Continuity with coordinators will provide Jets major boost: ‘So important’ | Big Indy News
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Continuity with coordinators will provide Jets major boost: ‘So important’



Year 2 has to be better than Year 1. 

Never mind the difficult schedule, particularly at the beginning of the season. The 2022 Jets must show progress in head coach Robert Saleh’s second season, and it’ll be a surprise if they don’t, considering the new pieces the team added in the offseason — particularly in what (on paper) looked like a highly productive draft. 

Outside of the key returning players, beginning with second-year quarterback Zach Wilson, performing better, their continuity in coordinators may be the team’s best pathway to more success than the four wins it produced last season. 

That continuity begins with Saleh and extends to his coordinators, Mike LaFleur on offense and Jeff Ulbrich on defense. 

The remaining players from the 2021 team should have a knowledge of the respective systems now and they should know what LaFleur and Ulbrich expect of them, understand the standard. 

This will be a linchpin to the Jets’ success this season. 

“Continuity is always so darn important,’’ Saleh said Monday after the team’s first training camp practice in full pads. “The longest-tenured staffs, usually the deeper you are in your tenure, the better you are as a football coach because you know all the snakes in the grass of what you are trying to coach. 

“Players are familiar with what you are trying to say, so the familiarity is so important because you can coach with so much more precision.’’ 

Robert Saleh
Robert Saleh knows how important “continuity” is between players and a coaching staff.
Noah K. Murray-NY Post

Saleh pointed to a play in Monday’s practice as a small example of how the coaching continuity has manifested itself in a tangible, positive way. 

“In that first competition period, Mike [LaFleur] being comfortable as a play caller, trying to get the offense going on third down, goes no huddle, and you saw the defense scrambling trying to get back,’’ Saleh said. “It’s really cool to see their personalities take shape on both sides and what they’re trying to get accomplished. Every day that they’re here they are only going to get better.’’ 

LaFleur and Ulbrich were hand-picked by Saleh. They both have a history with him. They’re both expected to be an extension of the head coach. 

Make no mistake: Both men, in NFL coordinator roles for the first time, went through their share of growing pains — just as their young players did — in 2021. 

While it, of course, wasn’t all his fault, Ulbrich’s head was spinning when his defense was allowing 54, 31, 45 and 45 points in four consecutive games early in the season. 

LaFleur surely wasn’t feeling his best when Wilson was throwing four INTs to the Patriots in Week 2 and following that with two more the next week in Denver and looking like he might never lead the offense to a touchdown. 

Mike LaFleur oversees drills at Jets training camp on Monday.
Mike LaFleur oversees drills at Jets training camp on Monday.
Noah K. Murray-NY Post

Those times, in theory, are behind both LaFleur and Ulbrich. At least for the most part. 

“Anytime you can get into a Year 2 — because nothing’s guaranteed in this league obviously — you have predominately a lot of the same guys,’’ LaFleur said. “You’re not teaching from ground zero. These guys came in OTA’s and had a good idea of what this offense was supposed to be about. I thought we had a great OTA’s, both in the classroom and on the field. And then when they came back, just how comfortable they are with this offense. We have a long way to go from an execution standpoint, but the knowledge of it is huge.’’ 

Ulbrich called having a second year with many of these players in the same system “huge.’’ 

“The more years, consecutive years, you can be in any system, defensively, guys stop thinking about alignment, guys stop thinking about technique,’’ Ulbrich said. “It becomes unconscious competence, and they just play fast. The more years that we can get in a system, the better.’’ 

Jeff Ulbrich
Jeff Ulbrich is confident in a better Year 2 in charge of the Jets defense.
Noah K. Murray-NY Post

One of the returning players on the back end of Ulbrich’s defense is cornerback Michael Carter, who plays a lot as a nickelback. He talked Monday about being a year into Ulbrich’s system, “expectations are set, the standard is set, so it’s our job to uphold those standards.’’ 

“He can give us all the plays and all the talk in the meeting rooms, but when we go out on the field it’s just us, 11 of us out there, and we’ve got to be able uphold that. It’s a good feeling when you go out there and know that everybody’s on the same page.’’ 

