Kukla's Korner Hockey
Winnipeg Sun hockey writer Ken Wiebe and sports editor Ted Wyman delved into the issue this week and now present their arguments as to which direction the Jets should take.
Sign Buff to a long-term contract: Wiebe
Finding a way to get Dustin Byfuglien's signature on the dotted line is the best option for the Winnipeg Jets.
After bouncing back and forth between defence and forward during the past two seasons, Byfuglien moved back in December out of necessity and took his game to another level.
Though there were still some lapses, the high-risk element was more under control.
The physical component was much more consistent -- just ask the likes of Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty -- who found themselves on the receiving end of some big hits that ended up on Byfuglien's expansive highlight reel....
Trade Dustin Byfuglien: Wyman
It won’t be an easy decision to make – and it certainly won’t be popular – but the Winnipeg Jets should seriously consider trading Dustin Byfuglien this off-season.
No question, Byfuglien can be a dynamic player, a rarity who can easily shift from defence to forward and back again and a big presence who can dominate physically while making significant contributions on the scoreboard.
But he can also be a liability on the blue-line, as evidenced by Claude Noel’s decision to move him permanently to forward in 2014 and Paul Maurice’s decision to keep him there for the first 26 games of last season.
And then there’s the issue of his contract status, which complicates the matter considerably....
much more from each...
from Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press,
It was the Winnipeg Jets who first posed the question, scribbling a rallying cry on the whiteboard in their dressing room Wednesday morning:
‘Why Not Us?’
And it was the Anaheim Ducks who provided a resounding answer Wednesday night.
Why not the Jets? Because, simply put, the Ducks are better. They’re better up front and along the blue-line. They have more depth, more experience... more everything.
The Ducks snuffed out the last flicker of hope for the Jets’ 2014-15 season in front of another raucous whiteout house at the MTS Centre in a 5-2 victory that was absolutely, positively textbook playoff hockey.
Anaheim’s four-game sweep does two things:
1. It punches their ticket to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, where they’ll face either the Calgary Flames or Vancouver Canucks. And;
2. It also means the Jets/Atlanta Thrashers remain the only NHL franchise without a playoff victory. They are now 0-8, including the New York Rangers sweep of Atlanta in 2007.
from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo,
The Ducks should win at least two rounds this year. L.A. isn’t in the way this time. Neither are the San Jose Sharks. By sweeping the Jets – a big, hard, physical team – the Ducks gave themselves time to heal their bumps and bruises and avoided additional punishment. They will face either the Calgary Flames or the Vancouver Canucks in the second round. They went 3-1-1 against each of them in the regular season.
Kesler was acquired to address two weaknesses – faceoffs and center depth – taking pressure off captain Ryan Getzlaf and giving Boudreau more matchup options. He was also acquired to give the Ducks another elite pain-in-the-butt in the top six along with Corey Perry. After a regular season of 20 goals and 47 points, he was what he was expected to be in the playoffs in the first round.
In Game 3, the fans chanted: “KESLER SUCKS!” Except that he doesn’t, and he loves playing the villain. He had a goal and two assists that night, including the tying goal with 2:41 left in regulation. In Game 4, he scored twice in the third period. First, he made it 3-1. Then, after the Jets had made it 3-2, after the fans had chanted loudly though an entire media timeout, he made it 4-2. Dagger.
“Obviously we wanted to silence the crowd tonight,” Kesler said, “and that’s what we did.”
from Damien Cox of Sportsnet,
Just as the Jets and Ducks were taking to the ice, Ottawa was finishing off a 1-0 victory at home over Montreal to stay alive after, like the Jets, losing the first three games of the series. It was as though one Canadian team was setting the example for another. “See, do it like this.”
Inside the MTS Centre, the crowd at game time was just a shade less noisy, less subdued than spent by the frustrating results 48 hours earlier and the bleak scenario. The lungs seemed willing, but the spirit was flagging, and the emotion of the first playoff game on Winnipeg ice in 19 years earlier in the week was no longer fuel for the fans. Similarly, the players were so battered by the sheer effort it took to get to the post-season they seemed to have nothing more to give.
