Jones on (fallen) Jets: Nowhere to go but up for Winnipeg
A leading sports psychologist said with the right response, which Maurice seems to be guiding the Jets through, they could 'bounce back with more strength.'
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The Winnipeg Jets stunk so bad Wednesday night, their coach compared their play to, er, equestrian waste: “Right from the drop of the first puck to the end of it.”
Paul Maurice was fuming mad at his team on the bench, and had choice words in an honest post-game press conference following the humbling 7-4 loss at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens.
His frustration matched that of fans, who are by now tired of the team’s inability to surpass a win percentage of .500, despite often playing so, so well between hapless losses.
On Monday night, Heritage Classic jersey-clad Jets had the MTS Centre jumping when they shut out the Calgary Flames en route to a 2-0 win loaded with positives.
Then they were shelled two days later, allowing seven goals against for the first time this season, arguably their worst loss of the year.
The Jekyll-Hyde routine had fans pouring out of the barn and players filing off the ice looking similarly dejected.
Less than 24-hours later, after a fast-paced Jets practice filled with drills rather than bag-skating, Maurice commented that he opted to treat the players like men rather than skate them into the ice, learn from the loss rather than fume about it.
He said the team went through “things that put (them) in a bad mood” Wednesday night, and they are talking about things that need to be done better, a “certain pace” they need to hit, a “level” they need to get to.
The local Canadian Sports Centre’s Director of Sport Psychology, Dr. Adrienne Leslie-Toogood, said that kind of productive, introspective approach is what the team needs in order to recover after the epic collapse.
She said it is mentally tough for any athlete to suffer a loss like the Jets did this week, but if they can learn from it, such a trouncing just might have an upside.
“You can learn a lot when you hit rock bottom,” she said.
Comparing this kind of loss to an anabolic training phase, she said an epic defeat is, psychologically, a chance to “bounce back with more strength.”
“Rather than wallowing in it, it’s important to learn something from it and get better moving forward—obviously if you have a failure experience there’s something you can grow on, something to do better—so to have the courage to look at it and improve is the best way to go,” Leslie-Toogood explained.
The Jets season to date, during which they’ve failed to win more than three consecutive games a startling six times, has had highs that may have bred a sense of false security or complacency, and lows in which a few things go wrong to throw it all off.
But if Maurice and the Jets consider Wednesday's low as lower than most, look at it critically and learn from it, it may be the teachable moment this young team needed to break the win-win-loss pattern.
“In the moment it certainly doesn’t feel like an advantage… but when you have a really bad performance, things are only going to get better, you can only go up,” Leslie-Toogood said. "That kind of thinking can help."
She also noted that besides learning from the loss, the very next performance is key to preventing the low moment from extending into the dreaded slump that can psychologically weigh on athletes.
For each Jet she prescribed focusing on "execution," taking care of things within their control to "get in a groove."
“When you have that bad of a game, it’s important you actively get yourself into the next game,” she said, noting a better performance early on can stop any negative thoughts from “rattling around in their head” for too long and help the players get back to a positive headspace.
Maurice would likely agree, and after Thursday's productive practice, said there’s every reason for the Jets to perform well in the next game when the Jets face the Arizona Coyotes Friday night.
“We can’t fix (Wednesday) night but we get an opportunity to play a hell of a lot harder (Friday),” he said.