January 3, 2012
Jets not Fehr to EricAttempt to ‘protect’ struggling player backfires
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - We interrupt this love-in with the local NHL team to bring you a budding controversy from the Jets dressing room.
Actually, it wasn’t even a controversy at the beginning — until the Jets made it one.
Proving life is not so much what happens to you but how you deal with it, the Jets Monday took what should have been a one-day blip and turned it into a story with legs.
Here’s what we were left with: head coach Claude Noel doesn’t think much of forward Eric Fehr’s play of late, and the Jets think even less of Fehr’s ability to speak for himself.
The whole thing began innocently enough, as Noel was asked about Fehr, who hasn’t exactly been lighting it up as he tries to come back from off-season shoulder surgery.
Noel, as is his custom, told it like he sees it.
“I’m waiting for him to play a little better,” the coach began. “He’s still dealing with the injury. It still bothers him. It bothers him somewhat mentally. That’s something he has to overcome. He wants to play more. I have no problem with that. Play better, you play more. It’s that simple. I’ve spoken to him about that.”
Noel went on to say Fehr is playing cautiously, which, if you’ve watched the Jets at all lately, is bang-on.
“I see it everywhere,” Noel said. “He gives me no reason to move him off of that slot. You’re playing five minutes, seven minutes, eight minutes.”
Not the best skater to begin with, Fehr’s hesitancy to get involved makes him look like he’s skating in sand, at times. As a result, he’s mired on the fourth line — not exactly what the Jets had in mind when they acquired him from Washington.
“How could it be frustrating — we’re winning,” Noel said. “How could it be frustrating for me? It’s his career, not mine. He’s gotta figure it out.”
And if he doesn’t, he’ll end up a healthy scratch. Actually, that could happen the minute Bryan Little gets back in the lineup, which is any day now.
Noel’s comments weren’t shocking, but they were refreshing in their honesty, as they often are.
Of course, the media wanted to get Fehr’s comments on the matter, which is when things got a little testy.
The Jets didn’t want to “subject” Fehr to questions, so they called off his media availability.
Never mind that the guy is 26 years old and has always handled himself with aplomb when dealing with the press.
And never mind he’d already talked to Noel about his lackluster play and lack of ice time, according to the coach.
It’s just the latest example of a team trying to control the message, which, as former Blue Bomber boss Mike Kelly discovered a couple years back, is pointless, not to mention impossible — unless they want to hire robots as players and coaches. Even then, we wretches of the press would find something wrong with the robots.
If the Jets figure the Eric Fehr story is controversial, heaven help them when something really dirty breaks.
This could have been a minor, one-day story. Instead, it lives on, under a brighter spotlight, for the number of TV cameras and reporters is sure to double at Jets practice, Tuesday, a regular working day.
Of course, by then the Jets will have had time to coach Fehr up, maybe even do for his interviewing skills what Noel hasn’t been able to do for his play.
That type of coaching, Fehr doesn’t need.
He doesn’t need a media circus, either, with a two-day spotlight on him and his disappointing play, instead of one: Could Fehr And Noel Be At Odds? Find Out, Tuesday.
The Jets are a feel-good story, and Fehr would be, too, if he could come back from yet another shoulder operation and become a factor on the team he grew up cheering for.
Everybody’s pulling for the guy.
Not everybody is doing what’s best for him.