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Bowness: Jets are 'tighter' this season than last year

Eliot J. Schechter / National Hockey League / Getty

Rick Bowness believes the Winnipeg Jets' improved camaraderie is a big reason for their success so far in 2023-24.

The head coach returned to the team on Friday following a month-long leave of absence after his wife was hospitalized with a seizure. On Tuesday, Bowness was asked what the biggest difference is between this iteration of the club compared to last season's version.

"Our depth, for sure, our balance. I think the room is in a much better place than it was last year," Bowness said. "Go back to '22 training camp, we made moves, we opened up the room and it's starting to show itself why we did that.

"I think the room's tighter, I think the culture here is outstanding because of the players. It starts with that off the ice. That's where it all starts, you've gotta have that chemistry, you've gotta have that culture off the ice. This team is a tighter team off the ice and it's shown itself on the ice."

It was a busy offseason for the Jets. They bought out former captain Blake Wheeler, and one of Bowness' first moves in 2022-23 was to strip Wheeler of his captaincy. Adam Lowry was given the "C" entering 2023-24.

The Jets also made a blockbuster move in dealing Pierre-Luc Dubois to the Los Angeles Kings for Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, Gabriel Vilardi, and a second-round pick.

"This team, they don't care who scores, they recognize when guys are blocking shots. It's all respected in that locker room. Guys might not score, but if they save a goal, that's just as important," Bowness said. "They've learned to recognize all the hard work and things that have to be done by guys who don't score a lot."

The Jets sit third in the Central Division with a 12-6-2 start to the campaign.

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