After a disappointing end to their season, the Winnipeg Jets sat down with media for the final time this year to discuss everything from injuries to coaching staff and their plans for the summer. Players included in the media availability were Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler, Brian Little, Nik Ehlers, Patrik Laine, Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry, Brandon Tanev, Ben Chiarot, Laurent Brossoit and Kevin Hayes. They were joined by head coach Paul Maurice and Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.
The 2018-2019 Season
For most of the players, it was clear that while some aspects felt good, overall something had been missing in their performance. Veterans that played through the previous season felt something was a little different compared to last year’s success, perhaps Adam Lowry said it best, “ I don’t know if you can put your finger on it, but I think we always felt like we were just a little off. We weren’t right necessarily where we wanted to be.” Center man Brian Little added “People were talking about the Stanley Cup when we got to training camp this year which was crazy. We expected more out of ourselves this year and next year we’re going to come hungry again.”
Coach Paul Maurice was able to clarify this a bit, indicating that while he was happy with the offensive side and he was not happy with how the defensive aspect of the game that was played. “We’ve got lots of guys that put up big numbers and had good offensive years, but our defensive game wasn’t as good.”
Newcomers, Kevin Hayes and Laurent Brossoit, were seemingly just happy to be there. Their outlook was a little different, “I had an unbelievable time here and I wouldn’t change it.” said Kevin Hayes, and this feeling was echoed by Brossoit, “it was awesome playing on a team with so many talented athletes.”
Locker Room Drama and Team Chemistry
It’s not surprising that everyone stayed tight lipped about the locker room drama that may or may not have unfolded after the loss to Minnesota on April 2nd, a few noted that the media blew it out of proportion. Blake Wheeler was quick to jump on this subject, “Anything that goes on in our dressing room stays in our dressing room. We have closed door meetings all the time. Communication is a huge thing.” His thoughts were echoed by the coach as well, “we might have had twice as many closed door meetings last year, just didn’t schedule them right after a loss you didn’t like.”
It was Kyle Connor and Ben Chiarot that offered a bit more information, indicating that the team was “just trying to figure out our game and figure out ways as a group to come together, take that next step and be better out there.” “We just didn’t like the way our game was going in the second half.” Ben Chiarot explained, “Closed door meetings aren’t something new or different, they’re not uncommon we just didn’t like how we were going.” Andrew Copp insisted that the dynamics of the team and the team chemistry was not an issue, but hoped that over the course of the summer, “each guy does some reflection and we can get a change in mindset going into next year.”
The First Round Exit
Everyone was obviously in agreement that the season ended entirely too soon and indicated that St. Louis is a much better team than people seem to give credit. “They kind of came out revved up. People aren’t really giving them enough credit for how well they played.” Lowry said when asked about what went wrong in the series against St. Louis. “Everyone’s saying ‘Oh the Winnipeg Jets had six shots on net’ but you’ve got to look at the other team,there wasn’t a lot of room for us out there to generate anything. They played a heck of a game!” Copp added, “we’ve been really good in terms of when our backs have been pushed up against a wall, but at the end of the day we obviously didn’t get the job done.”
Contracts And Returning For The 2019-2020 Season
The biggest buzz this year goes to Jacob Trouba again. He looked defensive when giving his answers when asked if he was still going to be a Jet, “I don’t know, we’ll figure it out once things get going in the summer. We gotta sit down and have a meeting and figure out what to do moving forward.” Kevin Cheveldayoff didn’t have much more to add, simply stating “Jacob’s an RFA, we own his rights for one more year.”
Kevin Hayes, who’s future is very much up in the air right now remarked “I’m sure I’ll end up in a spot with a great coach and a great team. It might be in Winnipeg, to be honest I’ve had an unbelievable time here. It was cut short but I’ll never forget these last couple months here.” Laurent Brossoit echoed this feeling as he finished up his one year contract with Winnipeg, “I’m gonna look for the best opportunity wherever that may be, if that turns out to fit well here, then absolutely.”
Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine may have had the most laid back approach on the upcoming talks, “I’m sure agents are gonna talk, and I’ll just approach it as a normal summer for me.” said Connor, and Laine: “That’s not something I’m thinking about right now, I don’t have a contract right now but there’s a lot of time before the next year and not worried about the contract right now.”
There weren’t a lot of injuries to speak of, most notably Brandon Tanev’s finger which he had had surgery on just days before the series started. The surgery was the quickest approach to getting him back into the game in time to play against the Blues. The other injury that had been spoken about was a fracture to Nik Ehlers’ leg, an injury sustained after blocking a shot in game 5, he insisted that it would heal without surgery.
Others indicated they were fine, or there were just bumps and bruises. Laine also noted that he was “kind of struggling with my back pretty much the whole year, and then had kind of a small groin injury at the end of the playoffs but nothing i couldn’t handle.”
Laurent Brossoit had nothing but nice things to say about the coaching he received from Wade Flaherty, “It goes a long way to have a goalie coach have that vote of confidence in your game. He believes that I’m a good goaltender.” Players were happy to discuss their overall happiness with the coaching staff, including Blake Wheeler, stating that he would ‘go through a brick wall’ for Maurice and didn’t want to play for anyone else.
When it was brought up that players were praising him in their interviews, Maurice joked that it was expensive to get them to say this, but said he appreciated it because he’s isn’t always as gentle and warm with them. Maurice was also asked about returning next year after such a quick exit from the first round, without hesitation he offered up “If all the coaches that lost after the first round get fired, I’ll resign and take my staff with me. How about that?”
Summer plans weren’t asked about much this year but Andrew Copp announced that he was going back to school in May to finish his studies. And Patrik Laine’s plans? “I want to forget everything that’s involved with hockey.” he stated, when pressed for more information, he added “I want to forget about hockey because the seasons over now, we aren’t going to play hockey anymore. After this season I don’t want to think about it, it ended way too early. Go home, relax, play some golf, hang out with my friends.”