The players on the Jets’ defense and offense have a much better chance of staying on the same page this season because of their familiarity with Ulbrich and LaFleur. 

Because continuity counts.

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Revered Borje Salming leaves behind lasting Maple Leafs, NHL legacy as icon



The beautiful part of it is that Borje Salming knew how the world perceived him before his passing as a victim of ALS on Thursday at age 71. The word “iconic” doesn’t quite do justice to the Hall of Fame defenseman. Salming was more that. He was revered. 

He was revered not only as a player, but also as an individual. Love and adoration flowed to Salming as a groundbreaker who became a pioneering role model in opening the door for an influx of his fellow Swedes into the NHL after he conquered an unwelcoming, antagonistic environment that confronted him and any who might threaten the Canadian hegemony of the league. 

Salming knew that. He knew that when he received a thunderous ovation at Maple Leaf Gardens during pregame introductions while representing Team Sweden prior to playing Team Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup. He knew that two weekends ago in Toronto on consecutive, emotional nights featuring one impromptu tribute and a second formal one that evoked tears. 

Similarly, he knew that at the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation Centennial Gala celebrating the country’s all-time greatest players at Avicii Arena in Stockholm just over one week ago, when his introduction evoked an emotional response. Salming was not only a beloved hockey player, but also a beloved individual in the way of Rod Gilbert, Jean Beliveau and Gordie Howe, and a beloved cultural icon in the way of Maurice Richard. 

Borje Salming
Borje Salming passed away at 71.
Getty Images

Mika Zibanejad was born in 1993, three years after Salming retired from the NHL and the same year No. 21 stepped away from the Swedish League to which he had returned for his final three seasons. Zibanejad is of a different generation. But he’s not ignorant. 

“From my personal experience, the guys I grew up watching were Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Peter Forsberg, Mats Sundin, Daniel Alfredsson,” Zibanejad told Slap Shots on Friday. “I was too young to see Salming play, and I’m sorry I never got the chance to interact with him, but I know what he did for our game. 

“He opened doors for players from Sweden and Europe and changed everything for us, and that is because of his courage.” 

Before Salming and countryman Inge Hammarstrom joined the Maple Leafs for the 1973-74 season, just three Swedes had played in the NHL. Ulf Sterner was the first, playing four games for the Rangers in 1964-65, but the slick center could not make the leap in an era in which European leagues did not permit bodychecking in the offensive zone. 

Juha Widing, another center who played for the Rangers in 1969-70 before he was traded to the Kings for Ted Irvine, was next. Detroit defenseman Thommie Bergman joined the league in 1972-73. Salming and Hammarstrom came over a year later in a time during which those of his origin were painted as, “Chicken Swedes.” By the way? In 2011, NBC analyst Mike Milbury called Daniel and Henrik Sedin, “Thelma and Louise,” so there was that. 

Salming joined the Leafs in an era during which Bobby Orr was just going out; Denis Potvin, Brad Park, Serge Savard, Guy Lapointe and Larry Robinson dominated on the blue line; and Raymond Bourque was just coming into the NHL. 

Borje Salming is honored in a ceremony on Nov. 11.
Borje Salming is honored in a ceremony on Nov. 11.
Getty Images

From 1974-75 — Salming’s sophomore season — through 1979-80, the Swede was the only defenseman to be named either first-team or second-team All-Star in each of those six seasons. He was dominant at both ends of the ice, and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1996. 

Salming was one of a kind. He kicked the door down for people like Anders Hedberg and Ulf Nilsson to join the Rangers in 1978-79 as the 12th and 13th Swedes to play in the NHL. They faced constant physical abuse. They endured the slings and arrows so others could follow. 

Seventy-nine Swedes have played in the NHL this season. 

A statue of Borje Salming resides outside Scotiabank Arena.
A statue of Borje Salming resides outside Scotiabank Arena.
Getty Images

“I know it was not easy for any of those players. Of all of us who are in the NHL now owe them a debt of gratitude,” Zibanejad said. “They paved the way for us. 

“It’s not something I think about on a day-to-day basis, but I do try to keep that in mind. I’m very thankful for what they did. I want to be able to have the same positive influence and make things better for the next generation. 

