IT'S the only logical approach for the Winnipeg Jets. Slap the blinders on, focus strictly on the path directly ahead and not the other horses in the winter-long race to next spring's playoffs.

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IT'S the only logical approach for the Winnipeg Jets. Slap the blinders on, focus strictly on the path directly ahead and not the other horses in the winter-long race to next spring's playoffs.

Besides, if the Jets did spend a whole lot of time gobbling up any of the hardly flattering pre-season predictions -- on TV and radio, in print or elsewhere -- they would soon be headed for group therapy.

Blake Wheeler

Blake Wheeler

Let's just say this bunch is not getting a lot of love out there.

"I understand the forward-looking predictions are always clearly based on the past," said Jets coach Paul Maurice, following practice at the MTS Iceplex and just before the team was wheels up for its opener in Arizona against the Coyotes.

"Our past is... why would you put us at the top of anything right now? We've got to crawl away at that.

"My sense is on the bench and in the room is the guys compete for each other, they like each other. They're optimistic and they're excited. We're going to have some good stretches here this year, I know that. We're going to have some tough stretches here, too. So we're going to learn to handle both of those as a young team. And I have complete confidence that we are going to be a much better team by the end of the season than we are at the start."

The Jets are entering their fourth year in Winnipeg. And while the prospect cupboard is being stocked, last year's squad posted the exact same record -- 37-35-10 -- as the crew that was parachuted into Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011-12.

But just as this bunch won't fixate on what it might take to close the gap and morph into a playoff team, it also won't waste any time looking in the rear-view mirror.

"I think we have to focus on the Arizona Coyotes and then the next game after that," said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. "It sounds elementary, but I'm a big believer in not looking too far ahead. Try to take care business (Thursday) night, trying to get a good feeling in our locker-room and feeling good about ourselves as a group and build off of that.

"I think we need to focus on smaller goals. We need to focus on how we approach every game, how we prepare ourselves to play every game. Little things like that are going to give us a chance to win every night. The playoffs, the amount of wins we have at the end of the year, that's going to take care of itself.

"You can't just walk into the season and say we're going to make the playoffs because there's a huge body of work that goes into making that happen."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait