Make no mistake: Tuesday’s breakfast session between Barry Trotz and the Winnipeg Jets focused as much on the coveted head coach interviewing the hockey club as the other way around. The fact is, the veteran bank boss with a Stanley Cup on his resume will have no shortage of suitors, and True North has a lot of work to do to convince the Manitoba product to come home.
Philadelphia, which will reportedly have its own fireside chat with Trotz on Friday, and Las Vegas are two other potential landing spots with vacancies to fill and a desire to make a splash in their markets after disappointing years.
Gentlemen, begin your sales pitch!
Although it was a positive sign that Winnipeg was given the first chance, TrotzWatch 2022 is expected to continue for at least a few more days, maybe even weeks. The decision is finally in your hands. And only the Dauphin product knows what would constitute a perfect fit at this stage of its decorated career.
Although it was a positive sign that Winnipeg was given the first chance, TrotzWatch 2022 is expected to continue for at least a few more days, maybe even weeks.
It’s not hard to imagine what the spiel from Mark Chipman, Kevin Cheveldayoff and company might have sounded like. An opportunity to work in your own backyard for someone whose roots run deep. A passionate and educated fan base. Have the full support of loyal ownership and management to continue spending up to the salary cap ceiling. The winner of Vezina 2020 in Connor Hellebuyck in the best moment of his career. A talented forward core with the likes of Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers and Pierre-Luc Dubois beginning to realize their potential. A group of young promises like Cole Perfetti and Ville Heinola.
Trotz, we’ve heard, has aspirations of eventually transitioning from coaching to a more senior role in an organization, and you’d have to imagine that kind of arrangement in Winnipeg would make a lot of sense for all parties. There’s no question his services will come at a high price, but I don’t see any scenario where it comes down to cash and the Jets are outmatched. They recognize the immeasurable value, both on and off the ice, that someone of Trotz’s pedigree will bring to a hockey-crazed roster and community in desperate need of a jolt.
And so we wait. Whether it’s Trotz, or someone else, who calls the shots starting next season, it’s important to remember the many challenges the next coach will face. A quality hire is a great start, for sure. But it is by no means a guarantee of success, especially when expectations will immediately rise.
There are several key questions that need to be answered, and I suspect Trotz may have raised some of them during their meeting earlier this week.
Let’s start with how trainable this group really is. There were times last year when I wondered if even the immortal Scotty Bowman, one of only two coaches in NHL history with more wins than Trotz, could have gotten this talented but deeply flawed team moving in the same direction, considering his erratic play and the worrying feedback from many frustrated players who openly questioned fundamental questions like motivation and preparation. Those were big red flags that were raised publicly. One can only imagine what was said behind closed doors.
Whoever takes the reins needs to know what they’re getting themselves into, and what kind of moves on the list might be needed, if any, to ensure all of this doesn’t turn south in a hurry at the first sign of adversity. .
Whoever takes the reins needs to know what they’re getting into – and what kind of moves on the list might be needed, if any, to ensure this doesn’t go bankrupt again at the first sign of adversity.
Which brings me to the status of disaffected franchise center Mark Scheifele, who sure sounded like a guy who wants a one-way ticket out of town in his odd postseason media availability. Although he hasn’t specifically asked Cheveldayoff for a trade, it has certainly been implied. I think there’s a good chance he played his last game in a Jets jersey, but maybe a new voice, especially one as accomplished as Trotz’s, might make everyone stop and think before they pull the trigger on a blockbuster that would shake the organization to its foundations. .
Scheifele, 29, remains a points-per-game player on a big-ticket contract with two years left. Can a new coach bring out the best in himself, get him to play a more inspired two-way game that helps his team get over the hump? Trotz got Alexander Ovechkin to do just that when they won a Stanley Cup together in 2018. Figuring out where Scheifele fits into the immediate future is a top priority. There’s also the not insignificant matter of Dubois’ next contract and what it looks like. Getting the pending restricted free agent locked up long-term is a nice security blanket for a new coach to inherit.
Scheifele is also part of a leadership group, along with backup Josh Morrissey and captain Blake Wheeler, that will require adjustments, perhaps sooner rather than later. Morrissey is the undisputed number one defenseman, and he’s not going anywhere. He shouldn’t either. But what is the succession plan for Scheifele and Wheeler, who also has two years left on his contract before presumably retiring? And how quickly it could come into play, given the seemingly fractured nature of the franchise following a disappointing season in which they missed the playoffs for the seventh time in 11 years.
Scheifele is also part of a leadership group, along with backup Josh Morrissey and captain Blake Wheeler, that will require adjustments, perhaps sooner rather than later.
Morrissey aside, there’s also the state of the blue line, who once again spent too much time chasing the puck and opposing players into their own zone last year. Attention to defensive detail is paramount, and that speaks as much to the personnel as it does to the systems that are employed. What kinds of changes could come, whether by trade, free agency or even internally, to ensure Hellebuyck doesn’t continually get hung up?
One thing we know about Trotz: This is an area where his teams tend to thrive, which is just another reason he and the Jets seem to be such a good fit. That’s why I think the organization is putting a lot of effort into trying to get him here.
They have stiff competition. The Broad Street Bullies will no doubt be trying to flex their muscles, just as those Sin City scoundrels will do whatever they can to lure you south. Whether Winnipeg wins the Trotz toss or has to resort to Plan B, there’s no question that the next coach will not only have several promising pieces to work with, but also several problems that need to be ironed out.
There is considerable pressure to do this well.