The Winnipeg Jets 2012-13 regular season came to an abrupt end on April 25th, against the Montreal Canadiens. Before the final regular season game, the Jets were just outside of a playoff position by one lonely point, but in order to squeeze above the line before time ran out, it required some much needed help from other teams. That help never came, and the Jets' playoff hopes came to an end. They dropped their final game 4-2, and by the time the entire regular season was finished, the Jets had missed the playoffs by four points.
Following the final game, each player who spoke with media searched for the right words to describe their emotions and comments to summarize their season in a positive light.
Friday morning was a new day. Players had some time to reflect on the final game and the final whirlwind that was, the quick 48-game season. The team gathered at the MTS Centre for a team meeting with Claude Noel, final interviews with media and to clean out their stalls before parting ways for the off-season.
Although the discontent still loomed in the room, there were many chins held high to look back at the many positives that will come out of this season, including coach Noel.
“I did see growth in our team, which is what encourages me, in a lot of ways,” said Noel. “I think this was really good for us, a season of 48 games, it was way different and it was stressful. As a team we could use the experience of dealing with pressure. From that standpoint it was really good for us.
“I really enjoyed the year but I didn’t enjoy the non-practice too much because coaches like to practice but I think that we managed it pretty well without having any experience, I hadn’t experienced a lockout.”
The Jets went 6-3-1 in their last 10 games of the season, including a five game winning streak and a seven game point streak, as they gave it everything they had to get into the playoffs. As it turned out, it just wasn't quite enough as other teams around them, had the same thing in mind.Andrew Ladd’s shared his thoughts on the season:
“Disappointment. We have to make sure that we use this as motivation to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Ladd. “It’s three years in a row now for me and it just leaves an empty feeling in your stomach and it’s failure to me. I’m sure there’ll be changes and we as a group need to figure out a way to be more consistent.
“Sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot, we don’t give ourselves the best opportunity to win every night and that’s where it starts.”
Unrestricted Free Agents
July 5th, 2013 is free agency day in the National Hockey League. The Winnipeg Jets have 12 unrestricted free agents who will need new contracts starting next season. That includes three players who play full-time with the St. John’s IceCaps (Ben Maxwell, Mark Dekanich and Jason Jaffray). The regular Jet’s roster UFA’s are:
Ron Hainsey, Nik Antropov, Mike Santorelli, Kyle Wellwood, Antti Miettinen, Grant Clitsome, Derek Meech, Al Montoya and Aaron Gagnon.
"I do want to be a part of this," said Antropov. "I think we took a couple of steps forward from the past year. Obviously disappointed to miss the playoffs, I thought we had a playoff team. There were a couple of games we should have won and didn't and that's what we paid for."
Restricted Free Agents
The Winnipeg Jets have 17 restricted free agents. Nine of them are on the current full-time roster. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will be busy this off-season dealing with big names such as Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian and Alexander Burmistrov. Wheeler and Little compile for two-thirds of the Jets top-line.
“As you can see, they are becoming the foundation of our team,” said Noel. “They are good players, so how important are they? Pretty important.”
Captain Andrew Ladd who signed a five-year contract back on July 5th, 2011, would like very much, to see his linemates, Wheeler and Little back playing with him.
“I need those two guys, so obviously they are two guys I want back really bad. Two guys that I work really well with, and two guys that have been great for this team the whole year and were consistent. We hope that we can get them locked up for a long time.”
Bryan Little commented that he wants nothing more than to stay in Winnipeg and hopes contract discussions will start soon.
“I definitely want to be back here,” he said. “I’ve been with this organization since the start of my career so I want to see it through and I want to make the playoffs with this team. I expect to be back here but it’s something that I’m not really thinking about right now but this summer I will be.”
Like most other teams, the Winnipeg Jets were far from healthy, especially late in the season as they pushed hard for a playoff position. Some injuries are obvious to fans and media because the player was not able to play or was placed on the IR list. Recent players who fell to injury were Bogosian (upper body), Wellwood (hand), Antropov (groin) and Enstrom (back).
Then there are the “banged-up” players, a loose term to state that the player just isn’t 100%, or might have a nagging injury but are still able to play on a nightly basis.
Evander Kane was just one of those banged-up players on that list.
“I don’t think anyone is 100% at this time of the year, especially when you play every other night,” said Kane. “You just have to battle through some things.”