Are the Winnipeg Jets starting to understand their new head coach Rick Bowness? It looks like they are. He’s been preaching the need to increase the team’s speed and pressure on the opponent and it seems, at least after last night’s exhibition game, they may be coming around.
The Jets travelled east to take on the Montreal Canadiens in their third preseason game this week and it appears the new mandate from Bowness is starting to sink in.
After the Jets’ second preseason game against the Ottawa Senators, Bowness was upset with the pace and play his team showed. In the post-game press conference, he pointed out some serious flaws that needed to be cleaned up. Noticeably, he wasn’t referring to any newcomers, “Veterans or not, I think we just have to learn to play the right way, and we have to stop playing slow. We’ve been talking about shorter shifts and keeping the thing going north, the veterans have to lead the way. The veterans can’t be the issue. We’ve got to fix the veterans…We have a lot of work to do.”
Jets Improving the Speed of Their Game
It appears the message may be resonating, as Bowness’ tone was much different after their win against the Canadiens. He commented on how happy he was with the pace of the game, and the fact the Jets did not allow Montreal much in terms of offensive opportunities in the first two periods.
“Loved the first two periods. We were skating, we were playing fast, we were getting on top of them, weren’t giving up any chances, any odd mans (rushes). The things we wanted to clean up.”– Head Coach Rick Bowness in his postgame press conference in Montreal, 29/09/2022
Bowness has been pushing that mantra from day one of camp. He wants the Jets to increase the pace of their game, continually forcing the opposition into mistakes, looking to take advantage of those mistakes and being relentless for 60 minutes. He used the Jets’ tying goal by 2022 first-round pick Brad Lambert as an example, “Pressure. Pressure. We want to pressure the puck, that’s exactly how we want to play. Until they get the puck, (we) want to be right there in their faces and that’s a good example of it. Then, obviously, it’s a pretty good shot by the kid.”
Bowness is Demanding More Offense from the Defense
Another area Bowness would like to see improved is the number of goals scored by defensemen. Last year, the defense corps notched 24 goals. According to the new coach, that number isn’t nearly good enough and this season it needs to be north of 40.
When asked how much Neal Pionk could benefit from this push, Bowness recalled the first time he saw him with the Rangers when he was impressed by his speed, shot and ability to get up in the rush. When Pionk was told of Bowness’ plan for the defense, he said he agreed and was excited to play an aggressive offensive game while being defensively responsible.
Headlines:— Illegal Curve Hockey (@IllegalCurve) September 30, 2022
Bowness wants more offence from defence, Pionk happy to oblige. Brad Lambert making most of opportunity despite injury early in camp. Young Jets pull one out of the fire. Remembering Hawerchuk’s legendary career.https://t.co/5bd4f94YcV
Bowness is pushing the defense to be more than just puck stoppers and wants them to immediately transition into offense when the Jets get possession. “They’ve got to get used to coming up, even every defense (men). We’re defending the rush, but as soon as it goes the other way, go. Don’t watch, go. So we’ve got to do that, we’re going to activate them a lot more.”
Bowness ‘ Message is Being Received
Coach Bowness is in the middle of rewiring this team. That could take some time and as he stated, they still have plenty of work to do. While rebooting a system and atmosphere that’s eight years old won’t come overnight, it looks like things are heading in the right direction. Perhaps this game against the Canadiens was a precursor to what fans can expect to see throughout the season. He definitely has a strategy on how to fix the Jets and thus far has been unwavering in his determination to make it happen. As soon as the players fully figure it out and execute their coach’s plan, they should be on the road to improvement.
Keith Forsyth is a freelance writer and sports junkie from rural Manitoba who is covering the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers. Keith loves all sports and is a huge fan of the NFL (Skol Vikings… if you know, you know) and the Montreal Expos (they’re coming back… you watch!). He recently retired from the education world teaching high school, where his greatest passion was coaching young athletes. He brings that same logical, behind the bench type of approach to you as he delivers an insightful look into the NHL and specifically the Jets. For interview requests or content info, follow Keith on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.