Tag: Winnipeg Hockey Club

2011 NHL Entry Draft - Top Prospects Media Availability

Five things to watch out for during the NHL Draft tonight

Tonight’s NHL Draft from Xcel Energy Center will provide us with storylines for years to come. As it is, the lead up to the draft has already provided its fair share of drama with the trades the Flyers made on Thursday and with everyone getting into the action on Friday night with the first round of the draft (rounds 2-7 take place on Saturday) that can only mean there’s going to be a healthy dose of shenanigans and moves worth the intrigue.

We’ve got a list of five things we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for during Friday night’s proceedings in St. Paul.

1. How the top five shakes out

This year’s draft is fascinating because there’s not that be-all, end-all #1 guy to be taken first overall. Mock drafts and analysts all have their ideas on who Edmonton should take first with the choices leaning strongly on forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or defenseman Adam Larsson. Either player would be an instant boost for an Oilers team that’s trending hard toward youth and already has a great trio in Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi.

Nugent-Hopkins would add yet another potentially explosive offensive weapon to that young arsenal while Larsson would give them the young defenseman on which to help them continue to build around. Things don’t get any easier to project after Edmonton. Colorado could take Larsson if Edmonton doesn’t or they could be leaning toward Gabriel Landeskog. Florida at #3 could have either of those two or pick from Sean Couturier or Jonathan Huberdeau. New Jersey at four and the Islanders at five will have their choice from who is left or they could go off the map and pick someone else they like better or deal out. It’s always something with the draft.

2. Ryan Smyth being traded and other moves

There’s no doubt that the L.A. Kings will trade Ryan Smyth at some point this weekend to one of Edmonton, Calgary, or Winnipeg. Smyth wants to head back close to Alberta to be closer to his family and the Kings are going to do their part to accommodate him. Calgary is already jumping into discussion but given Smyth’s history with the Oilers, they’ll want to bring him back too. Smyth’s history with Edmonton is strong and his veteran presence would do their host of youth a favor in learning from him.

Calgary would like to tweak out all the fans in Edmonton while adding a net presence guy to help out Jarome Iginla. The issue there for the Flames is how Smyth makes a ton of money against the cap this year. Of course, that’s never stopped them from making an addition in the past so there’s that.

There’s also the chance we’ll see other trades done or completed. Perhaps Robyn Regehr heads to Buffalo finally or other moves come up out of the blue. The draft is where we saw Chris Pronger traded from Anaheim to Philadelphia and going back further than that, deals like Michael Peca to Buffalo. We saw plenty of action yesterday, but there’s always the chance we’ll see more.

3. Winnipeg’s coming out party

When Winnipeg picks at #7 overall, the Xcel Energy Center is going to go bonkers. With Winnipeg being relatively close to St. Paul, the new franchise is going to have a lot of fans in attendance to root on who GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and True North decide to pick to be their first draft choice.

With the virtual confirmation from CBC’s Elliotte Friedman, the team will indeed be called the Jets. When the guys from True North make that declaration along with their pick it will make the Xcel Energy Center go wild. Get used to hearing, “Go Jets Go” all night and season long.

4. Closure of the Phil Kessel trade

While the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup this year, they’ll be wrapping up the last of their rewards from the Phil Kessel trade when they pick in the Maple Leafs spot at ninth overall. Last year, the Bruins netted Tyler Seguin second overall thanks to the controversial deal that saw the Leafs give up two first round picks and a second round choice for Kessel. This year the Bruins could be looking to add a defenseman in the draft and there are a few mock drafts out there projecting Kitchener’s Ryan Murphy to be the guy.

As for the Leafs, they’re not shut out of the first round this time around as they’ve acquired two first round picks this time around and will come up late in the round at 25 and 30. Leafs GM Brian Burke has been dangling those picks as trade bait and while doubting Burke can be dangerous, it’s not shaping up well that he’ll get a deal done there.

5. Pure joy and excitement

Having been to the NHL Draft before, the one thing about it that never changes is the pure joy and excitement from the players and their families. I recall in 2009 seeing Colorado’s Matt Duchene walking around Montreal’s Bell Centre by himself after the first round was over. He was waiting on his parents to get done talking with other families there and he was minding his own business with the brand of smile you couldn’t knock off his face with a bat. After all, he was chosen in the first round of the NHL Draft by the team he grew up loving to watch play, how do you beat that? You don’t.

