New-look Janesville Jets hope to keep momentum rolling
Stop in the Janesville Jets coaches office—particularly around the trade deadline—and the scene may not be that much different from that which plays out in the office of Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson or the Milwaukee Brewers' Doug Melvin.
Last week, and in the weeks leading up, head coach Joe Dibble and assistant Erik Largen spent time combing an online NAHL trading block. It's a resource for teams to post their team needs.
Conversations are had—within and outside of that small, windowless Janesville Ice Arena room—about the direction of the junior hockey franchise.
When discussions heat up between two teams, Dibble said Thursday, trades can occur in a matter of hours. Some may take up a whole week.
Last week boasted a little bit of everything. Janesville pulled off a handful of deadline deals—one of them a three-team trade—heading into the stretch run of hockey season.
On the surface, it appeared the Jets were punting the season by giving up some of their top point-scorers, but the swaps worked out in the short-term, with the Jets sweeping Port Huron, the top team in the NAHL North.
Jets officials say the moves were made with the future and present in mind, and the team will attempt to keep momentum rolling during a home-and-home weekend series with Coulee Region, which kicks off at 7 p.m. tonight at the ice arena.
“We tried to make moves that helped us now and put our former guys in good positions, because this is their last year of juniors,” Dibble said. “And we felt the pieces we got will help us make the playoff push, but ultimately build for next year, as well.
“You try to put their best interest and the organization's best interest into perspective.”
In the long-term, thanks in part to the deals done at the deadline last week, the Jets have four first-round picks in next year's draft, Dibble said.
In the near-term, last weekend's sweep left them just five points back of fourth place and a potential playoff berth in the North.
Making a playoff push will require the core of the team, which has been working here in Janesville all year, to mesh quickly with newcomers.
“We feel we've got a good group of mature, veteran leaders,” Dibble said. “We met with the guys and told them, 'Hey, these guys have to be accepted like they've been here all year.'
“The biggest thing was the first day, they just had to show to the rest of the team, we're here to help and we're part of this, and we'll do whatever it takes to help this team win.”
That was certainly the case this past weekend.
First-time Jets Rob Marsanico and Ian Janco each tallied points in their first weekend. AJ Duggan scored a critical goal in Saturday's shootout victory. And defenseman Alex Smith, who has been on the roster for a month, had four assists and was named the division's player of the week.
“Even when Smitty got here a month ago, right away he was accepted,” Dibble said. “When we get some new guys in here, the first thing they say after a couple days is they're amazed at how close and tight the group really is. When you have a locker room like that, it doesn't take very long to get those guys in there.”
There may be a few new faces in Janesville after last week's busy trade window, but if last weekend was any indication, the Jets haven't lost sight of this year's goal—to make some noise in the postseason.