Nieuwendyk an easy choice

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

The addition of Joe Nieuwendyk to his management staff for the 2009 world hockey championship represented a quick and simple decision for Doug Armstrong.

"This is not just some feel-good story," Armstrong, Canada's general manager, said yesterday. "Joe is a champion. He can relate to today's players, and that is important. He brings the experience, and players know him."

Nieuwendyk, a special assistant to Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke, and Pierre Gauthier, assistant GM of the Montreal Canadiens, were named assistant GMs of Canada's entry in the worlds next spring in Switzerland.

One of the first questions for Nieuwendyk was fairly obvious. Does he envision a day when he is the GM of a National Hockey League club?

"I don't really look at it in terms of that," the 42-year-old said. "Each day (with the Leafs) is a learning experience for me.

"I don't see myself as a coach although I like being around the guys and offering advice whenever I can. This is something I would look at more than coaching."

If Nieuwendyk does become an NHL GM one day, it probably will not be in Toronto. Provided Burke does not get fired or does not try to move even closer to his family in Boston, he is under contract until 2014.

Armstrong intends to formally meet with Nieuwendyk and Gauthier some time in January. One bonus for Nieuwendyk is that when he is out scouting for Hockey Canada, he will keep his eyes open for for the Leafs. Nieuwendyk will work alongside Canada's executive director, Steve Yzerman, and associate directors Kevin Lowe and Ken Holland.

Armstrong and Nieuwendyk formed a good relationship when both were employees of the Dallas Stars. Armstrong figured that if Nieuwendyk wants to become a GM one day, little will stop him.

"Joe can write his own script because of his work ethic, demeanour and intelligence," Armstrong said. "He is so well-respected, not just as a player, but as an individual as well."

For now, Nieuwendyk is thinking only of making the Leafs better and trying to help build a potential world champion.

"(Working for Hockey Canada), I am excited by it," Nieuwendyk said. "I have had a number of conversations with Steve Yzerman over the past couple of years about players and the direction he is going. This will be a good challenge for me."


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