Jets' Paul Maurice 'offended' by criticism towards Blake Wheeler

Sean Reynolds and Ken Wiebe react to Paul Maurice’s fiery defence of Jets captain Blake Wheeler.

If you ask Paul Maurice, there is no other player he would want as captain of the Winnipeg Jets than Blake Wheeler.

Following practice Wednesday, the Jets head coach addressed the criticism Wheeler has been facing about his defensive play and his ice time being lower than expected, saying he's "offended by it".

Maurice believes the 34-year-old has done his part by being an exemplary player and continuing to produce offensively. The coach also believes that pointing out Wheeler as a minus player has more to do with the play of the whole team rather than him individually.

"You'll do your deep dives and your analytics and boy do they do a horses**** job of telling you what five guys do... I'm sensitive to it because I've been in awe of this guy since I got here," Maurice said to reporters. "His work level, he's unimpeachable in his character and how he runs that room and how he plays, he's got 11 points and 10 games.

"Yeah, his shift length is shorter because I'm asking the whole hockey team to run their shift shorter and that's what he does as a captain. He'll bolt off the ice as fast as he can to lead."

When asked about the comments on his game taking a step back, Wheeler said that he is a strong critic of his play and doesn't understand the questions about his performance.

“If people feel that my game is not where it needs to be, there is not a bigger critic than I am of myself. I’m very honest with myself about my game,” said Wheeler. “That’s where I stand with it. I’d like to focus on the guys that are playing great right now, because we’ve got a lot of really good performances in our team.”

Wheeler remained adamant about focusing on the early success the Jets have seen so far this season as they sit third in the North Division with a 6-3-1 record. He also said there shouldn't be any concern about whether he is playing through any injuries.

"I mean, if I’m in the lineup you should take that as me being 100 per cent,” said Wheeler. “So, I guess I do understand that you guys love to focus on me. But we’ve got a lot of really good things going on. I don’t want to bring up a negative vibe.

"It’s a really good thing that we’ve got going in our room. If I’m on the ice or if I’m in the game, feel free to treat me like I’m 100 per cent.”

The Jets continue their three-game series against the Calgary Flames on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET at Bell MTS Place.

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