The Winnipeg Jets: To Believe? Or Not To Believe?

Is it finally time for fans to believe in their beloved Winnipeg Jets? –

Winnipeg Jets fans would likely respond “of course!”  I ask not to question a fan’s belief in their team but from a realistic winning stand point is this team for real. Are they finally turning it around and playing the right way?

Paul Maurice has preached defense first since his tenure as head coach of the Winnipeg Jets started.  Back to back shut-outs split between Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson versus the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks respectively.  Seven of eight points on the latest road trip.  After negating a two goals deficit in a wildly entertaining test versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Winnipeg Jets grabbed a point with a shoot-out loss.  The Ottawa Senators was another good test.  Could they keep it rolling after such an emotional roller coaster?  A shoot out win has the Winnipeg Jets sitting at 8-5-2.  All this certainly deserves an eyebrow to be raised at the very least

At the start of the season, The Winnipeg Jets appeared as though we may look to enter the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.  Games were sloppy and it wasn’t looking good for Winnipeg Jets fans chomping at the bit to make the post season for the first time since the Atlanta Thrashers landed in Winnipeg.  The Winnipeg Jets looked defeated at times.  They were lacking confidence.

Paul Maurice insists they need to stick to his system, play the right way and the rest will fall in place.  We have heard these words from Claude Noel in the past, “play the right way”.  But under Claude Noel, the Winnipeg Jets were unable to obtain much success.

Playing the right way is relatively a simple concept.  Make smart decisions with and without the puck and put in an honest effort.  Sounds simple enough.

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                     Ondrej Pavelec has been the benefactor of better team play!                                  photo by Shawn Coates

Watching the Jets through the years it was pretty evident Claude Noels system, or lack there of, was not working for this group.  Sure some of the onus has to fall on the players.  This was part of Claude Noel’s philosophy that the players have to play.  He expected them to perform without having to hold their hand through the process.  Professional athletes should, after all, be held accountable for their performance.  This approach was his eventual demise.

Why has this been such an ongoing problem?  Why can’t they play the right way consistently?  Confidence is a funny thing and it affects everything.

Problem was this team’s weaknesses had been exposed for years.  A poor system created a lack of quality defense and poor goaltending on a team that already struggled to have any real success before True North Sports and Entertainment were even in the picture.  Players get caught up trying to do too much, scrambling, play gets sloppy and even Ondrej Pavelec got to the point where he became overly aggressive and the results are his statistical numbers from previous seasons.  However, this teams issues were bigger than just goaltending, bigger than any one individual.  They were losing confidence.  Unfortunately, losing confidence on a hockey team can cause a snowball effect if not dealt with timely and properly.  Players start to lose confidence and the losses started piling up.  The Winnipeg Jets are a perfect example.

“They’re professional athletes!  They shouldn’t have self-esteem issues!”

After years of limited success and despite being professionals, players are still human and are subject to emotions.  Nobody enjoys losing, that’s a fact!  Despite good individual work ethics by many, they just couldn’t find a way to get into the win column regularly enough to reach the playoffs.  Professional athletes get to the level they are at because at one time or another they all had the confidence it took to elevate their game when needed.  Once that confidence takes a hit, it isn’t always so easy to get back.  When things aren’t working and they continue to spiral downward, you get exactly what happened to the Winnipeg Jets.  The team lost confidence in ex-coach Claude Noel and within each other.  Things fell apart all over the ice, there was “No Joy in Joyville” and Kevin Cheveldayoff was forced to make changes.  Claude Noel was fired.

Along came Paul Maurice.

He came in and immediately recognized the lack of confidence within the Winnipeg Jets locker room.  Paul Maurice having past NHL experience was ready to coach this team.  He knew exactly how he needed to approach the Winnipeg Jets players.  He implemented his system methodically.  He didn’t push everything onto a fragile Winnipeg Jets team right away.  He asked for them to finish off the season with some baby steps towards his systems end game.  He insisted they come to camp ready to work for the next season where he would continue to piece together his system through a grueling preseason camp.

Do they believe in themselves?

The off-season brought some new attitudes.  Blake Wheeler seemed adamant to help lead this team.  Evander Kane came into camp in fantastic shape and the off ice shenanigans were kept to a minimum.  Ondrej Pavelec felt he was in the best shape of his career.  Mark Scheifele filled out some more under the guidance of Gary Roberts during the break.  Even Dustin Byfuglien looked ready to go.  Clearly coach Paul Maurice had these guys hungry and wanting more from themselves and for each other.

Even though the Winnipeg Jets sputtered at the start of the season, we can see improvement with the on ice product as of late.  What we see now is a team with the confidence to play a defense first system.  They are trusting each other in our own end, keeping shots to the outside, Ondrej Pavelec isn’t forced to make so many difficult saves and we see how much it has helped his game.  They are winning games by playing the right way.

If the Winnipeg Jets can continue to play at this level and continue to make it difficult for other teams to score, this could be the start of something great for the Winnipeg Jets fans.  The scoring will come.  The longer the Winnipeg Jets can continue to play the right way, the higher the confidence.  The higher the confidence then the better this team will perform in all aspects of the game.

Is it time to believe in the Winnipeg Jets?  They are sure making a good case for themselves.  This stretch is the best they have looked by far since being dubbed the Winnipeg Jets.  They seem to believe in themselves.  Maybe it’s time we do too?

Go Jets Go!

Comments

  1. Rob Carson says

    From the games I’ve watched (all of them) I felt they have, overall, outplayed the opposing team except for a handful of periods here and there. The shots have been coming from the boards the corner points and rarely any rebounds from the goalies. They’ve been getting very few breaks offensively but they’re getting plenty of chances. They’re for real.

  2. Mitch Kasprick says

    I like what I’ve seen so far and I wonder what happens to their defensive game if they start scoring? I’m quietly optimistic but not bought-in yet!

  3. Derek Curtis says

    Has been fun to watch, should be a real challenge to keep going at this pace. I’m not ready to plan the parade yet but I like what Paul Maurice has been able to do for this team so far. Lots of games to go though lol

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