Slice of humble pie motivating Jets … Dillon says no standing around

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Two completely different mindsets.

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That’s how Winnipeg Jets defenseman Brenden Dillon describes the difference between this year’s training camp and last year’s.

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“This year, we’ve got a chip on our shoulder,” Dillon said, Friday. “Collectively that’s been the narrative, talking among the guys from (Rick) Bowness’s message on down to us. We’ve got something to prove. Last year, I don’t know if you want to call it complacent or just expecting that things were going to happen for us without actually going and earning it.

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“We got our slice of humble pie, and it was a long summer.”

Dillon says he can already tell the difference in style of play, too, just two days into camp.

“The big word has been ‘aggressive,’” he said. “For a guy like me, I love hearing that. Defensively, offensively, neutral zone, be aggressive. We’re a great skating team. We’ve got a lot of skill but sometimes we can almost rely on that a little too much.”

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The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Dillon exhibited an example of that aggression in the initial scrimmage, Friday, putting a shoulder into rookie Danny Zhilkin with enough force to knock the 18-year-old’s helmet off.

It’s about getting his timing back after months without hitting anyone, Dillon explained, and getting ready to face unfriendly fire in Sunday’s preseason game in Edmonton.

Dillon, 31, did the same thing in his first camp with the Jets a year ago, drawing a friendly talking-to from then captain Blake Wheeler.

This time, Wheeler was on his team.

“So I didn’t get a talking-to,” he joked.

While Bowness, the new head coach, has talked about getting the defense far more involved in creating offence, the Jets were a mess in their own zone last season.

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Dillon expects that to improve immediately.

“There was a lot of standing around last year,” he said. “And partly it was our systems and partly it was maybe not knowing where to go or what to do. And it’s been black and white this year. No gray area about what’s the expectation of where we’re going to be.”

A 10-year NHLer, Dillon has been playing with youngster Ville Heinola this week, a pairing he says has chemistry already.

“I love playing with Ville,” he said. “He’s such a funny young kid. He’s got so much skill and talent and he just wants to get better… we complement one another. He’s got lots of skill. I want to give him the puck. He can have it all day long.”

OUT FROM FATHER’S SHADOW

Adam Lowry loves his dad, don’t get him wrong. He just may not have loved having him in charge of the team.

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An eight-year veteran, Lowry acknowledges it made for an awkward dynamic at times, even curtailing his ability to be a leader in the dressing room.

With new boss Rick Bowness looking for leaders, the 29-year-old won’t be shy this season.

“Last year was a little different having your father as the head coach,” Lowry said. “Sometimes it cuts your voice out a little bit. It’s just, for me, how I play on the ice. Don’t cheat the game, play hard, do what’s asked of you, what the coach is asking of you, and if there are some uncomfortable conversations that have to happen in the room, that’s something you have to do.

“It’s taking on a little more responsibility, a little more ownership of not only your game but the team’s game as well.”

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After filling in as the interim head coach following the resignation of Paul Maurice last season, Dave Lowry landed a job as an assistant in Seattle this year.

“I’m really happy to see him land on his feet,” Adam said. “For him to get another chance in this league… it’s something as players you don’t take for granted, and I know as a coach you don’t take for granted.”

QUIETLY CONFIDENT

Some have called it a chip on the shoulder, a chance at redemption.

Lowry has another way of describing the Jets’ mood coming into camp.

“There is a quiet confidence,” the 29-year-old said. “We didn’t make a ton of changes, but there is a belief in our group. If we commit to a solid team game, we commit to what the coach is preaching, and we have solid buy in, we can be a solid team. Everyone is going to take a step forward this year and we can put last year to rest.”

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Lowry and Dillon both pointed out the Jets share a division with the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, raising the bar a few notches.

“It’s nice to see a Central Division (team) winning the Stanley Cup,” Dillon said. “We want to compete with the best and we’re going to get a lot of that this year.”

THE OLD AND THE NEW

After watching Bowness be the calm, instructional teacher at the white board, then bark instruction during the drills, Pierre-Luc Dubois came away with an interesting assessment of the new boss.

“He has that good blend of new school and old school,” Dubois said. “He’s been fun to work with since the start of this camp. And getting to know him a bit more, obviously it’s still early on, but it seems like we’re going to have a fun year and a good year.”

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Twitter: @friesensunmedia

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