The Atlanta Thrashers’ relocation to Winnipeg was finally made official earlier this week, which generates a different set of questions regarding the team’s immediate future.
As we already discussed before, True North Sports and Entertainment hopes to reach a preliminary goal of selling 13,000 season tickets.* For the many people wondering what the new Winnipeg team’s name will be (you can still vote for your favorite choice here, by the way), True North provides a simple window for when they will provide an answer. CBC News reports that the team’s new name will be revealed once the new team crosses that 13,000 season tickets sold threshold.
The CBC reports that ticket holders and corporate sponsors for the True North’s AHL team the Manitoba Moose have been given the first opportunity to snatch those hot tickets. The general public will receive an opportunity to start gobbling up the rest on Saturday, so that 13,000 goal seems pretty reachable in the near future.
While we wait to see if the Winnipeg Jets will return to the NHL once more, Elliotte Friedman thinks that the franchise itself should focus on some important front office questions in the mean time. Much like the general managers they often hire, new owners often prefer to hire “their own” people. With that in mind, Friedman points out that it would be fair and logical to make those decisions soon so anyone who doesn’t make the cut would have time to find another job.
What Chipman must do now is make a quick decision on Rick Dudley, Craig Ramsay and the rest of the Thrashers’ front office/coaching staff. If he doesn’t want to keep some or all of those people, the right thing to do is release them quickly so they can find new jobs.
One of the reasons the sale took a little longer to close was that True North didn’t want to be on the hook for contracts (like Dudley’s recent extension) it didn’t take. Teams want their staffs in place by the draft. The longer the Jets/Falcons/Moose/Polar Bears take to make those choices, the less chance those individuals will have to land on their feet elsewhere. There is a lot of competition, especially when it comes to coaching.
As for True North’s own structure, Chipman made it very clear that Craig Heisinger will have “a significant role” moving forward. It’s also believed Claude Noel, who impressed both the Moose and the Canucks this year, will get the big-league coaching job. Both men have really good reputations, but Chipman will look for a more experience NHL-level executive to help them get started.
That may not be easy, because you’re going into a situation where [you don’t have] full control over who is working for you. Anyway, Vancouver has two candidates, Vice-President of Player Personnel Lorne Henning and Vice-President Hockey Operations Laurence Gilman (who is from Winnipeg). And don’t discount former Toronto GM John Ferguson, either. He has Winnipeg connections and knows Chipman well.
(That rising cackle you just heard is a chorus of Maple Leafs fans laughing at the mention of the name John Ferguson, a roundly ridiculed GM in Toronto.)
While I like a lot of what I’ve seen from GM Rick Dudley in just one season with the hockey artists formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers, he was in the early part of a rebuild mode. Going with a different general manager (and also canning head coach Craig Ramsay, if they want to) now would be more reasonable than waiting for the first opportunity to fire him later. It might not be fair for them to lose their jobs after just one season of promising improvement, but True North has the right to put their own stamp on their new team.
Whether you hand this new Winnipeg ship the title of Jets, Moose or some other name, a winning team will ultimately drive jersey sales more than nostalgia or a great logo. We’ll keep you informed as True North begins to steer this boat in a new direction.
*At this moment in time, the “Drive to 13” Web site indicates that 4,170 season ticket packages have been sold.