Winnipeg Jets Notebook: Little’s play puts GM in good spot at trade deadline

Paul Maurice spoke after the Winnipeg Jets’ loss about coaching in his 1500th NHL game.

Though it may have been a bit of a surprise in other markets, no one in Winnipeg was caught off guard when Jack Roslovic claimed first star of the week honours. Roslovic has a potent combination of speed and vision that’s coming together in a big way. Fans have been waiting for him to take the next step and it looks like that’s happening.

Of course, opportunity is everything and Roslovic is making the best of his time in the Jets’ top-six with Nik Ehlers out due to injury.

It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that this is a player who typically lines up in Winnipeg’s bottom-six. If there’s a better show of depth in the NHL than a fourth-liner being named the NHL’s best player of the week, I can’t think of it.

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Deeper and deeper
When it comes to depth, it’s not just Roslovic. Players who have logged their lion’s share of ice time on the fourth line this season accounted for nine points in Saturday’s blowout win against the Anaheim Ducks. It’s a huge reason this team is able to produce such a consistent effort night in and night out.

In a game that was over by the end of the first period, you would expect score effects to take over. But the Jets don’t sit on leads. A big part of the reason why is the internal competition that is driven by depth.

“We all know what it’s like to have low ice time,” fourth-liner Mason Appleton said. “You got to want more.”

That attitude has earned the Jets’ fourth line more and more ice time of late and they’ve responded by scoring some key goals in tight games. But they also showed Saturday they continue to bring that hunger even when their ice time goes up in a blow out.

“It’s more fun keeping your foot on the gas pedal,” Appleton said.

Little coming up big
Based on last season’s deadline deal that brought Paul Stastny to Winnipeg the expectation is that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will be looking to pull off a similar trade this year. You have to wonder how the Jets’ seemingly endless depth is affecting that decision.

“I don’t think anything changes for Kevin in that, you know there’s people out there who are available and he’ll pursue all of them within the structure of the team,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said. “But we don’t feel we have necessarily a glaring hole in our lineup.”

The recent play of Jets centre Bryan Little backs up that statement. Little has hit the scoresheet in 10 of his past 13 games and has 14 points over that stretch. That production won’t kibosh a potential trade, but it means Cheveldayoff is dealing from a position of strength, not desperation.

Hitting the mark
After Tuesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks, Maurice joined an exclusive club, becoming just the sixth head coach to reach 1,500 NHL games.

Always an enlightening interview, it’s clear Maurice is one of the most cerebral coaches in the league. No doubt his smarts have been the key to a long career.

Rod Brind’Amour shared a good story on that topic prior to his team losing 3-1 to Winnipeg earlier this season. The way Brind’Amour tells it, he didn’t realize how smart his former coach was until he hung up the skates and was hired as an assistant on Maurice’s staff.

Early in that role, Brind’Amour was studying Maurice as he came off the bench during an intermission. On the way to the coaches room he was swamped by players, team staff and assistant coaches bombarding him with information.

“I assumed he was going to forget most of what was being thrown at him, but by the time he reached the coaches room it was clear he had not only ingested it all, but organized and prioritized the importance of each tidbit of information,” said Brind’Amour.

It was intimidating. At that moment Brind’Amour came to the conclusion he would never be a head coach in the NHL because he didn’t have the intellectual capacity of his boss.

So what changed his mind and kept him on the path that now has him running an NHL bench in Carolina? “After a short time coaching it became clear no on else in the league was that smart either.”

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