AS I SEE IT COLUMN: What the Hellebuyck?


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Of all the verbal fireworks we’ve heard since Jets coach Rick Bowness showed his absolute disdain for the pathetic effort his team gave when facing elimination, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck’s season-ending comments were the most unhinged from reality:

“The feeling in the room is great…There’s a lot of heart and soul in that room, that gave it their all. I guess that’s all you ask for.”

That is provably false. Anyone watching the start of the Jets golf season – pardon me, I mean game 5 against Vegas – could see with their own eyes that the Jets did the exact opposite of what Hellebuyck described. Instead of giving it their all it looked like the team could hardly wait for the game to be over so they could get out of town and start their vacation.

How stupid does Hellebuyck think Jets fans are? Are we supposed to believe his words more than our eyes?

“I enjoyed myself more in five (playoff) games than I did all year.”

This does not make any sense. Hellebuyck says he had more fun playing at an average level in the playoffs than he did in the first half of the season when he was playing spectacularly. How is that possible? How can it be “fun” to see your team show no heart, no grit, no gumption, no nothing when they were facing elimination? How can it be fun to once again not play anywhere near as well in the playoffs as he did in the regular season?

The blame for the Jets pitiful playoff departure goes far beyond their goaltender, which may explain why the players’ season-ending interviews looked like hostage videos.

No self-reflection. No introspection. No honesty. No leadership. And absolutely no accountability. What’s disturbing is that the players showed more emotion questioning the coach for going public with his comments than they showed on the ice with their season on the line. When they should have given the most effort of the year, they gave the least. Again.

For the players to suggest everything is fine is a complete and utter abdication of honesty and responsibility. Their work ethic was completely absent. When the team needed them the most, the core group didn’t show up. They folded. They didn’t care. They didn’t try – at all – just like they didn’t try in previous series against Montreal and St. Louis.

The audacity, the unmitigated gall, for Hellebuyck to suggest they “gave it their all” is hard to stomach.

It is undeniably true that the Jets would never have made it to the playoffs without Hellebuyck’s Vezina-calibre season, but it’s also true we’re seeing a repeating theme: he plays brilliantly (at times) in the regular season but never finds that form when it really matters, in the playoffs. Ever.

Hellebuyck was decent in the playoffs, but not great. Forget about stealing a series; can you cite one example in his career where he’s stolen a playoff game that his team had no right winning?

The brutal truth is that in the playoffs, when the games are the most consequential, Hellebuyck gets out performed in goal, most recently by his former backup. Hellebuyck’s best games are always in the regular season, never in the post season.

What has outraged so many fans is that no one had the courage to admit there was, yet again, a problem with the team’s effort in the most pivotal game of the year. That says everything you need to know about the Jets players, management, and ownership. They are drowning in their delusion that everything is okay because the team made it to the playoffs.

Not one player had the guts to say “we didn’t play well.” None. With the season hanging in the balance, the Jets effort stank. And that stench is so widespread and now so deeply ingrained for so many fans and members of the media that unless there are big changes, that putrid, lingering, foul stink may last for years.

Rick Bowness perfectly summed up the state of the Jets — disgusting.

Chris Krieder of the New York Rangers showed what real leadership sounds like after his team lost in game seven to New Jersey.

“I’m one of the veteran leaders, I’m one of the guys who should have set the example and instead I’m on for all four goals. That cannot happen, especially in game 7. It was shameful.”

No Jet player came close to showing that kind of honesty and accountability.

The Jets marketing department must not be happy. They just started an aggressive and controversial season ticket drive, and then the team plays yet another abysmal, heartless elimination game.

Why should the public care about the team when it’s obvious the players don’t?

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