For the first time since the inaugural season, the Jackets will have an entirely new staff behind the bench.
In previous seasons there has always been at least one coach held-over on the staff, (Gord Murphy was the iron man, he was with the team since the '02/'03 season) but the 2010/2011 incarnation of the Jackets will see a totally new team of coaches running the show.
It was clear this past season that the team was not responding to coach Ken Hitchcock's methods. He guided them to their first playoff berth in team history the season before, but with the loss of "Hitch filters" Mike Peca and Manny Malhotra, the young players on the team felt the full effect of Hitch's demanding style and started over-thinking their game. Hitchcock was fired on February 3rd, with assistant coach Claude Noel taking over on an interim basis. Noel opened things up offensively, and worked hard to give the young players their confidence back.
It was clear that even with Noel changing things for the better that the team needed a completely fresh start. At the end of the season, the assistant coaches, along with Strength and Conditioning coach Barry Brennan were all let go. Noel was still in the mix for the head coaching position, but he ultimately was not hired and took the position of head coach with the Manitoba Moose.
Let's take a look at the men who will be leading the Jackets:
Head Coach: Scott Arniel
Arniel was picked in the second round, 22nd overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1981 Entry Draft. He was an offensive forward out of the Cornwall Royals junior squad, playing five seasons with the Jets before moving on to the Buffalo Sabres for another four seasons. He then bounced around between the NHL, AHL and IHL.
His first coaching gig was with the Houston Aeros of the IHL as a player-assistant. He then went on to play another five seasons without the player-assistant tag, before stepping behind the bench of the Manitoba Moose of the IHL before the 2000/2001 season as an assistant coach. He held on to that position for two seasons, before making the jump to the NHL as an assistant coach of the Buffalo Sabres. After three years as a Buffalo assistant, he went back to the Moose and took over as head coach. He was the main man in Manitoba until this summer, when he was hired to be the head coach of the Jackets.
Assistant Coach: Bob Boughner
Boughner was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round, 32nd overall in 1989. He was developed slowly in the Detroit system, completing his junior career with the Soo Greyhounds before turning pro with the Toledo Storm of the ECHL. He then spent two seasons with the Adirondack Red Wings before bouncing around the IHL and ECHL for another couple of seasons. He finally broke into the NHL in 1995/1996 with the Buffalo Sabres, and went on to play in the NHL for another 12 years, with stops in Buffalo, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Calgary, Carolina and Colorado.
He retired from the NHL in 2006, and immediatly took over as head coach of the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. The team was horrible on the ice, coming off a hazing scandal which eventually led to coach Moe Mantha being relieved of his duties. Boughner worked with GM Warren Rychel to turn the Spits into a powerhouse junior team. They have won the last two Memorial Cups, the holy grail of junior hockey. Boughner will remain a majority owner of the Spits.
Boughner will be responsible for the forwards and will assist Arniel with the powerplay.
Assistant Coach: Brad Berry
Berry was a second round pick of the Winnipeg Jets, going 29th overall in the 1983 draft. He was a teammate of Arniel's with the Jets, after completing three years at the University of North Dakota. He bounced around the NHL and IHL, with a couple of stints on the Canadian National Team and in Europe.
Berry returned to North Dakota as an assistant coach in 2000. He held that position until 2007 when he joined Scott Arniel's staff as an assistant with the Manitoba Moose.
Berry will be responsible for the penalty kill and the defensemen. He has familiarity with Mike Commodore as he coached Commie at UND and they train together in the summer.
Assistant Coach: Dan Hinote
Hinote was a seventh round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 1996. He was drafted out of West Point, the first player to be drafted from the Army. He then transitioned to the OHL, then the AHL farm club of the Avs, before making his debut with Colorado in 1999. He played six seasons with Colorado, and then moved to St.Louis for another three seasons, with his last NHL season being the 2008/2009 season. He retired after spending last year in Sweden.
This will be his first coaching job, and he will have the same role that Ken Hitchcock had with Team Canada at the Olympics. He will be stationed in the pressbox and will be in constant contact with the bench, providing "eyes-in-the-sky" analysis of the games. He'll also be able to relate with the younger players, as he is only 33 years old.
Strength and Conditioning Coach: Kevin Collins
Collins is replacing Barry Brennan, who was with the team for the past five seasons. Collins had been with the Buffalo Sabres organization. There was plenty of press regarding the Jackets' perceived lack of fitness last season, and Collins was brought in to remedy that. He was highly recommended by Buffalo GM Darcy Regier and coaching candidate Kevin Dineen.
Goaltending Coach: Dave Rook
OK, I lied. The entire coaching staff isn't new, Rook was brought on as a consultant last season. That said, I believe his role will be expanded within the organization, so that he is working with the handful of new goaltenders in the system. He was Steve Mason's goalie coach in junior, so there is some familiarity there.
There you have it. The coaching staff of the Jackets. It is high on NHL experience, something which has been lacking on every coaching staff thus far. The men brought in are all high-character, type-A personalities who won't put up with players dragging their ass, but at the same time will help them grow. Their style is yet to be seen, but they claim that the system will be a responsible, attacking style. With the players the Jackets currently have in place, this should bode well for the team. I expect nothing less than a playoff spot this season, and I firmly believe this is the group that can take them there.