True North rolls dice

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:54 AM ET

WINNIPEG - One thing we will not say about the brass of True North Sports when we look back at its inaugural season in the big leagues: that it took the proven and safe approach.

The fledgling NHL organization continues to put fledgling people at the helm as it gears up to knock heads with the Bostons, Detroits and Washingtons of the hockey world.

First-year NHL owner Mark Chipman chose rookie Kevin Cheveldayoff as his GM, who in turn, along with rookie assistant GM Craig Heisinger, is about to announce the hiring of NHL rookie Claude Noel as his head coach.

All this to go along with a young and relatively inexperienced group of players, who will be growing into their roles along with the people in the front office.

Im not saying it wont work, and Im not saying it will.

What I am saying is its bold. Downright daring, even.

And its a gamble.

Right off the top, lets acknowledge messrs Chipman and Heisinger, the people whove long called the shots for the AHLs Manitoba Moose, have a pretty impressive track record of hiring coaches.

Randy Carlyle, Alain Vigneault and Scott Arniel were winners at the AHL level, and two of the three have already proven themselves in the Show.

Noel did a fine job in his one season with the Moose, too. Not to mention the four seasons he guided the AHLs Milwaukee Admirals, where he won a championship.

But the NHL is a different animal, one that can bite you in many places.

Noel has just 24 games in that pressure cooker, going 10-8-6 with the unenviable interim tag around his neck in Columbus, where he was also an assistant under Ken Hitchcock for three forgettable seasons.

It became clear early in the process, though, that those with experience need not necessarily apply.

Among those on Cheveldayoffs short list, only Craig MacTavish had any significant NHL head coaching experience.

People like Hitchcock and Marc Crawford didnt warrant a sniff.

True North has gone with people they know, firsthand, not people they know of. Relationships are worth more than resumes. Familiarity, more important than fame.

But there is loyalty, and then there is loyalty to a fault.

I would have thought a young team might need a veteran hand to guide it.

Football fans in this town found out last season what it can cost to hire a rookie GM and a rookie head coach at the same time.

What is by far the NHLs greenest front office will no doubt experience some growing pains.

But coaches with sparkling entries on their resumes dont guarantee success, either.

Chipman found that out the very first time he hired a head coach, when he swung and missed with Stanley Cup champion Jean Perron.

Claude Noel will be a better choice than that.

But thats the only sure thing about this move.


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