Bowness believes he can lead the Jets to the promised land


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New Winnipeg Jets head coach Rick Bowness sees a good hockey club, one he believes can be brought back to the promised land.

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Speaking to the media Monday for the first time since Sunday’s official announcement as the third head coach of the Jets 2.0 era, Bowness acknowledged Winnipeg’s shortcomings last season and pledged to be the man who will fire the engines and pave the way to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. .

“For some reason (the team) lost its way last year,” Bowness said, seated next to general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff at the Canada Life Centre. “Myself, my coaching staff, when we get it all in place…we’re going to get it back on track and get this team back in the playoffs.”

To do that, Bowness, who coached the Dallas Stars for the past three seasons, leading them to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2020 before retiring afterward in May, will need to bring together a frustrated group of lost sheep. =

The 67-year-old is aware of some of the issues that plagued the Jets during their miserable 2021-22 season, which he and Cheveldayoff covered during the courtship process.

“All I can tell you from what I saw from the outside is that the way the team played was totally different from two years ago,” Bowness said. “And it had nothing to do with Xs and Os. It was competitiveness.”

Bowness had already contacted a number of players since Sunday, including veteran center Mark Scheifele, who went public with his upset feelings after last season’s debacle. Bowness said the conversation went very well, suggesting the 29-year-old is “all-in” for next season.

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It’s a step towards getting his players on board with the new regime, Bowness noted.

“The buy-in starts with being frustrated with the failures of the last year and being realistic and saying, ‘We’re better than that,'” he said. “The buy-in also comes from us and our communication with the players, our expectations for the players, making sure the roles are all defined, making sure everyone is clear, making sure that everyone is on the same page. You can’t have a buy-in if there are gray areas.

“I hate gray areas.

Bowness is well regarded in the league for his ability to grow. His longevity in the coaching game is proof of that.

He played for the Jets in 1980-81 and later started his career as an NHL assistant with Winnipeg in 1984-85. He served as Winnipeg’s interim head coach for 28 games in 1988-89 before becoming head coach of the Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and Stars.

“Another thing… (that) impressed me with Rick is talking to different people about him and maybe talking to different players, is his unique ability to be in the game for so long , but to evolve and stay current,” Cheveldayoff said.

Bowness’s ability to communicate with his players is an important strength, and one that should help when dealing with Winnipeg’s veteran core, and particularly with its young budding – and some would suggest overly pickled – talent looking to drill into alignment.

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“The big thing for me about working with any young guy is just to be patient. Understand,” Bowness said. “You get to know them as a person and understand their needs and how you can build trust in what they do, and without destroying them, build the things they don’t do very well.”

Bowness was Plan B for the Jets after a lengthy courtship with 2018 Stanley Cup winner and Dauphin native Barry Trotz. Trotz ultimately turned down the Jets gig to focus on his family, and that’s when Cheveldayoff picked up the phone to see if Bowness was interested.

“I didn’t want to go through the process knowing Barry was potentially there and have him hanged,” said Cheveldayoff, who got in touch with Bowness about 10 days ago. “I didn’t want him to lose any other opportunities that might have been there at the time. But it became very obvious from the very first conversation we had that the job intrigued him, the opportunity l intrigued.

Bowness understood.

“If I’m in (Cheveldayoff’s) chair, I’m also going after Trotzy. I am. It’s as simple as that,” Bowness said. “I would have done the same as Chevy.

“So, do I feel bad about the second choice? Absolutely not. He would have been my first choice.

Bowness wasn’t looking for a job, in particular, joking that someone would have to come find him in Halifax if they wanted him. Still, he had three other teams interested in his services, though not necessarily as head coach.

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The Maritimer, born in Moncton and now residing in Nova Scotia, had to check off a few items on his checklist if he wanted to regain a spot behind a bench.

Working with good people was a must, acknowledging Winnipeg’s family reputation in the league. Second, the team had to be promising.

“I wasn’t interested in going to a rebuild,” he said.

“This team has an excellent young goalkeeper in the person of Connor (Hellebuyck), a good defense, we have excellent offensive forwards. Are there things we’re going to have to change? Absolutely. That’s the challenge for me, that’s what got me excited. To work with good people, work with a good team in a big market like Winnipeg.

Bowness has already completed his first deal, hiring former Jets forward and Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel, most recently an assistant with the Washington Capitals, as associate coach.

Two more assistants are on the way, with Bowness saying they could be announced before the weekend.

Bowness’ deal is a two-year, $2.5 million-a-year deal, with a club option for a third year.

[email protected]

Twitter: @scottbilleck

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