WINNIPEG - There’s been one thing pretty consistent about the people running pro hockey in this town the last 15 years.
They haven’t made excuses.
Hand these guys a crutch — a raft of injuries or call-ups to the parent club in Vancouver, for example — and they’ll teeter on one leg and toss it right back at you.
It just wasn’t the Manitoba Moose way to craft an excuse for a poor season or an early playoff exit, even though at times there were legitimate reasons for their failure.
And Craig Heisinger has reiterated that stand since the organization made the jump to the NHL.
Well, that noble ability is about to be tested.
Because if Winnipeg’s new NHL team has anything, it is a reason to fail in the early going.
Think of the NHL off-season as a 14-horse race for teams that missed the playoffs to improve.
The former Atlanta Thrashers franchise was the last one out of the gate.
Two weeks ago today, True North’s Mark Chipman finally acquired the asset he’s dreamed about acquiring all these years.
Since then, it’s been a race to knock off critical points on his to-do list, like structuring his hockey hierarchy, beginning with the hiring of Kevin Cheveldayoff as GM and appointment of Heisinger the right-hand man, last week.
So in essence, this fledgling organization has had one week out of the nest, barely enough time to learn how to fly, never mind getting up to speed with the established predators of the league.
While Cheveldayoff and Heisinger were spreading and admiring their new wings, the rest were well into their summer feeding.
The hunt for a head coach is the perfect example.
Four other teams looking to fill the big position this summer — Ottawa, New Jersey, Dallas and Minnesota — are way ahead of Winnipeg in the process.
And one is about to pluck what would have been a prime candidate for the Winnipeg job.
While the True North brass gears up for interviews (Moose coach Claude Noel and Atlanta incumbent Craig Ramsay are top contenders), the Senators have scooped up Paul MacLean, an assistant in Detroit the last several seasons. A formal announcement is expected Tuesday.
Highly thought of throughout the league, Big Mac would have been an ideal candidate for the Winnipeg job, given his history as a player with the Jets.
We don’t know for sure if that possibility spurred the Senators into swift action, but it may have.
That’s not to say all four teams will gobble up spoils True North is salivating over.
Dallas appears to be promoting from their AHL farm team with the imminent hiring of Glen Gulutzan, who was born in The Pas, Man., while Minnesota has its eye on former Edmonton boss Craig MacTavish.
But coaching isn’t the only area in which Winnipeg is behind the pack.
The to-do list in front of Cheveldayoff and Heisinger rivals the one I get from my wife every weekend.
“The list is endless,” True North’s Scott Brown acknowledged, Monday. “Players, draft, free agency, staff, to name just a few. All in an insanely tight timeframe. The business of the league doesn’t stop to wait for us to catch up.”
Of course, this isn’t the only franchise to change its front office and start over in the spring.
So it’s not like we’re going to let them off the hook, completely.
We will, though, keep the challenges in mind as we cobble together our critiques.
Think of it this way: the only other teams with a shorter off-season will be Boston and Vancouver.
Now they have what I’d call a good excuse.