Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.
After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.
Already a subscriber?
Already a subscriber?
It’s clear the wound remains. It may not be as open or painful as it was a few months ago, but it’s still there.
Andrew Copp hasn’t got over how last season ended for him — as a healthy scratch, watching from the press box above as his team was eliminated from the Western Conference final on home ice.
And the versatile Winnipeg Jets forward said Wednesday he used that development as motivation all summer to hopefully get his game to a place where coach Paul Maurice would never again think about pulling him out of the lineup for any game, let alone one where their season was on the line.
“I haven’t forgotten what happened,” he said.
Copp, 24, will begin this year on a line that is etched in a stone, playing with Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev. Their primary goal is to make life miserable for the other team’s best players and keep them off the scoreboard.
“They are an unusual checking line in that they generate offensive chances and zone time at a high rate. They have their own style, it’s a very direct game. Speed, they play it simply. A lot of nights you’d like all your lines to play like that. Just play a real basic fast game. You’ll get your opportunities,” Maurice said Wednesday.
The coach has already mentioned several times how much quicker Copp looks, which is what the fourth-year pro from Michigan was aiming for.
“I feel like I worked on my game in terms of my speed and quickness, but also a lot on my hand skills, my vision and all that. I feel like I got a lot better,” said Copp, who had nine goals and 19 assists in 82 regular-season games last year, then one goal and two assists in 16 playoff games.
He believes there’s more offence to be found this year from himself and his line.
“We had some really good stretches throughout the regular season. We were kind of almost inseparable for a time, then some injuries happened and we got separated. I feel like each of us individually came in ready to go for camp and we’ve had that chemistry on and off the ice, which is huge. Just picked up right where we left off,” said Copp.
“I think we complement each other to begin with, but the improvements in our games individually have helped add to that. All our points are five-on-five right. I think as a line we put up a decent amount of five-on-five points. We feel like we can add to our number for sure.”
In his first pre-season game last week in Edmonton, Copp had a goal and assist and was also stopped on a breakaway. Lowry also scored. His line had a strong night Monday in Calgary with Tanev and Lowry picking up assists on a Sami Niku goal. They play their third game Wednesday night in Minnesota, meaning they drew all the exhibition road assignments.
“I guess we’re the travel squad for the pre-season,” Copp joked following the morning skate at Bell MTS Iceplex. “It’s a good challenge for us just in terms of getting ready for the regular season.”
Maurice said that’s by design, as teams traditionally dress stronger September lineups in their own building and he wanted to get the Copp-Lowry-Tanev trio a taste of what they’ll be facing once the regular season begins. They also serve as great mentors to some of the younger prospects in the Jets lineup when they play in enemy territory.
“They drive that pace up. Their line, right from the start, there’s not a lot of fluctuation in it. There’s not a lot of competition for any of their jobs. Sometimes with that confidence and assuredness of what’s going to happen next week, they can dial in and start working right away,” said Maurice.
Copp doesn’t hold any grudges towards his coach for sitting him out in that last game against the Vegas Golden Knights, saying he needed to do more to contribute even if it was a bitter pill to swallow after playing every single game of the year up to that point.
“Yeah, that’s not going anywhere in my head,” Copp said.
But he hopes the lessons learned will prove valuable down the road for what is a big season for both himself and the team. The fourth-round pick from the 2013 NHL draft is making $1 million and set to become a restricted free agent who is eligible for salary arbitration next summer.
Copp changed his training routine during the off-season and believes it’s going to pay off, even if he was coy about sharing specifics.
“I can’t give you all my secrets, right. They everyone else would know my secrets,” he said with a smirk.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.