Winnipeg wearing their new third jerseys next week
Evander Kane earned another gold star next to his name in Claude Noel’s playbook. The Jets’ star winger took five penalties in two games this week against the Canadiens and Blues, showing a commitment to his team’s new penalty kill strategy. Coach Claude Noel ruffled feathers last week unveiling a plan to bolster the Jets’ PK by taking as many penalties as possible.
After claiming the league’s seventh worst penalty kill for the past two seasons, General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff felt a change was in order. The GM spent the summer ruminating about how to solve his special teams problem. "I basically just spent the summer ruminating about how to solve the special teams problem," said Cheveldayoff. A week before training camp, Cheveldayoff sequestered himself and coach Noel in the GM’s secluded Flin Flon log cabin, taking with them only a case of Bacardi White rum, a shot gun, and a DVD copy of "Bloodsport". "I meant to grab ‘Youngblood’," said Cheveldayoff. "I meant to grab a DVD player," added Noel. The two vowed not to leave the cabin until they had a solution.
The result was a revolutionary – albeit risky – new blueprint for the penalty kill. Dubbed the "PK Buffet", the Cheveldayoff/Noel brainchild predicts the penalty kill will be made perfect by constant in-game practice, eventually reaching a 100% success rate. "We call it the ‘PK Buffet’ because we keep coming back for seconds," said Noel. "…and thirds, and fourths, and fifths," Cheveldayoff added with a guffaw. "…and sixths-" said Noel. "Don’t wreck it," concluded Cheveldayoff.
The Jets roster was hesitant to embrace the new strategy, Kane especially. "It didn’t really make much sense," said Kane, "but Dustin really, really insisted we give it a shot." "I don’t know why, I just really liked the sound of it," said defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. When alternate captain Byfuglien took three minor penalties in the Jets’ first game in Edmonton, the rest of the team followed suit.
"I credit Byfuglien for getting the boys behind it, but Kane’s really stepped up this week," said Noel after a shootout victory over the St. Louis Blues on Friday. "Hooking, holding, high-sticking, elbowing, you name it, he’s been our guy," he added. Kane notched a goal against the Blues, but was happier about his time in the box. "It feels nice to score, but it feels even nicer to sit," said Kane. "I like buffets," added Byfuglien. Kane and Byfuglien are tied for first in the NHL with seven minor infractions each.
Cheveldayoff is already excited about the improvement. Said the Jets’ General Manager: "We are already two percent above our average from last season, so if we go up two percent on our previous year’s percentage every eight games, that’s a lot of math."