Keep in mind here that everyone picked tonight is about 18 years-old and not everyone jumps right into the NHL. While there’s a few guys throughout the draft that will be able to make the leap right away, most guys taken are going to play in junior or college hockey again next year and perhaps for the next few years. A lot of guys will make it, but others won’t do as well. The one thing they will have, however, is this night. They’ll get to slip on the team jersey and draft hat, pose with team executives and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and be rock stars for the night. That brand of pure joy is all part of the fun of the draft so sit back and enjoy it for all that it’s worth.

Even Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn’t know what jersey he’s giving to draftees

Kevin Cheveldayoff

Winnipeg is busy taking care of business of late. They’ve picked a new general manager in Kevin Cheveldayoff, they’re in the process of picking out a new coach now that they’ve decided to move away from Craig Ramsay, and they’re still trying to figure out just what in the world they’re going to call the new team.

True North ownership is still deciding whether or not they’re going to go in their own direction to call the team the Moose, Polar Bears, Falcons, or some other team name or if they’ll adopt the moniker that helped put Winnipeg on the map and call the team the Jets. With that one decision still up in the air and the NHL Draft set to start on Friday night, things could get a little awkward when Winnipeg makes their first draft pick at seventh overall.

When it comes time for Kevin Cheveldayoff to make their pick, even he’s not sure just what kind of jersey and draft cap he’ll give to their first round pick.

A name and logo have yet to be unveiled for the team and it won’t necessarily happen before the weekend.

“Certainly there’ll be a sweater — whether it’s a team sweater or not, I guess that remains to be seen,” Cheveldayoff said Monday during a conference call with a handful of reporters. “There has been different discussions about what to do in the case of a sweater not being available.”

That might just be a bit awkward for whoever ends up being picked to go up to the stage, shake hands with the executives of the team, have the host of Winnipeg fans sure to crash the party in St. Paul, Minnesota going wild for him and… Wear a sweater with an NHL logo on it or a True North logo and feel at home.

While the guys at True North continue to sort through what they’re going to do, Tuesday shapes up to be a big day for them as the NHL Board of Governors will vote to approve the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to True North and officially seal the deal for Winnipeg. After the fans met their goal of selling 13,000 tickets with flying colors, it’s expected that there won’t be any problems at all and the Board will approve everything.

Craig Ramsay interviews to keep his job with Winnipeg hockey club

Craig Ramsay
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The process of changing things up with the Atlanta Thrashers and their move to Winnipeg means everyone who had a job with the Thrashers has to interview to see if they can impress the new management. Already True North decided to go away from GM Rick Dudley and hired on Kevin Cheveldayoff to take over in Winnipeg.

The next position that’s being examined is the head coaching spot. Last season, Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay had a solid first season in Atlanta leading the Thrashers to a solid season most of the way before the team faded down the stretch. With that one solid year of action under his belt and a missed chance at the playoffs, Ramsay’s future in Winnipeg isn’t set in stone.

On Saturday, Ramsay talked with the new bosses to see if they’d like to keep him around in Manitoba. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution spoke with Ramsay about the opportunity.

“It was a good talk,” Ramsay told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I enjoyed the conversation. There was no commitment and no timeline [for a hire]. Nothing has been decided.”

Ramsay is a candidate for the position when the team relocates to Manitoba for next season. He has one year remaining on the contract he signed to coach the Thrashers before last season.

Ramsay won’t be the only one involved in talks with Cheveldayoff and Winnipeg as Vivlamore reports. Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland, Manitoba Moose coach and former Blue Jackets coach Claude Noel, and former Oilers coach Craig MacTavish are all on the list for Winnipeg’s people to talk to. Given Ramsay’s experience with the team and the fact that he’s got one more year left on his contract means that things could go either way for him.

The Winnipeg ownership has shown they’re not afraid to eat money on a contract to get their own people in charge as that’s what they did to get Rick Dudley out and Cheveldayoff in and Dudley had multiple years left on his deal. Doing the same to Ramsay won’t bother them in this case should they want to go in another direction. It might not seem fair, but with new bosses it’s not always fair.

True North and MTS Allstream agree on 10-year naming rights deal for MTS Centre in Winnipeg

Winnipeg fans

It’s good to get in on the ground floor of a deal it seems.