“That’s a way I can repay Borje.” 

The NHL gets younger and faster all the time, while Brian Boyle gets neither. But the 37-year-old center, currently unemployed as a free agent, should be a person of interest for Stanley Cup contenders looking to shore up their bottom sixes. 

“I’m not retired,” the one-time Ranger and Devil said in a text exchange this week. “I’d love to be playing but so far the offers haven’t been there 

Boyle, the 2018 Masterton winner, rehabbed from knee surgery after sustaining an injury in Game 6 of the Penguins’ first-round series against the Rangers. 

“I was good in four weeks,” said Boyle, an inspirational figure after having conquered chronic myeloid leukemia. “I’m training hard and am staying ready. We’ll see. 

“But all is great.”

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Artemi Panarin’s scoreless streak grows to 12 games in Rangers’ loss



Artemi Panarin has gone 12 straight games without a goal after failing to score in the Rangers’ stunning 4-3 loss to the reeling Oilers on Saturday afternoon at the Garden. The 12 games tied the longest scoring drought of the Russian wing’s NHL career.

Game 12 likely stung more than the previous 11, however, considering Panarin thought he had scored twice.

Panarin had one of his more active games of the season, in two of the three periods at least. In addition to assisting on Chris Kreider’s second-period tally, Panarin posted two shots on goal and one takeaway. Both of his shots came in the first period.

The first came on a power play. Panarin wired one home from the right faceoff circle and had a look of relief rush upon his face. But Edmonton challenged for offside and the goal was rescinded after the replay revealed that Panarin never fully crossed the puck into the offensive zone before Vincent Trocheck entered.

Artemi Panarin reacts during the Rangers’ loss to the Oilers.
Jason Szenes

“Yeah, especially when I can’t score the last [11] games,” Panarin said when asked if he was frustrated. “Posts or something, always something. Just keep doing what I usually do. Try not to lose confidence. That’s the most important thing.”

Braden Schneider also had a goal negated after the Oilers challenged for goalie interference, which proved to be the case when replays showed Ryan Carpenter had made contact with Oilers goalie Jack Campbell in the blue crease.

Panarin later smacked a one-timer from the other faceoff circle and Campbell slid over to get in front of it just in time. It was unclear if the puck went in or not, so the refs got on the headsets with the situation room to give it a second look before it was officially deemed not a goal.

Panarin skated on the right wing of the top line next to Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider , similar to how the Rangers lined up at the end of their 3-2 loss to the Ducks in Anaheim on Wednesday and again in practice on Friday. That left Trocheck to center Jimmy Vesey and Barclay Goodrow. The Kid Line of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko remained intact, while the fourth line featured Sammy Blais, Ryan Carpenter and Julien Gauthier.

Vitali Kravtsov was scratched for a seventh straight game despite taking part in warmups Saturday afternoon. Additionally, Libor Hajek replaced Zac Jones on the left side of the bottom defensive pair alongside Braden Schneider. Jones had played in the previous three games and seemed primed to get a run in the lineup, as Hajek already had, but  head coach Gerard Gallant opted to switch it up.

The Rangers dropped to 8-2-1 when scoring first this season after giving up four unanswered tallies in the third period.

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Rob Gronkowski plays baseball with marshmallows in supermarket: ‘Holy smokes’



Former superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski showed off his prowess in a different sport: baseball.

While in a Sprouts Farmers Markert, the five-time Pro Bowler was recorded hitting a marshmallow into a sea of gawking people. Gronkowski even earned enough respect to be posted by MLB’s Twitter account, who captioned the video: “POV: You go to the store to get milk and Gronk is in produce crushing dingers.”

The gimmick took multiple attempts to successfully complete, with Gronk using a loaf of bread as a bat. During one trial, the bread slid out of its sleeve and flew to a customer – who later got it signed.

Gronkowski tried again and finally made contact by sending the marshmallow deep. Among a crowd of oohs and ahs, the former Patriots and Buccaneers tight end proudly saluted his hit.

Gronk hit dingers with marshmallows in a supermarket.
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“Holy smokes,” one person in the video said.

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