(Winnipeg) Winnipeg Jets head coach Rick Bowness was the target of criticism from his players before they returned to their corner of the country for the summer.
Veteran Blake Wheeler said he didn’t like the assessment Bowness presented to members of the media following the Jets’ five-game elimination to the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs.
Bowness, who concluded his first season behind the team bench, was candid and forthright after the Jets’ season-ending encounter.
“I’m so disappointed and disgusted right now. That’s how I feel,” Bowness said after his squad lost 4-1 in Game 5 of the series against the Western Conference favorites.
“No one fought. This was also what we saw in February. As soon as we started fighting for the top spot and the teams took us seriously, we stopped fighting. In this series, we did not attempt to fight. Their best players have been so much better than ours. It wasn’t even close. »
Wheeler was asked if he would be able to move on from Bowness’ comments.
“He’s human and we don’t expect him to always be perfect. People make mistakes, he said. These better to have these conversations face-to-face. We will have to repair bridges, there is no doubt about it. »
Wheeler lost his captaincy before camp, as the Jets preferred to set up a rotating squad of Adam Lowry, Josh Morrissey and Mark Scheifele.
“One of my many flaws is that I’m emotional and I don’t hide my emotions,” Bowness said. Still, I’m not happy with my choice of words.
“However, the message is clear: I will never accept this type of effort in such a game. »
The Jets topped the Western Conference standings in January before falling. They confirmed their playoff appearance in their 81st game, finishing eighth in the West.
The team’s performance was affected by the absence of numerous injuries, including in the playoffs.
Nikolaj Ehlers missed the first four games against the Golden Knights. Morrissey, who had the best season of his career, fell in Game 3 against the Knights and did not return to the series. Scheifele was injured in the fourth game and missed the next.
Scheifele is one of four important players in the team whose contract situation is uncertain. There is only one season left on the contracts of Scheifele, Wheeler and goalkeeper Connor Hellebuyck. The three could claim full autonomy in the summer of 2024.
The four said they haven’t taken the time to think about the future yet.
“I just want to win a (Stanley) Cup,” Hellebuyck said. I don’t know the team’s plans. And honestly, I don’t know if I’m one of them. But my intention is to give my all, no matter where I play. »
The team management could decide to make major changes and plan a rebuild.
“We have a great group off the ice and some really good hockey players,” Ehlers said. We haven’t really achieved our goals in the last few seasons. We want to be better and have the opportunity to be better. »
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will meet with members of the media on Sunday.