By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Paul Maurice wants his players to prepare like they never have before over the coming summer and gave them a little taste of what training camp will hold after the Jets were put through the rigors of a ‘bag skate’ on Wednesday morning.
It’s almost unthinkable that the Jets would be in anything but peak physical condition after 80 NHL games but it appears that it just isn’t the case after they were subjected to the mother of all practices on Wednesday, ahead of their meaningless game against the league’s best team in the Boston Bruins.
“One of the areas we will look to improve in is our overall group fitness,” Maurice told reporters on Wednesday. “I am going to tell them that ‘I want you to be ready for a tougher training camp than you are used to’.
“I showed the team what a training camp day is going to look like. Actually, training camp is going to be a lot harder.”
It’s apparent that preparations for next season have already begun despite two games remaining on their schedule. Maurice said he let his players know exactly what is expected of them over the summer months.
“I needed them to understand when I say we are going to have a tougher camp, when I have asked them to prepare differently, to train differently, to be aware of their summer program and how that affects what they are able to do in camp, they need a place to be able to understand, that’s all,” said the 47-year-old.
It’s hard to imagine Maurice moving on from Winnipeg, especially after all the future-tense words he spits out and now having given the Jets’ players a glimpse into his crystal ball.
The real question is, was the message well received?
“We got some really, really fit athletes in there and they are going to work really hard all summer to get an inch better,” said the former Carolina Hurricanes coach. “Then we are going to get a big bulk of the middle guys and that is really the area you want to improve.
“I am hoping a bunch of guys are going to ‘get it’ and then it makes it easier weeding out the rest.”
Again, not the words of a man on his way out but rather words of a man vested in the club and its players over the long-haul.
“We have encouraged our players to take an active role in all parts of this,” Maurice said. “The way we practice, the way we travel, everything.”
With rumours swirling about Evander Kane wanting out, a buyout of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec almost a foregone conclusion at this point and with renewed questions about the teams overall fitness, it’s shaping up to be the most interesting summer yet for the Jets short tenure in Winnipeg.
The question will be, and it’s a big one: who is going to step up and who is going to step out?