True North and MTS Allstream, a telecom company based in Winnipeg, have carved out an agreement to continue with the naming rights for the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. The deal is set to run through 2021 and while no financial figures were made available to the press for how much its worth, the impending arrival of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg where they’ll call the MTS Centre home drove up the cost for continuing with the deal. Given that MTS is a local company, the deal works out nicely for community relations as well as for deepening wallets.

The arena has been called the MTS Centre since it opened in 2004 and now with an NHL tenant about to call it home, MTS is about to get a lot more exposure thanks to the Thrashers moving into town. As for what the name of the team will be that will be calling the MTS Centre home, that’s still yet to be determined and the folks at True North are wavering on when that announcement will be made.

True North president Jim Ludlow had this to say about the impending announcement of what the Winnipeg hockey club will be called.

As for the new team’s name, Ludlow is no longer predicting it will come before Tuesday’s NHL board of governors meeting, where the sale of the Thrashers to True North is expected to be approved.

He’s not even predicting a name before the NHL draft next Friday.

“That’s tough — unlikely — possible, but there are a number of issues,” he said.

“We just have to manage our way through and, whether it’s next week or the following week, get to the point where we can make the right decision and the right announcement at the right time.”

That’s a lot of fretting going on.

One thing’s for sure, if the team doesn’t have a name by the time the NHL Draft kicks off next Friday night it might be a bit odd handing their first draft pick a sweater and cap with nothing on it. Of course, they could also just stop fiddling around and just call the team the Jets and be done with it.

That’s our not-so subtle hint for the day. At the very least, the building they’ll be playing in will have a name even if the team doesn’t have one yet.

Dan Snyder’s Thrashers legacy to continue being honored in Winnipeg


With the Thrashers on their way to Winnipeg there are some things from Atlanta that will be making their way to Canada. While many of the people who worked for the team in Atlanta won’t be returning, there’s one memory of the team that many hoped would carry over into their future in Winnipeg.

Dan Snyder was a hopeful up and coming rookie in the Thrashers system back in 2003. That September, Snyder was riding in a car with then Thrashers star Dany Heatley when their car crashed after Heatley was speeding and lost control of the car. Snyder died six days later after falling into a coma and dying from septic shock thanks to the accident.

Ever since then, the Thrashers honored Snyder by not giving out his number 37 to another player and giving out the Dan Snyder Memorial Award to the player that best embodies perseverance, dedication and hard work without reward or recognition, so that his team and teammates might succeed. Winnipeg’s director of hockey operations and communications Scott Brown says that Snyder’s memory will continue to be honored when the team moves. Ed Tait of the Winnipeg Free Press finds out that the ties to Snyder from within Winnipeg’s organization run deep as well.

Worth noting is a connection of sorts with the Manitoba Moose: former Moose Dallas Eakins, a good friend of current Winnipeg assistant GM/director of hockey operations Craig Heisinger, was very close to Snyder.

“Craig was in Atlanta and saw all the things they did for Dan Snyder and we are fully prepared and will be honouring everything to do with him,” said director of hockey operations/communications Scott Brown. “Dan Synder’s friends and family should not worry at all about that.”

As far as retiring his number goes or keeping up with the retired numbers of former Winnipeg greats like Bobby Hull and Dale Hawerchuk, Brown says the issue of retiring numbers may not come up in Winnipeg.

“Those are questions we have to ask ourselves. Retired numbers become very tricky going forward. For example, Evander Kane is No. 9. I don’t know this, but I imagine Evander Kane would like to continue wearing No. 9 and we would hope that if we decided to let him continue wearing that number Winnipeg hockey fans would be accepting of that and the step forward in the franchise history rather than focussing on keeping Bobby Hull’s No. 9 retired.

“These are all issues we’ve been discussing, believe me.”

The Maple Leafs are a team that honors numbers but doesn’t retire them. For a team like Winnipeg that has a past fresh in the memory and a legacy of the Thrashers coming north to greet them, honoring the past is the best plan of action for them. The old Jets past belongs to the Phoenix Coyotes and with things like Dan Snyder’s memory joining them in Manitoba courtesy of Atlanta it’s the right move to be able to pay respect to all aspects of the past and present in a new-old locale.

Carrying on Snyder’s memory is a wonderful thing for Winnipeg to do, however, and it helps keep awareness up about how precious life is and how it can be taken at a moment’s notice.