Let me be very clear here, this is not about the media that covers the Winnipeg Jets on a daily basis. The local media in Winnipeg does a fantastic job and is very thorough. Whether it be print, audio, or video, this team is consistently and fairly covered, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s because you haven’t looked hard enough.
However, beyond the Perimeter Highway, it’s a much different story. I’ve listened to or watched a number of podcasts and read numerous articles from sources outside of Manitoba and the information is less than reliable. Listening to some podcasts previewing the Jets’ upcoming season was like listening to a middle schooler give a book report on a novel they didn’t read. Pierre-Luc Dubois is not a winger and did not spend last season asking for a trade. It’s Kyle Connor, not Kyler Connor. It is Morgan Barron, not Baron Morgan, and Connor Hellebuyck should not be restricted to 45 starts. Jets fans, could you imagine him sitting on the bench for 37 games?
A majority of content creators have metaphorically hit the post when it comes to reporting on or predicting the season ahead. I know Winnipeg is a small market and few outside the Keystone Province pay much attention, but please get the basic facts correct. The Jets are better than the outside gossip reported. They are in a much better spot now than when they left in May. The culture is okay, Blake Wheeler is okay and Mark Scheifele is okay. Rick Bowness and the staff are having a real positive impact on this team.
You have every right to agree or disagree with me, and I would invite you to share your thoughts in the comment section below, I’m just going to provide you with what I have found.
People Don’t Know the Jets
I watched two completely different podcasts in which each referred to defenseman Neal Pionk as Neal Ponik (pronounced PAW-nick). That automatically makes the opinion invalid in my mind. One of them went on to say how he was just not an offensive threat with only 34 points. In fact, Pionk was the Jets’ highest-scoring defenseman in the previous two seasons. What they failed to share, probably because they didn’t know, was he played most of last season with an injured foot from a blocked slapshot that didn’t fully heal until the offseason.
Often times in our society, inadequate research leads to misinformation which turns to biased opinions. This has happened in regards to the Jets. As you might expect, the articles written by people from outside the local market obviously haven’t taken the time to find out what’s been transpiring since the spring.
Media is Dwelling on the Past
A lot of national articles about the Jets have been focused on two things. The culture of the dressing room and stripping Wheeler of the captaincy. The reality is neither is an issue at this point. I read an article from a very reputable hockey source a couple of weeks ago that suggested the Jets are broken. That’s simply not true. The article highlighted a poor Jets culture in the locker room, but was based on evidence and events dating back anywhere from three to five years ago. It’s true there have been issues in the past, but notice I said in the past? All indications from the people who cover the Jets everyday is that those issue are in the rear view mirror.
A new coaching staff has been hired, and the first thing they did was look for ways to improve the mental health of the team. Steve Dangle of The Steve Dangle Podcast recognized this. While his two partners, Adam Wylde and Jesse Blake towed the “Jets are broken” line with no evidence other than the article I linked above, Dangle disagreed.
“Ya know I don’t think that about Winnipeg,” Dangle said. “The more I have been kind of paying attention to them, I think there’s a real culture shift here, and I think Rick Bowness is actually going to have a more positive impact than people think.”
Related: Jets’ Rick Bowness is Demanding More Speed from His Players
Blake replied, “these forwards don’t back check, and I don’t think Rick Bowness coming in there is going to change these players entirely and their entire mind set and how they play hockey. We have a team that every year underperforms and why is this coach gonna be the one to change that entirely?” To which Wylde added, “especially with these players that play the same.”
Wylde also stated, “Scheifele, and you all saw the press conference all he said was, If we’re not going to win I don’t want to be here.” If you actually watch that interview, the first thing Scheifele said was the exact opposite. Since then, upon his return to Winnipeg in August, he has applauded the new coaching staff and has loudly expressed his excitement for the fresh start ahead this season.
Seems Rick Bowness and Ol’ Blue Eyes have something in common.— Mike McIntyre (@mikemcintyrewpg) September 29, 2022
“I’m going to do it my way,” says the new #NHLJets bench boss.
He sure is. And that’s brought a breath of fresh air to a flawed squad needing accountability and structure.
My column: https://t.co/KykQM7PiLm#wfp
Isn’t that the very definition of what a coach is paid to do? Are players and coaches not allowed to evolve, develop and grow? Anyone who has paid attention knows: change is happening in Winnipeg. The fact is the new coaching staff has infused a new attitude and the players have responded. On the Illegal Curve Hockey Show, Sportsnet’s Ken Wiebe who follows this team everyday used the word “engagement”, when he was asked if there was one takeaway he had from watching the Jets through training camp.
“You’ve seen players engaged with head coach Rick Bowness and the aforementioned assistants, almost every minute on the ice right now and it’s not because there’s confusion. There’s a very direct path towards how the Jets are going to be asked to play hockey this year. This group now is ready to be coached.”– Ken Wiebe, Illegal Curve Hockey Show, 08/10/2022
A week prior, on the same show, Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press was a guest and was asked to headline Jets’ training camp to that point (Oct.1). He replied, “I think it’s team unity, it’s coming together as one. There’s a lot of learning, there’s a lot of teaching that’s happening. Way more so than in past years.” He then continued to explain the atmosphere in camp. “I just get this sense that there’s been, everybody at least in what they’re saying, has completely hit the flush button on last year. And there’s this sense of opportunity, of unity and I give Rick Bowness credit.”
Wheeler is Not an Issue
The other issue out-of-market reporters have been drawn to has been the removal of Blake Wheeler as team captain. The overriding theme is that he is going to be angry, and that could cause problems in the locker room.
As Andrew Patterson mentioned on his show Winnipeg Sports Talk, he sees this as fresh reboot for Wheeler. “I think we might see a Blake Wheeler at times next year that looks and lays like there is a bit of weight off his shoulders. By the time we get to the start of the season, this won’t be a huge topic… I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being something that is kind of liberating for Blake.”
Video: @WiebesWorld joined @hustlerama yesterday for a discussion on the #NHLJets decision to remove Blake Wheeler as captain https://t.co/0ZHs54DJea— Winnipeg Sports Talk (@SportsTalkWPG) September 17, 2022
The fact remains Wheeler is okay. Dangle, during the same podcast as mentioned above, went on to address the stripping of the captaincy saying, “there are lot of situations where stripping the captain of the “C”, I think would be a sign that things are about to go sideways. I don’t think that’s going to happen in Winnipeg.”
And after an explanation of why a total Jets rebuild would be wrong at this time, his cohorts dismissed his arguments. Both suggested the Jets will finish sixth in the Central both using the phrase “barely ahead of” seventh place Chicago or Arizona. In my next article, I’ll show you why I believe that opinion is unrealistically low.
Don’t Believe Everything You Read
This September was a good exercise in journalistic reliability for me. You really need to be careful who you choose to trust in the media. As I stated before, the media coverage on the Jets that comes from inside the province is top-notch, trustworthy and consistent.
Look for my next article where I will dig into the specific changes Bowness has made and how they differ from the Paul Maurice era based on the views of those who know. His alterations to the systems, the lineup, the players and the atmosphere have been not only impressive, they were well overdue.