By Judy Owen, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Kevin Cheveldayoff knows he didn’t make big changes to the Winnipeg Jets’ roster this offseason, but the general manager believes hiring Rick Bowness as head coach was a “seismic” decision. which should bear fruit.
“I think we had a seismic shift on the 4th of July when we changed the coaching staff here, the philosophy,” Cheveldayoff told media Thursday after watching the former Dallas Stars head coach lead the first training camp day.
“I think if you just look at even the exercises today and… look at the practice today, there’s a lot of teaching, there’s a lot of different systems, there’s a lot of different ways of approaching things, so it’s a seismic shift.”
Bowness laughed when asked how he felt about being called a ‘seismic shifter’.
“I’ve been called worse,” he said with a smile. “I don’t know. Look, I’m a coach, that’s all I know how to do, so whatever they call me, I’m coming out and just going to do my thing.
The Jets (39-32-11) missed the playoffs last season after reaching the playoffs in four straight years, finishing eight points behind Nashville for the NHL’s final Western Conference wildcard spot.
It was a campaign that included the resignation of head coach Paul Maurice in mid-December and Dave Lowry taking over on an interim basis. After the season, players expressed frustration and pointed to liability issues.
Veteran defender Josh Morrissey viewed the lack of significant moves as a vote of confidence.
“It’s nice to see the faith of management and ownership in not making a lot of player changes,” Morrissey said.
“I think last year we talked about it until we were blue in the face, really, about being frustrated, disappointed with last season, feeling like we didn’t make it. and that we could have done more, so now it’s kind of on us.
“We have a new staff who are excited, we are excited and we have another chance to show that we are a good team and we are a team that can make the playoffs on our minds. As a player, this is the trust you expect from your organization.
“Now it’s time for us to buy into the systems, buy into our coaching staff and go to another level that we think we can reach.”
The Jets weren’t sold last season and fans took to social media to express their frustration with the team.
Cheveldayoff was asked how fans can get excited about a team that has essentially stayed the same.
“I think it depends on the style of play we’re going to have,” he replied. “I think it will depend on how emotionally I think we will play under (Bowness). And I think the level of excitement is there.
“It wasn’t too long ago that the fanbase here got excited for young players coming into the lineup, like a Cole Perfetti, like a Morgan Barron. These are things an organization grows with.
“It’s not always about signing the big name free agent that you might have to buy out in two or three years, it’s about growth. I think we’re well positioned with a strong core of veteran players and good youngsters knocking on the door here that will really push these players.
Last season, the Jets were expected to make the playoffs and have a serious shot at winning the Stanley Cup.
Veteran goalkeeper Connor Hellebuyck seemed happy that wasn’t the case this time around.
“In my experience, it’s expectations that kill teams,” he said. “You arrive with expectations of big things and it’s hard to live up to it. It’s a mental struggle.
“If you come in and you expect to fight every day and give yourself a chance to do great things, that’s when they happen. So that’s kind of my state of mind that comes into play.
One happy player on Thursday was center Mark Scheifele, who spoke at the end of last season about wanting to know where the team was headed and if it was right for him.
“It’s definitely a good new start for me this year,” he said. “I’m sure you can tell I’m very excited right now.
“I think I’m breathing positivity right now because I’m excited. It’s been an awesome start to the year, talking to the new coaches and talking to the guys and seeing the excitement on the guys’ faces this year.