"So, what is it you want to do with your life?"
That was the loaded question my manager posed to me last week during one of our routine individual meetings. Before I had a chance to retort, she pressed on.
"Say you didn't work here, what would you really want...."
I cut her off mid-sentence.
I honestly have no idea.
Well, to be honest, I did have an idea. I can still vividly recall sitting at the old, oak kitchen table of my childhood home, pencil in hand as I transcribed my notes from 1994 Minnesota Vikings games. On this particular day, they had recorded a 10-3 victory against the Detroit Lions, the only touchdown being a 30 yard strike from Warren Moon to Qadry Ismail. I was sure to make note of this, as head coach Dennis Green made mention on his Saturday night coaches show of needing to activate Ismail's blazing speed more in this match-up.
At the age of seven, I had a deep-rooted passion for journalism.
Throughout my teenage years I struggled to hone in on a plan for my future. At eighteen, I attended university where I earned my Bachelor of Arts granted to me though the University of Manitoba. At twenty-two I accepted a job from my current employer. I was now a company man.
I suppose it's fair to say that I've ably floated my way through the last ten years of my life. It's not that I don't have dreams or ambitions; hell, I've had many of them. I can't count how many times I planned to apply for the Faculty of Education only to lose interest halfway through the process. No matter how much I try to figure out what professional purpose I'm meant to serve, my love of writing rears its ugly head, drawing me back into its clutches.
This then engages my crippling fear of failure.
Growing up, I always had an interesting concept of self-worth. From as far back as I can remember, being successful both personally and professionally has been the most important goal to strive for. However, there's a caveat. Though I understand that no success can be legitimately achieved without failure, it's failure that I just can't stand for.
Fear of failure bogs me down; talks me out of doing things and stalls me from achieving what I want in life. Words can't describe how safe it is to feel safe, something which I can say my accepted career offers me now. It doesn't make me bustlingly happy, but I do it out of necessity. I feel as though I'm an adequate writer, but every time I think about taking the plunge into applying my craft through schooling, my internalized fear always pops up to remind me I'm not good enough, there are millions in the industry better than me, how it's a tough industry and that I'm sure to fail.
I feel the Winnipeg Jets and I have a lot in common in this regard.
I can't count how many times have I've heard Claude Noel or one of his players say they don't want to get into a track-meet with their opposition. That they simply cannot run-and-gun with the with a divisional opponent. Success, they say, is defined simply; by properly executing their dump-and-chase system, they believe they can accomplish their intention.
That's fear talking.
The Jets are a team that possesses a fair amount of talent. Perhaps not four lines worth of it, but enough to be better than their 10-11-4 record indicates. But they play like a team afraid of failing. Presently, they sit at 6-5-2 in one-goal games, a stat that could be a lot worse if not for Andrew Ladd's aptness in the shootout. There have been innumerous times this campaign that Winnipeg has nursed a lead in the third period by sitting back and getting bombarded, only to relinquish to the competition. At that point, it's not even about instilling your system, antiquated as it may be. Claude has his boys strapped into a white knuckle ride that will last until the final whistle is blown.
So it should come as no surprise that Blake Wheeler made a poor play on the man-advantage resulting in Zach Parise's short-handed game-tying goal in the waining moments of Saturday's game. The great sound-byte Herm Edwards of NFL lore once said it best. "You play. To win. The game." This is a mantra which has yet to elbow its way into the forefront of the Winnipeg Jets' locker-room. Now in year four of their supposed rebuild, one can only hope that this proverb makes finds its rightful home in the MTS Centre before heads start to roll.
Now, back to me for a second. There will come a day in my life where I release my fear of failure in an Al Pacino blaze of glory akin to the final scene of The Recruit. A day when I stop worrying about what others think, what I think they think or what they think I think I think. But as long this paralyzing fear resides, I am fully understanding that unexpurgated potential can never be achieved.
For both myself and the Winnipeg Jets, I hope this understanding comes while opportunity still has a chance to be seized.
On to the Love Hate.
Three things I love this week:
Fabulous Frolik: Without a doubt, the third and fifth round picks expended for the services of Michael Frolik will go down as Kevin Cheveldayoff's best acquisition to date. Frolik scored his sixth goal of the season Saturday against the Minnesota Wild which has already doubled his totals from 2012-13. His Corsi relative to the quality of competition ranks fifth of Jets' forwards and he has been a five-tool player since arriving in Winnipeg. With three points in his last five games, look for Frolik to continue producing on the east coast road trip.
Power play, woah's! (Redux): I put Winnipeg's struggling power play on the hate list in the inaugural Love Hate article so it's only fair that I point out how en fuego their specialty unit has been of late. Going 5/15 (33.3%) in their last five games, the Jets' power play now operates at a 12.8% efficiency rating on the year, tying them for twenty-sixth best in the NHL. Hey, better than thirtieth! Excluding their tilt against the New Jersey Devils, the Jets should be able to feast on struggling penalty kill units in the Philadelphia Flyers (81.8% - 18th) and New York Islanders (70.4% - 30th) so long as they earn opportunities on the man-advantage.
No more Nabokov: Though you hate to see any player get hurt -- be it long term injury or a simple tweak of the groin -- injuries are a very real part of any sport. This is abundantly evident for fans of the Islanders who are now without starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov for the next month as his groin experienced some tweaking of its own two Saturday's ago against the Detroit Red Wings. That means Winnipeg will be facing either Kevin Poulin (.905 SV% - career) or Anders Nilsson (.912 SV% - career) later this week. Something tells me I should like those odds.
Three things I hate this week:
Slumping stars: It's now been eleven games since either Blake Wheeler or Evander Kane have scored a goal and there is seemingly no end in sight. Both the New Jersey Devils (8th) and Philadelphia Flyers (11th) are among the league's best in goals against. Be hopeful that these players who earn a combined $10.8MM can get things going against the New York Islanders, a team team with a propensity for high scoring games.
Playoff duds: According to the wonderful Sports Club Stats website, Winnipeg holds a generous 3.3% chance of making the playoffs after an 0-1-2 week. Thank goodness for shootout wins! Without those additional points via the skills competition, their odds would be zero. Nevertheless, it's still disappointing to see a season written off before we've even reached the month of December.
Improving Eastern Conference: In their past ten games, the Devils own a 6-3-1 record, playing a truly rousing stretch of hockey. Ditto for the Flyers who are 7-1-2 in that same period. Unfortunate as it may be, the Jets will be facing two Eastern Conference opponents who seem to be finding their stride after slow starts.