Part 6 – Front Office

Over the past few days we’ve looked at the on ice portion of the team, perhaps even more important then the players already in the system will be the men behind the scenes and on the bench that will have the greatest impact on shaping this team. In this final part we’ll look at what we know about  several key True North front office staff and we’ll look at the potential coaching candidates that are most likely to be considered for the job.

Mark Chipman (Chairman, True North and Governor, Manitoba Moose)

What could be better for a team in Winnipeg then an owner that was born and raised in our city? One that has the business sense and foresight that Chipman has. When the Jets left he was there to bring back professional hockey to Winnipeg in relocating the Moose from Minnesota to Winnipeg. He was the one who built the MTS Centre to seat 15,015 even though the upper deck was rarely opened for games featuring the Moose.

And most importantly he was the one that quietly went about getting in the ear of Gary Bettman and eventually was given the opportunity to purchase an NHL franchise for our city.

What we know about Chimpan is that he surrounds himself with good people that help make him look good and has been able to ice competitive teams consistently, which bodes well for our future teams success. He wants to build the team the right way and considering all the young pieces he’s inherited he’s already off to a good start and within a couple of years once these players start to peak we’ll see if he’s willing to spend a little more to keep those players in town and win a Stanley Cup. My bet is when the time is right to spend money, it will be spent but in the mean time he’ll continue to run a smart business model and keep payroll in line with where he feels the franchise can be successful for a long time… You really couldn’t ask for anything more in an owner.

Jim Ludlow (President & Chief Executive Officer)

One of those good people that Chipman surrounds himself with is Jim Ludlow who’s role as President and CEO will be the strategic planning that landed True North an NHL franchise to Begin with.  When it comes to selecting a name and brand for the team you can bet Ludlow will be right in the thick of it with Chipman and are no doubt doing their research to see if the equity already in the Jets brand can be matched if they go a new route and how long will it take and what will the backlash be like and how do they overcome that.

He’s also recently just negotiated a new deal with MTS to extend the naming rights of the arena now that it’ll be increased exposure with an NHL team playing there 41+ games a year.

Kevin Cheveldayoff (General Manager)

Chevy already has a cup ring as an assistant GM and is now set out to get his first as the GM. On the ice he’s been dealt a good hand with some good young players, lots of cap flexibility and the seventh overall selection in this years entry draft. Let’s be honest most GM’s don’t get hired to a team without having a few areas that are in complete chaos (ie Feaster in Calgary with the Salary Cap issues and no movement clauses).

We’ll learn a lot about what type of GM Chevy will be in the coming weeks with the attempts to resign captain Andrew Ladd, to deciding on a head coach and his first NHL draft choice. Winnipeg fans know all to well how bad a first round choice can end up being and it’s always nice if you can hit a home run in your first try but you if you can’t you definitely don’t want to strike out.

Craig Heisinger (Assistant General Manager NHL Team, GM AHL Team & Senior Vice-President and Director of Hockey Operations)

Another one of those good men that Chipman has around him and he’s given Heis a lot of responsibility with the new NHL club while also keeping him the GM of the AHL franchise moving to St. John’s. The last point perhaps being the most important piece as we’ve see ho Heisinger can help set up an AHL franchise that can develop strong NHL players from prospects as they’ve done for Vancouver with the Moose.

Keeping Heis in this role  will ensure that the AHL franchise in St. John operates identically to the way the Moose did and the way the NHL team in Winnipeg will run both on and off the ice which makes it easier for call ups to feel comfortable playing a similar or identical system.

This is a smart man that has paid his dues and is starting to get rewarded for it and will no doubt become an NHL GM before his career is over.

Head Coach Candidates

After the Ottawa Senators hiring of Paul MacLean there are really only 3 candidates that True North will be looking at to be the first head coach of their new team. Others may be considered or interviewed to ensure they take advantage of every option but looking at what True North wants, the style of play and how they`ve already selected their General Manager I don`t think we can expect much else from the selection of their head coach.

Claude Noel (Head Coach Candidate – Current Head Coach of Vancouver AHL Franchise)

We know that Mark Chipman is loyal but he’s also very smart and that’s why he hired Kevin Cheveldayoff to be his new GM, while utilizing his former GM as Chevy’s assistant. Because Vancouver has to agree to let the new Winnipeg franchise interview Noel for the head coaching job I think it’s unlikely that we’d see a similar situation here and Noel end up an assistant coach. It’s also never a great idea to force feed assistants to a head coach either as it shows a lack of confidence and trust could become an issue if they feel that person is there if they screw up.

While Noel did a good job in his lone season with the Moose, I’m not sold on him being the number one guy on the bench in Winnipeg this year. I think he would be a great insurance policy to have in St. John’s but again the issue of Vancouver owning his contract comes into play and would likely block that or want some serious compensation from Winnipeg if it wasn’t going to be an advancement but a lateral move.

Regardless of what I think Chevy will have the choice of going with someone his bosses know and like, someone his players know and like or an unproven rookie head coach. If I was in that position the safe bet is to go with Noel as even if it doesn’t work out the owners will share in some of that blame. As a rookie GM we’ll learn quite quickly if Chevy will be a risk taker or not with his first big decision. I give Noel a 40% chance of landing the head coaching job.

Craig Ramsey (Head Coach Candidate – Currently under contract as Head Coach of NHL franchise in Winnipeg)

It’s an interesting situation when you have to interview for your own job and when it becomes a situation that you are interviewing for your job with other candidates it really looks like the writing is on the wall. He may still be able to sell Chevy on his philosophy and out of the three coaches as the most experience in the NHL and his knowledge of the players will be his big asset.

My gut feeling though is that they are not interested in Ramsey coming back as the head coach but I think they want him in another capacity with the team, possibly a scenario similar to that of what the Flames did when they appointed once Calgary Flames head coach Jim Playfair to Abbotsford to coach their AHL team.

Ramsey is a good coach and if True North wanted him out completely he’d already be gone but if they wanted him as their head coach he’d have had the opportunity to interview for the job before they went to other candidates. I give Ramsey a 25% chance he’ll retain his head coaching job.

Kirk Muller (Head Coach Candidate – Currently Assistant Coach for Montreal Canadiens)

Perhaps one of the most sought after coaches this off season and in my opinion the one that most fits the mold True North is looking for. He’s got a winning track record from his days as a player and has been a big part of the success the Montreal Canadiens have had the past several years.

True North proved they want a fresh start with this team in almost every step they’ve taken so far, (which sadly is why I’m starting to believe more and more that the team won’t be called the Jets) and it would almost make sense for them to go with the unproven but high upside coach that could develop alongside his young players.

Chevy wants a coach that will have his young stars playing an uptempo game and that is something Muller knows very well. I give Muller at 35% chance that he’ll earn his first head coaching job with Winnipeg.

 

And with that, our six-part series is complete I hope you found this informative and helpful in getting to know your new team from top to bottom. We promise to continue to keep you updated on team personnel both on and off the ice so that you’ll always know what’s going on with your team and who’s gonna be ready to jump into the line up when they get the call.

If there’s anything else you’d like to see us cover or have any requests, comments or thoughts about this article please use the comment section below. We’d love to hear who you think should be the new head coach and why.

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Jeff Stevenson is a co-founder of winnipegwhiteout.com and co-host of the popular Jets Hockey Podcast. He grew up in Winnipeg, MB and became very passionate about sports, hockey and the Jets. Now Jeff is proud and honored to help bring news and information about the Winnipeg Jets to fans around the world.

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