By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
With a less than one percent shot at the postseason, the Winnipeg Jets have begun to look to the horizon and learn from the lessons experienced in their adversity-filled 2013-14 campaign.
The team is still flirting with the same mistress it has since arriving to Winnipeg. A slow start coupled with a push later in the season only to succumb to a collapse to cap another year off without playoff hockey. It’s hardly a winning concoction for a team who can’t venture out of the .500 zone. But yet again, Jets say they have learned some valuable lessons this season and hope to bring them with come October.
“If anything, I have learned how important games are earlier in the season,” said Bryan Little. “You get to the end of the year and every game is important but if anything — if a lesson is learned — the way you start the season is really important.”
Little has been a model of consistency in his current setup. His 62 points have him in second place on the team and he is currently sporting a seven-game point streak — tying a career-high — heading into Thursday night’s contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As much as this year has been a learning curve for the team, Little insists he has grown as a player.
“Getting older,” notes Little, attributing his maturation to his consistent play. “When you are young you want to score all the time and when you don’t you are frustrated and mad and you take it home with you. Now that I am a little older I have learned that it doesn’t really help anything.”
What has helped is head coach Paul Maurice’s work on changing the culture and mindset of the team. Little said it is important to latch onto those philosophies now so they will become commonplace next season.
“He’s been here long enough that we are getting an understanding of what he expects from us and what kind of coach he is,” Little explained. “He comes in here and is really honest about how we play and is honest about what he wants from us. He expects us to aim high and to shoot for the playoffs.
“Any more games that we have with him is more learning experience for everyone.”
Meanwhile, Evander Kane was tight-lipped about a pending civil suit against him. It was revealed on Thursday morning that the 22-year-old is being sued by a Vancouver man over an alleged assault in 2013 that left the man with a multitude of injuries including a concussion.
“Nothing surprises me,” said Kane.
When asked if he had a comment on the allegations he calmly replied “no, no I don’t.
Kane says he doesn’t consider himself a lightning rod for trouble.
“I am not the only, nor the first or the last,” said Kane. “I don’t consider myself a lightning rod. I just think that is playing in a Canadian market, every little thing becomes a big thing.”