minimum they need? That may well depend on what the Jets do tonight and Tuesday.
Opponents: at Minnesota (tonight), at St. Louis (Tuesday), at Colorado (Thursday), Calgary (Saturday)
Path to playoffs: The only sure way is four wins. The rest depends on results elsewhere, as the final spot could fall anywhere between 96 and 99 points. A ticket for Saturday's game might be quite valuable.