Winnipeg Jets Flight Plan

October 8, 2015

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Thursday, OCTOBEr 8, 2015 - a suPPLEMENT TO ThE WINNIPEG FrEE PrEss V i e w o n l i n e a t w i n n i p e g f r e e p r e s s . c o m / p u b l i c a t i o n s Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers moves the puck during training camp. BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Back to our Best By Jeremy Brooks for the Free Press On a Monday morning in late-September, blue skies and temperatures in the high-20s made ideal conditions for Manitobans to skip out of work or school and enjoy summer's last hurrah. So why, then, were hundreds of them filing into the frosty environment of the MTS Iceplex in Headingley to watch the Winnipeg Jets training camp? It's a no-brainer for Lorette native Nathan Reimer, who was quick to sum up our province's passion for the game. "It's what we do best," said the father of four. Three of Reimer's kids (Jacob, 7, Olivia, 10 and Sophia, 12) took a "sick day" and joined him for the roughly 60-kilometre trek. Their enthusiasm paid off as the kids nabbed autographs from players — including one of their faves, Mark Scheifele. Rookie defenceman Josh Morrissey took the time to offer them some hockey words of wisdom. "Have fun out there. Work hard and don't be nervous," Morrissey said. "Play who you are." It's an apt bit of advice from the Jets-wannabe, who was one of more than 20 rookies being evaluated by head coach Paul Maurice and his staff, tasked with whittling a squad of more than 50 down to 23 in time for their Oct. 8 season opener in Boston. And it speaks directly to what the bench boss and his assistants are looking for during the early stages of piecing together the puzzle: players showing what they do well and how they could benefit the team. "You wanna be a little bit more defined as a player," said Maurice about players at training camp who are not game- ready but who continue their journey to crack the squad. "(To show me) 'Look, this is what I do for a living, this is what I'm gonna offer you.'" Defenceman Ben Chiarot may have been the best example of this last year. After being sent down to the farm team, he got called back up to play with the Jets for roughly three quarters of the 2014-15 season. That experience, Chiarot says, helped prepare him for this year's camp. "I'm just more confident," he said. "I know what I can do at this level from what I've done last year." As the Oct. 8 opener approached and the roster was trimmed, many of the players are reassigned to the Manitoba Moose, back in Winnipeg for the 2015-16 season. It's to the Jets' advantage to be in the same building, Maurice says, to have a frequent look at the development of their talent pool. "They get credit for how they practise, how they play on those tough nights, (because) somebody's gonna watch them play." As the new season gets under way, pundits are returning in force, weighing in on Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien's contract negotiations, and whether or not the club is happy to have Alexander Burmistrov back after he left to play pro hockey in Russia. Rabid fans are back at their blogs (,, to name a few) to add yet another bank of microscopes to all the analysis. Jeff Coates, a semi-retired cop and season-ticket holder since the 1970s (who says he plans his holidays around game days), hopes, at minimum, the Jets will make the playoffs. "(To do any less) I think would be a bit of a regression," says Coates, 56. "But also it's understood that if three or four rookies make the lineup this might be a transition year into a stronger team in the future." Winnipegger Lenore Crockett spends her winters in Texas but never misses watching a game. "People think I'm crazy because I go there for the warmth but still want to watch hockey," says the mother of five. What does she hope for the 2015-16 campaign? "Lots of wins of course. And less injuries." ❚ overheard at training camp… Making the playoffs last year was a great lesson… "It was important to learn how hard it is to get there, first of all. Getting there was something new for a lot of us and just having that experience under our belt and knowing what to expect when we do get there will be a big help going forward." — Defenceman Jacob Trouba The locker room is full of leaders… "They may be young, but they're veterans." — Coach Maurice, on why younger guys like Scheifele — who logged big minutes and played big roles last season — are encouraged to take ownership of the team. It's good for players to try something new… "Training camp is the time of the year where you can experiment a bit and fool around with the lines. I'm glad we're doing it right now to see if it works out before the season gets started." — Forward Bryan Little, on the experiment of reassigning him from centre to wing. Jets centre Andrew Copp works out during training camp. BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Jets Flight Plan October 08, 2015

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