19 Teams in 19 Days – Manitoba Jets

Another season is underway and as teams hit the ice in their quest for the 2011-2012 NRL Championship title, we’re taking a closer look at each team in the league. The new series is called 19 Teams in 19 Days and we would like to encourage you to join in the discussion on Twitter by following www.twitter.com/nrllnr or by sending us an email at NRLchatter@nationalringetteleague.ca

Manitoba Jets

Last season finish:
Regular season – 4th place Western Conference

Head coach: Brian Timmerman
Two questions with coach Timmerman:
What would it mean to you, as a coach, to win the NRL championship this season?
Winning an NRL championship is a very difficult thing to do. If I were to coach a team that won an NRL Championship it would be the satisfaction of guiding a group of elite athletes to the pinnacle of their sport. Being in the sport long enough, I know these moments do not come often so I would want the team to soak up every moment. I respect the teams that have won NRL Championships because at this level the Championship is never just handed to you, it truly must be earned.

What does your team have to do to win an NRL championship?
No matter what age, dominating your opponent at basic skills such as: skating, passing and shooting will make for a competitive team. To win an NRL Championship we must combine superior skills with team unity and have players that can out think their opponents. There are lots of skilled players, but it is the ones that can see the ice and contribute as part of a team that are the dominant players and in turn can create dominant teams. Good teams routinely capitalize on opponents mistakes and create their own opportunities. I really subscribe to the saying: "Good teams find ways to win."

The NRL nugget to know about this team:
Every month the league awards three stars in each conference. Last season, athletes on the Manitoba Jets were awarded stars every month (they even captured two stars on two separate months. That is definitely some consistent shining!

The question to be answered:
Will the Jets have what it takes to break into the top three teams in the Western Conference? The last time they came even close was three years ago when they finished a point behind 3rd place Prairie Fire, but even then they were still nine points behind second place Calgary RATH. Last season they were 12 points behind and 13 points the year before that. Is this the year?

What happened in the off-season:
Brian Timmerman is back on the bench as head coach. Timmerman took last season off to coach the Manitoba Canada Winter Games (CWG) team. The Jets will also be able to consistently ice three lines this season due to the addition of four CWG players who were rostered last year but unable to play until the end of the CWG season in February, two newly drafted players and one of their players completing her five year university sports commitment.

The (hidden) gem:
For the most part, goaltender Amy Clarkson tends to fall under the radar. But a quick glance at her season record last year shows she was a strong force for the Jets. She maintained a .883 save percentage and was the fifth leading goalie in the league under the likes of Pittaway (Cambridge Turbos), Brown (Edmonton WAM!), Crocker (Prairie Fire) and Goble (Ottawa Ice). With a solid three lines ahead of her this season, she’ll likely be on the radar.

Reason for optimism:
Good goaltending, stable coaching and some young stars means this team has the tools it needs to compete. Add to that the hidden advantage (in terms of travel) of having a cross-town rival in the form of the Prairie Fire, and the Manitoba Jets have a real shot this season.

Reason for concern:
The Jets have had a hard time in the final stretch of the season over the past couple of years. Without a change, the Jets will have a hard time getting through the Western Conference. The Jets have what they need, but they need to put it together for the whole season as a protracted losing streak will likely be too much for them to handle.