It was another run and gun practice for the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre Wednesday morning as new head coach Paul Maurice started day three as the team’s new saviour.
Maurice continues to put his mark on the Jets, running them through a series of up-tempo drills, which included more attention to the defensive end.
“We’re starting to work on different systems stuff,” captain Andrew Ladd following the skate. “He’s implementing the way he wants us to practice. I think those are the big things.”
Many of the players have touched on Maurice’s hard-nosed approach over the past few days when asked about their new boss. That was on full display Wednesday as Maurice barked so loudly during one drill it could be heard way up in the stands.
“My voice is out of shape,” Maurice joked with reporters after practice. “You can’t work on this at home with your kids. They don’t take to getting screamed at at the kitchen table.”
It was the kind of control over the Jets that hasn’t been witnessed much this season while former coach Claude Noel was in control. So much so, the scene prompted the question as to whether the 46-year-old Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. native believed he fit the stereotype of being a bit of a “hard-ass.”
“It changes,” admitted Maurice. “You’re going to see a practice where I don’t say a word. I don’t know if I want to be described a certain way. I know I got a lot of games in me, but I’m 46 years old. I still think my best coaching is ahead of me, and I’m still learning and changing.
“Right now, this is what they need. They need somebody to say, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ I love practice. When I get out there I get a little lathered. I get a little excited and on the bench too. It’s fun for me.”
Maurice then took a pause to ensure his next message came out clear to the media: “When things are going really well, I’ll be quiet.”
Either way, the message appeared to have been heard Monday night, as Maurice coached a 5-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes in his debut with Winnipeg.
Asked whether this was the start to stringing together more wins — something the Jets have struggled to do all season — Maurice said it’s a start but noted it begins with instilling a consistent style of hockey and that can take time.
“We got to get to the point that we understand the game that we’re going to play before the puck drops,” he said. “When you do that, when you get to that point [where you say] ‘This is our game. We’re playing it every night. We’re consistent with it,’ then you know if you’re going to put a string of wins together.
“It’s going to take a while to get that foundation in. I want to win every game in the next 10. That would be great. That wouldn’t necessarily tell us that we’re on our way. It has to be implemented first. You have to adhere to it.”
So what did the 5-1 win over the Coyotes tell Maurice about his new team?
“The 5-1 win didn’t tell you that I’m a good coach,” said Maurice. “It told you there was a lot of emotion — that we harnessed that emotion.”
The challenge now becomes whether or not Maurice can bottle it.
Postma returns from blood clot
Paul Postma was on the ice for practice Wednesday for the first time in close to three months. The Jets’ defenceman has been sidelined since Oct. 27 after a blood clot was found in his calf.
“It’s extremely difficult knowing there’s not much you can do on the sidelines, but with this injury, it was more mental than physical for me,” said Postma. “It’s something I didn’t know a whole lot about at the time, and obviously I know a lot about it now.”
“It is just a mental game. Three months is a long time, and there were times where it’s pretty easy to get negative, but you got to take the positives out of it. I watched a lot of hockey over the last few months so hopefully I learned from that, and I’m just ready to play again.”
Postma, 24, doesn’t know why it happened to him. He said doctors have a number of possibilities, from the amount the team flies to sitting in a certain position for too long to dehydration, but nothing definitive.
“As soon as you start looking at Google, you get worst-case scenarios as well. The first thing I looked at — someone had a blood clot, and they were out for seven years and they still have symptoms, so I try to stay away from that,” he said.
Postma added up the days in his head — three more until his medication runs out and another few for allowing the medication to leave his system — and said his return would be closer to a week’s time.
But even when that time is up, there are still precautions that follow. Postma said he now has to wear compression stockings and take an aspirin to thin his blood when he flies. He also can’t sit in one spot for longer than an hour.
“The fact that it happened is beyond me,” said Postma. “I’m not sure why it happened, but I’m just happy it’s almost over.”
Postma has zero points and six penalty minutes in eight games with the Jets this season.