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Wheeler on Bowness: 'I don't like how he handled himself after the game'

Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets Blake Wheeler - The Canadian Press

The Winnipeg Jets spoke to the media on Saturday following their playoff elimination at the hands of the Vegas Golden Knights in five games.

Many questions revolved around the comments made by head coach Rick Bowness following the 4-1 loss on Thursday, in which he said he was "disappointed and disgusted" with the team. 

"There has to be pride," Bowness said. "You have to be able to push back when things aren’t going your way. We had no pushback. Their better players were so much better than ours tonight. They deserved to win."

Blake Wheeler took issue with the blunt comments being made publicly, saying Bowness should have addressed the team behind closed doors instead of airing his feelings media.

“I thought Bones had an opportunity to address us as a team. He could’ve been honest with us, handled it behind closed doors," said Wheeler. "I didn’t like how he handled himself after the game.”

Wheeler later clarified that Bowness expressed his disappointment after the second period of Game 5 but had an issue with him venting to the media following the loss.

Forward Kyle Connor also disagreed with the way Bowness made his comments to the media, telling reporters that the coach let his emotions get the best of him.

"Obviously a really emotional guy, coming off a big loss. He let his emotions show. I don't know, but if you asked him to do it again, he'd probably do it a bit differently," said Connor. "The issue I have is he kind of came out of nowhere."

Following this season's first-round exit, the Jets have now lost in the first round or failed to make the playoffs in four of the past five seasons since making the Western Conference Finals in 2017-18. The lack of playoff success and the impending free agency of Wheeler, Connor Hellebuyck, and Pierre-Luc Dubois in 2024 have brought up questions of a rebuild for the club. However, a full rebuild is not something the players are interested in.

“I’m not interested in a rebuild. I just want to compete," said Hellebuyck. "I enjoyed myself more in five [playoff] games than I did all year. It’s like a high you gotta’ chase. You can’t replicate that anywhere else except in the playoffs.”

Hellebuyck also added he has not spoken to the Jets regarding an extension.

"I don't think anybody in this locker room wants to be part of a rebuild," said Connor. "I just want to play for a team that has a chance at a Stanley Cup." 

Connor added that he believes in the current core of the team and would like another opportunity to make a deep playoff run.

"We've had great success with the core you're taking about. We haven't won a Cup, but we've shown we are pretty close to getting there," Connor said. "I would love another crack at it with those guys, but we'll see what happens."