Maurice not ready to sell his team short
Jets coach believes club can right the ship before trade deadline
ASTA R forward felled in practice. A No. 1 goaltender in sick bay, a rookie third-stringer playing like a seasoned starter and another goalie who needs his confidence nurtured.
Mark Scheifele’s concussion and a battle of the backups between Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson means Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice has too much to worry about today to give any thought to what might happen Feb. 29 — trade-deadline day.
“Not even a little bit,” said Maurice, after his team’s practice at the MTS Centre Monday, when asked if the deadline has crossed his mind. “I’ve never liked to see guys get traded. You’ve got to go with what you got and I’m not a big fan of moving guys out unless it clearly doesn’t fit. It’s my job to get more out of them.”
The main focus for Maurice at the moment is trying to get the best from every one of his players. But at 16-17-2, the Jets find themselves in troubled waters, closer to becoming a seller than a buyer come Feb. 29.
With that date still two months away, the Jets’ bench boss feels the task at hand is much more important than what decisions could be made in the future.
Getting more out of the players will ultimately mean keeping more of them around. That’s where Maurice hopes to be by late February, his team intact and playing the kind of consistent game seen last year when the Jets reached a franchise-high 99 points and earned their first playoff berth since the relocation from Atlanta in 2011.
Whether that comes to fruition is another thing. Winnipeg has yet to put together a winning streak greater than two games this season and their road record, 6-12-1, is nowhere near where it needs to be as they get ready for a season-high, five-game trip after a date with Detroit today.
And the reality that the NHL is just as much a business as it is a game, there’s no doubt the next few weeks will tell the story of where the Jets stand, and, perhaps more importantly, who stays.
Right now, the Jets are conscious of the fact they control their own fate. And they’re up to the challenge, even if it means a massive improvement from what’s been seen so far this year.
“Looking at where we are in the standings, you realize what’s ahead of us… it’s tough to make up those points if you don’t start right now,” said captain Andrew Ladd. “We’ve always been hovering just below or right at the playoff line, we haven’t really experienced that and we don’t really want to experience that. It’s our job, as players, to put ourselves in a position where you make (general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff) feel like he wants to add a few guys instead of doing the opposite.”
In this case, the opposite means unloading pieces, making the kind of moves that suggest a rebuild. That direction isn’t how you attract free agents, and it does little to gain the trust of the current veteran core. At 28 years old, forward Mathieu Perreault is part of that group who has little interest in the draft-and-develop model.
“I’m getting older and you want to win,” he said. “I’m not looking to rebuild. I hope we can turn things around. We’re in the right direction, we’ve played some good hockey. It’s going to take everyone in this room to win games. Hopefully we can position ourselves to that point to where we’re making moves to go forward and try and make the playoffs, not put ourself in a bad situation.”
Asked what could happen if the Jets find themselves in that bad situation come February, Maurice recited a piece of advice he said he’d heard from a close friend earlier in his career.
“Never live a bad day twice,” he said. “So if that day comes I’ll answer that question.”
Until then, he has plenty on his mind to deal with.