Sunday was garbage-bag day for the Winnipeg Jets.
After closing out the regular season on Saturday with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Jets came in for exit interviews and cleaned out their lockers.
“You talk about where you want to go as an organization and what would change this year versus next year,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “We don’t want to be standing here in April next year going down this same path. How do we prevent that? How do we start that process?
“We give them food for thought about moving forward and stuff like that. Things have to change.”
What type of things have to change?
“We have to be better,” said Noel. “Our attitude has to be better and we have to walk and expect to be in the playoffs. Our conduct, our existence has to be better. That’s where it starts. I think we’re getting there and that’s what I want them to think about during the summer. There’s something to be said about walking like a champion.”
For many Jets, it was a time to reflect on what it was like to be part of the Jets’ return to the NHL.
“I don’t honestly know if I could pick one single moment,” said Jets goalie Chris Mason. “Every home game brought something new. At the beginning, you almost wondered if it would ever die down or the excitement would go away, but it never did.
“Away from the rink, meeting the people and the fans, I just loved it all. It was awesome. I drop my daughter off at school and half of them are wearing Winnipeg Jets shirts, parents have flags on the cars. This is what I think hockey is all about and I loved every minute of it.”
On the personnel front, the Jets go into the off-season with seven pending unrestricted free agents and three restricted free agents, so it’s natural to expect there could be some significant roster turnover come the fall.
At least two members of the Jets will be participating at the 2012 IIHF World Hockey Championship, as captain Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane have already committed to playing for Team Canada.
“It’s a great opportunity to represent Canada again, it will be my third world championship,” said Kane. “I’m really excited about it.”
Several other players are mulling over invitations from other countries and will decide early next week.