It’s a familiar beast in the Winnipeg Jets dressing room this year.
One could even argue it’s been there ever since the Jets made a return to Winnipeg two and a half seasons ago.
It’s nasty, it’s contagious and it carries with it the ability to rip apart an entire team.
And following a 6-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night, Jets’ head coach Claude Noel wasted little time before addressing the proverbial elephant in the room.
“Right now, adversity is really the enemy, and we’re not dealing with it very well,” Noel said.
“Right now we suffer from [a lack of] confidence,” Noel added. “That’s very clear. There are some things we’re not doing very well right now. We’re not defending very well. We’re not even passing the puck very well.”
Tough to swallow
It’s easy to just say the Jets were all kinds of awful through a majority of the 60 minutes of play. What’s tough to swallow, however, is it came against a Columbus team hovering at a .500 record and not even 24 hours removed from a match against the Carolina Hurricanes the night before. The Jets on the other hand, had three days of preparation leading up to Saturday’s match.
“Its not easy right now,” said forward Bryan Little. “It’s tough to stay positive, and its kind of hurting everyone’s confidence right now. The fans get on you. It’s not easy. It’s a difficult time right now that we’re trying to get through.”
Frustration in Jetsland also continued as they had to once again witness a listless effort from the home team. The way the Jets played defended the boo birds that rained down at the end of the game. It was the second game this week the Jets had exited to the sound of displeased fans.
Winnipeg has now lost five straight and with the loss, fall to 19-23-5 on the year, further cementing their position at the bottom of the Central Division. The chances of earning playoff spot are slowing slipping away as the frustration in the locker room continues to build.
“You feel like you’re in a deep pit, and you’re trying to crawl and scratch your way out of it,” said Jets captain Andrew Ladd.
Looking for leadership
Ladd also discussed the displeasure with his own play of late. In the Jets five-game losing skid, Ladd has only a single point and is a dismal minus-6. Undisciplined would be a good way to describe his play Saturday night. Twice during the game Ladd took a foolish penalty in the offensive zone, putting a stop to any kind of momentum for his team.
“I’ll take full responsibility for my play. I was awful tonight,” reflected Ladd. “For a team [that is] struggling, we’re probably looking for leaders. I wasn’t very good. I need to be a lot better, and I will be going forward.”
When told about the kind of reaction Ladd had following the game, Noel wasn’t at all surprised by what he heard. Instead, he noted it’s part of the coaching staff’s responsibility to help him get their captain back to his old self.
“He’s a responsible player, and he’s a responsible person and sometimes he takes the burden of the team on his shoulders,” said Noel. “That’s what good leaders do. I’ve got to try and help Andrew. It’s been a frustrating time for him. We’ll get his game back.”
But in the meantime, Noel still believes the Jets are able to get back on track and salvage what’s left of the season.
“There’s going to be no easy way to get out of this thing,” Noel started. “It’s going to be two things for me. We’re going to have to work our way out of it, and our focus is going to have to be excellent and that’s every day, practice [and] games.”
The Jets go back to the drawing board Sunday as they prepare for the Phoenix Coyotes Monday night. Phoenix is currently ninth in the Western Conference, just two points out of the final playoff spot. The Coyotes have an eight-point lead on the Jets with three games in hand.
First star – Mark Letestu, CBJ
The Blue Jackets centre scored twice in the game including a short-handed goal to open the scoring for his team. His second was his team’s sixth and final goal that came off a rebound following a shot from Nathan Horton.
Second star – Boone Jenner, CBJ
He also scored twice for the visiting team, collecting the game-winning goal on a penalty shot that beat Pavelec blocker side. Jenner finished the game a plus-1 in 12:48 of ice time.
Third star – Ryan Johansen, CBJ
He made a pretty pass to set up Nick Foligno is front for Columbus’ third goal of the game. It was Johansen’s only point in the contest to go with his two shots in 12:47 of ice time.