Canucks affiliation on line

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

So where do they go from here?

It now appears Randy Carlyle's return as head coach of the Manitoba Moose is only going to last one year. What the franchise and the parent Vancouver Canucks decide to do next could ultimately determine how long this relationship lasts.

You may recall that the Canucks and Moose had their share of ups-and-downs in the early stages of the five-year affiliation agreement -- beginning with the removal of Carlyle as head coach in favour of Stan Smyl -- but that significant progress was made last year.

The Moose are coming off a landmark season that saw them go further than they'd ever gone before, three full rounds during the Calder Cup playoffs.

But with just over two months before the parent club is set to open training camp, the Moose are without a head coach as Carlyle looks to be headed to southern California for his first crack at an NHL head coaching job with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

A year ago, there were several high-profile candidates vying for the job before Carlyle was granted permission by the Washington Capitals to pursue the opportunity.

Among them were former Moose captain and assistant coach Scott Arniel, currently an assistant with the Buffalo Sabres and former NHL coach of the year Paul Maurice, who recently signed a multi-year deal to become the inaugural head coach of the Toronto Marlies.

Maurice certainly isn't available, but Arniel certainly might be.

Regardless of who the next head coach is, the challenge the individual faces is a big one.

Under what many called ideal circumstances last season -- the NHL lockout created a situation that meant there would be no call-ups and a greater emphasis on winning, not to mention a sparkling new downtown arena -- the Moose made a big impact in the community.

There was a buzz not seen before surrounding the franchise, as evidenced by the 15,015 screaming fans who packed the MTS Centre for the series-clinching victory over the Rochester Americans.

The building was electric and the bar has been set high.

This is a franchise that would like nothing more than to win the Calder Cup in its 10th season in Winnipeg, a season that is already highlighted by the two-day AHL All-Star Classic.

An optimist calls this a blessing, a pessimist may claim it's a curse.

Whatever the case may be, expectations will be high and that's just the way Moose president and governor Mark Chipman likes it, which leads us back to the original question.

Although it was clear that everyone from Canucks general manager Dave Nonis, assistant GM Steve Tambellini and head coach Marc Crawford signed off on Carlyle's return, the impetus came from Chipman and Moose general manager Craig Heisinger.

So while we're not quite sure who the next head coach of the Manitoba Moose will be, what we do know is that the decision could ultimately decide whether or not the Canucks will continue to be the parent team after the 2005-06 season.


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