WINNIPEG - Winnipeg’s new NHL management team knows exactly what qualities they’re looking for in their head coach.
As general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and director of player personnel/assistant GM Craig Heisinger were officially unveiled as the two strongest voices in the hockey operations department, it’s clear that finding a head coach is near the top of the to-do list.
“Players want to be led,” said Cheveldayoff. “It doesn’t matter what age they are or what their salaries are. I want someone that can communicate, someone that has passion for the game, someone that coaches an exciting team. I want someone who’s going to have some personality for the fans that they can relate to. I don’t know if we’ll find all those things in one person or not. It’s a great opportunity for whoever ends up coaching here.”
Incumbent Craig Ramsay is one of the guys who will be considered.
“Oh absolutely, nobody has been ruled out,” said Heisinger. “We’re going to take our time and make decisions in due time.”
While Cheveldayoff said they won’t rush to get one in place for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn. on June 24-25, there’s a good chance the bench boss will be unveiled in the next seven-to-10 days.
Here’s a closer look at who might be behind the bench this fall:
The candidates (with odds on getting the job)
Claude Noel (2-1) — The head coach of the Manitoba Moose last season is emerging as the favourite in this race. Noel has a winning pedigree after capturing the Calder Cup with the Milwaukee Admirals in 2004 and leading them to the final in 2006. He spent parts of three seasons as an assistant coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets and was interim coach before joining the Moose.
Kirk Muller (3-1) — The longtime NHLer has spent the past five seasons as an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens and has already interviewed with the Dallas Stars, Ottawa Senators, Minnesota Wild and spoken with the New Jersey Devils. The Moose were reportedly denied permission by the Canadiens to speak with him for their vacancy last summer, but won’t stand in the way this time.
Craig Ramsay (4-1) — He’s the incumbent, leading the Thrashers to a 34-36-5-7 record last season. Conventional wisdom suggests a new general manager often wants to go with his own guy, but incoming Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis stuck with Alain Vigneault and that worked out pretty well.
Bob Woods (5-1) — He led the Hershey Bears to the 2009 Calder Cup over the Moose before taking a job as an assistant coach under Bruce Boudreau with the Washington Capitals. He was also a teammate of Cheveldayoff’s with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.
Mike Haviland (5-1) — Another well-respected NHL assistant who spent the past three seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and was part of the 2010 Stanley Cup. He was the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award winner in 2006-07 after leading the Norfolk Admirals to a 50-win season.
John Anderson (5-1) — The former Thrashers bench boss was fired by the previous regime after missing the playoffs twice (consecutive 35-win seasons), but he did a better job than he got credit for. He’s won five championships, including four with the Wolves during Cheveldayoff’s tenure.
Paul MacLean (5-1) — The former Winnipeg Jets sniper is considered a front-runner for the Senators vacancy, after spending the past six seasons with the Detroit Red Wings and two seasons with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.