Jets’ captain Blake Wheeler joined Hustler & Lawless to talk about the Winnipeg Jets, what’s to come, and his feelings on Paul Maurice.
On Paul Maurice:
“I’ll be as blunt as I can be. Paul is the best coach that I’ve had in my hockey career, not just the NHL. I don’t just say that because I have to. Look at the transformation in my game.”
Wheeler furthered his comments by emphasizing Maurice’s ability to communicate his message.
“The way that he can relate to players is a special quality.”
Wheeler noted the impressive season for Patrik Laine as well as the breakout seasons for Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele as proof of concept.
“The easy way to look at this is to look at our young players and the steps they’ve taken.”
On turning the corner:
When asked about what the Jets need to do to take the next step, Wheeler talked about the small details:
“We’re going to score enough goals. The key is guys having enough patience in their game and knowing a) what the situation is in the game and b) how we create this offence. Yeah there are times where we come down the ice and create these great plays at the blue line and make some special things happen, but the bulk of the goals we score are using our team speed and if there’s nothing there we get it behind their defencemen and we have some guys that can get in on the forecheck and win a couple battles.”
As he mentioned with Paul Maurice, communication will be key to both taking the next step and ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
“You start to establish throughout your lineup a) what your role is – what your job is – and then b) you just have to cut out those little plays that are just bad habits.”
On being captain:
When asked about being a first time captain, Blake Wheeler credited some of the Jets’ leaders that came before him that gave him advice.
“To be completely honest with you, I don’t think my personality changed much at all. There are some areas where you have to be cognizant of what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to and when you’re saying it for the sole purpose that we have a young team.”
Wheeler noted that you don’t want to be a guy that is constantly preaching to the group and understands that the constant barrage can mean the message gets lost.
“You don’t want to get tuned out”
On being a first time captain.
“I had a good opportunity to talk to some guys (…) that have been captains or are current captains and pick their brains a little bit. The common theme is to be yourself. If you try to be somebody that you’re not then guys will see right through you.”
On missing the playoffs and playing out the stretch:
When asked about the Predators just beating out the Jets for the final spot and bumping Chicago in the first round, Wheeler said:
“If you make the playoffs you have an opportunity and that’s what really stings at this time of year.”
On playing out the year when the playoffs were not in the cards:
“What is there left to play for? The simple truth is that it’s not your right to be an NHL player. You need to earn this every single night and enjoy it every single night. While we might not be in a playoff position every guy has something to play for.”
The captain took it a step further…
“If you’re going to put on our jersey then you’re going to put in an effort every night.”