And so it was, in this mixture of hope and acceptance, of never-say-die fandom and a keen understanding that what was required of this team was too much to ask, that the Jets season ended with a definitive 5-2 loss to Anaheim. These last two games were needed to close the circle on Winnipeg’s lost-and-found NHL story, and within that context, getting swept by the Ducks probably won’t sting quite as much.
But that’s for the locals to decide.
“I do believe they appreciate the effort,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “We’ll try to make things better next year beyond the effort.”
Winnipeg has proven something, the Jets have proven something, and now a promising future beckons. But the Ducks also showed that Winnipeg isn’t close yet, that more building needs to be done by GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and his crew before the Jets can truly be viewed as a contender in the Western Conference.
Below, the handshakes take place...
from Tim Campbell of the Winnipeg Free Press,
... That’s when it got intense. Maurice was asked directly about Byfuglien’s choice of answers today.
"Four or five? Ten," the coach said about the number of times it was essentially repeated. "Somebody counted. Are you offended?"
But what about the lack of maturity, accountability, the coach was asked?
"So you’re asking me what Dustin’s like behind closed doors based on something that pissed you off?
"I think part of (the perception) is fairly accurate, not your assessment, but he’s got an awesome sense of humour. You won’t like that. Don’t underestimate the investment the players make. Here’s where I’m losing the argument before it even starts. You’re going to find one of the 650 other NHL players would have handled that nicely and be contrite and everybody would have thought that was good. He’s a very, very competitive man and not particularly happy with the result. More than anything he wants to win badly.
"So he doesn’t like the fact that he has to speak to the media today. And I’m reading the Twitter pop-ups and, ‘the guy makes so much money he should be happy to stand in front of the media and talk to them.’ And there’s a certain dynamic between media and some players that you feel he has the absolute obligation to come out and answer for everything because of the gift and the joy that it is to play professional sports and the amount of money a man would make.
added 4:53pm, Below, watch Paul Maurice post-practice...
added 2:04pm, Watch Byfuglien make the comments below...
from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of Yahoo,
Silence. The puck came out to the point, Francois Beauchemin fired it and Rickard Rakell deflected it into the net 5:12 into overtime Monday night. Just like that, the MTS Centre went from one of the loudest arenas of all-time to one of the quietest.
As the Anaheim Ducks celebrated their 5-4 victory and 3-0 first-round series lead over the Winnipeg Jets, you could hear their whoops and hollers all the way up to the rafters. Fans started filing out. After maybe a minute, some chanted, “Go, Jets, go!” But soon they faded, and there was no sound again. Hundreds stayed in their seats, stunned.
Nineteen years they had waited for this. Nineteen years they had waited to see an NHL playoff game in Winnipeg. Now they had to process a bittersweet mix of emotions – pride, excitement, frustration, disappointment.
“That’s one you’ll always remember,” said Jets winger Blake Wheeler. “Just too bad it wasn’t a more fond memory.”
from Damien Cox of Sportsnet,
It was one of those nights. One of those crazy, old nights.
History offered a challenge, and hockey responded. As did Manitoba’s capital, producing an unforgettable occasion, a sporting memory pure and firm and lasting.
We shall remember this night.
It ended not as Winnipeg wanted, not as much as Canada wanted, not as one of Canada’s richest men wanted, but with a redirection by the relatively unknown Rickard Rakell off a point shot from Francois Beauchemin at 5:12 of overtime to end a raucous, rollicking night of hockey in favour of the Anaheim Ducks, not the hometown Jets.
from Damien Cox of Sportsnet,
Winnipeg’s best attackers - Bryan Little, Scheifele, Andrew Ladd, Wheeler, Byfuglien - haven’t made a dent in Frederik Andersen, and only one Jet, Adam Lowry, has more than one point so far. The Jets power play has been blanked.
All this could change dramatically, and it could change tonight in Game 3. The Jets need it to against an Anaheim team that was No. 1 in the West this season, but has needed to come back in both games on home ice this series.
The challenge for the Jets will at least partly be to not let the enormity of tonight, the first home game for an NHL team in Winnipeg in 19 years, to become such an overwhelming factor that they neglect to improve those parts of their game that require attention. This is a series in which Game 3 has been held aloft as the key game before hostilities even commenced because it’s the first of its kind since Detroit eliminated the original Jets from the Stanley Cup playoffs back in 1996.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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