WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Jets have an “us against them” attitude coming into this season with players embracing the prairie city known for its extreme climate, coach Paul Maurice said Tuesday.
“That’s part of the idea of Winnipeg; it’s kind of us against them,” Maurice said Wednesday. “We’re not a big town, a little bit cold on occasion, not a whole lot of shopping. If Rodeo Drive is your thing, maybe this isn’t your town. That’s OK.
“There are a whole lot of people that this place fits perfectly and we’re getting closer and closer to that. If you get those kind of men together, you have something special going. I love the vibe of what we’re doing. … it’s a good room, good men and [they’re] embracing it and looking forward to getting going.”
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The Jets have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs the past four seasons after making the postseason once (2015) in their first six seasons following their relocation from Atlanta in 2011.
Winnipeg starts the season at the Anaheim Ducks next Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; SN360, BSSC, ESPN+, NHL Live)
“It’s important that guys love being a Jet, that being in Winnipeg fires them up and people like that,” Maurice said. “We’ve got a whole bunch of them in our room now and it’s taken us kind of a long time to get to that.”
The build has been slow, but Winnipeg has been able to sign several of its core players to long-term contracts.
Center Mark Scheifele signed an eight-year contract July 8, 2016; forward Nikolaj Ehlers signed a seven-year contract Oct. 4, 2017; captain Blake Wheeler signed a five-year contract Sept. 4, 2018; forward Kyle Connor signed a seven-year contract Sept. 28, 2019; forward Adam Lowry signed a five-year contract April 16; defenseman Josh Morrissey signed a eight-year contract Sept, 12, 2019; and goalie Connor Hellebuyck signed a six-year contract July 12, 2018.
The Jets (30-23-3) finished third in the Scotia North Division last season, swept the Edmonton Oilers in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup First Round and were swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the best-of-7 second round.
In the offseason, the Jets worked to strengthen their defense. They acquired defenseman Brenden Dillon in a trade with the Washington Capitals for a second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft on July 26, and defenseman Nate Schmidt in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks for a third-round pick in the 2022 draft July 27. Each will play in Winnipeg’s top four.
Schmidt had a no-trade clause in his contract but the defenseman agreed to waive it to join the Jets.
“Every team has its own unique identity and challenges,” Maurice said. “Ours, it’s not that we have more here, they’re just different. And specifically, we’re on a number of players’ no-trade lists, that’s just a fact.
“But that doesn’t mean we can’t put a hell of a good team on the ice. In fact, when you get those guys together, they’re all in on Winnipeg. They hang closer together.”