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This article was published 6/10/2014 (2661 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Give Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice credit -- he not only knows a cliché when he hears one, he knows when he says one.
Maurice -- who has worked both sides of the microphone in his hockey career -- put both skills on display Monday when he interrupted his own answer to a reporter's question about why fans should expect this year's Jets to perform better than last year's when the two teams are so similar personnel-wise.
"We're going to work really, really hard at getting better every day..." Maurice began, before catching himself. "Sometimes when it comes out of my mouth I realize, 'Jeez, that sounds like you could be hearing that in a bunch of cities.' "
With the clichés dispensed with, Maurice tried again to answer the No. 1 question on the minds of Jets Nation as the team heads into the start of its regular season Thursday: Why should fans expect a team that finished out of the playoffs last season to do better this year when the only personnel changes are the addition of three role players -- Mathieu Perreault, T.J. Galiardi and Adam Lowry.
"I have a belief that we are a better team now," Maurice began. "I know that our top-end athletes are more fit -- that I know. I think there's some development that happens just through experience. We've got a very young team, but a lot of them have some games on them.
"So our expectations are higher for some players, even at a young age. And I think positionally and structurally, we're better than we were last year."
Maurice also added while he was impressed with his team's competitive fight right from taking over behind the Jets bench midway through last season, "there was a need for getting them all to fly in the same direction. And we're just going to keep working on that."
Forward Andrew Ladd, who as team captain is also responsible for getting players flying in the same direction, says this year's team might be largely the same, but it's also very different.
"I think maturity in a lot of players is going to help. I think Paul has helped a lot in that regard," said Ladd. "He's going to help to get guys to a different level -- just the pace in practice and the things he demands.
"And then the specific roles he's putting guys in -- that will result in some good things, too."
With so few personnel changes in the off-season, if the Jets are going to make the playoffs in a Central Division that looks significantly improved over last year they are clearly counting on getting better performances out of the players they had last season.
That begins with defenceman Zach Bogosian, who's played just 88 games and mustered just 25 points in his last two injury-riddled seasons.
The good news is Bogosian is only looking forward these days and wanted nothing to do with talk of his injury-riddled past Monday.
"I don't really think about it too much, to be honest with you. The past is the past, you can't worry about what happened there," he said. "I'm just trying to work for the future and put in a lot of hard work. That's something I take pride in."
Bogosian echoed his coach and his captain when he was asked why he thinks this year's team will be better than last year's club.
"It's another year of experience. And more guys have gotten a good summer of training and gotten ready that way. We have a pretty young team and some young guys in big roles that will only get bigger. So just learning from that will be a big thing for us."
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Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.