Jets do as they have done, stay in-house and promote Moose assistant to guide AHL farm team
Keith McCambridge. File photo
If anything, the Winnipeg Jets are proving to be remarkably consistent as they build their National Hockey League organization, because construction is, in large part, being done with material found on-site.
The Telegram has learned that sometime next week, the Jets will officially introduce Keith McCambridge as the head coach of their American Hockey League team in St. John's. The 37-year-old McCambridge spent the last two seasons as the assistant coach of the AHL's Manitoba Moose, the franchise that's moved to Newfoundland to begin play in the 2011-12 campaign.
Both the Jets and relocated AHL team are owned by True North Sports and Entertainment, which has done quite a bit of its Jets staffing in-house.
The Winnipeg head coach is Claude Noel, who was the main man behind the Moose bench last season, while Craig Heisinger, the Jets' assistant general manager and director of hockey operations, was the Moose GM (he'll keep that job for the St. John's AHL team). And over the weekend, Winnipeg signed three former Moose players to NHL contracts.
There had been some thinking McCambridge might remain in Winnipeg on Noel's NHL staff. However, ever since it was announced the Jets would put their AHL team in St. John's, he has been seen as the most likely candidate to become the head coach of the new club.
His new job in St. John's means the Thompson, Man., native's coaching career will have put him at the extreme ends ends of the North American continent, in Alaska and Newfoundland.
Hockey fans in these parts might remember McCambridge as a player from the days of the AHL's St. John's Maple Leafs when he was a steady defenceman on the opposition Saint John Flames and Providence Bruins. A graduate of the Western Hockey League who won a Memorial Cup with the Kamloops Blazers in 1995, McCambridge never played in the NHL, but appeared in 450 contests in the AHL and old International Hockey League before joining the ECHL's Anchorage--based Alaska Aces as a playing-assistant coach in 2003.
By 2007, he was the Aces' head coach, leading the team to the league finals in 2009. Next came the assistant's job with the Moose, first under Scott Arniel and then Noel after Arniel became head coach of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets.
McCambridge, who ran the defence in Manitoba, is known as a coach who pays particular attention to detail.
McCambridge's hiring will be formalized next week in St. John's. This week, the principles behind the operations of the AHL team - Heisinger, director of operations and team vice president Glenn Stanford and team president Danny Williams - are in Hilton Head, S.C., for the league's annual summer board of governors meetings.
The main item on the Hilton Head agenda is league realignment, prompted in part by the franchise move from Manitoba to St. John's. Last week, AHL president Dave Andrews told reporters a new-look league could feature six five-team divisions.
The divisional slotting of St. John's will have much to say about the team's schedule and how much travel will be required for road games. However, because AHL teams play unbalanced schedules and don't face all the league's other clubs each season, the matrix outlining opponents and frequency of matchups against those opponents may be of greater importance.
The professional hockey coaching stops of Keith McCambridge, who will be named head coach of the new St. John's entry in the AHL (records as a head coach in brackets):
Season Team, league, duties
03-04 Alaska, ECHL, playing assistant
04-05 Alaska, ECHL, playing assistant
06-07 Alaska, ECHL, assistant coach
07-08 Alaska, ECHL, head coach (41-26-5)
08-09 Alaska, ECHL, head coach (45-24-3)
09-10 Manitoba, AHL, assistant coach
10-11 Manitoba, AHL, assistant coach