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NHL - US Sports: Can Bowness succeed with Jets?

The Winnipeg Jets were left reeling when first choice Barry Trotz declined their offer to become their new head coach citing that he wants to spend more time with his family before considering his next job.

After receiving the rejection, General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff quickly turned to a safe pair of hands in Rick Bowness who has signed a two-year contract with the team.

Bowness in Dallas

67-year-old Bowness most recently coached the Dallas Stars for three seasons and stepped down after their seven-game defeat to the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs.

Bowness took over the Dallas job from Jim Montgomery in December 2019, who was fired due to unprofessional contract related issues.

With the organisation in a state of disarray, Bowness quickly steadied the ship and in extraordinary circumstances led them to a 20-13-5 record and all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

Although beaten by the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games, Bowness was rewarded with a new two-year contract and in the end went 89-62-25 with the Stars making the playoffs twice.

Jets require a safe hand

Bowness comes into a situation with the Jets not too dissimilar to the one he inherited at the Stars.

In mid-December Paul Maurice stepped down from the Winnipeg coaching job following seven full seasons in charge.

Quoted as saying the team needs a new voice, Maurice's resignation came as a huge shock to Cheveldayoff and the Jets organisation who fell apart following his departure.

Under Dave Lowry, Winnipeg finished the season with a 39-32-11 record and sixth in the Central Division.

Their lowly position was their worse for several years and the first time that they failed to make the playoffs in four seasons.

Winnipeg native Trotz was Cheveldayoff's clear future plan. However, in another blow to the organisation the 59-year-old turned down the home-town opportunity following several weeks of discussion and an expectation that he would accept the job.

Needing someone they can trust while they figure out their long-term move, Bowness' appointment is a safe one, and given the talent at his disposal should give the Jets opportunity to get back into playoff contention.

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Improving culture

Bowness is seemingly well liked and respected by players, with Tyler Sequin and Jake Oettinger each speaking favourably of him in the media during his time with Dallas.

He has often been praised for his people handling skills, and attention to the human element of the sport.

This in turn should help him form relationships with the Jets' star players including Captain Blake Wheeler and his main support Mark Scheifele who each were criticised for their efforts last season.

Getting the Jets organised

Having coached since the 1980's, Bowness has clearly learned how to relate to players, but also how to get a buy-in to his somewhat old school methods which starts with defence first.

The Jets' tumultuous exit interviews have been widely leaked, with Paul Stastny questioning the team's respect level, Wheeler saying too many forwards are only interested in playing one-way and Dubois alluding to a lack of accountability as the season went on.

Instilling a system which immediately improves the Jets and gives the players a chance to be successful should be easy work for Bowness.

It's unlikely to be flashy, evidenced by Dallas being in the bottom-ten goal-scorers throughout his tenure, but his methods are proven, reliable and needed to get the Jets back on track.

Bowness will aid Jets transition

Bowness did an excellent job of transitioning the Dallas Stars from a veteran team who relied on Seguin, Jamie Benn and Joe Pavelski to one which was carried by younger exciting players like Jason Robertson, Miro Heiskanen and Roope Hintz.

The Jets are in a similar phase, slowly declining since they made it to the Western Conference Final in 2017/18.

To change this direction, Bowness will likely seek to integrate Winnipeg's top prospects into the line-up and increase ice time for their already established youngsters.

This will be welcome news to 26-year-old Nikolaj Ehlers who was restricted to the sixth-most forward minutes last season despite registering a team best +18 plus/minus rating.

Dylan Samberg and Ville Heinola are expected to become key parts of the Jets's defence and forward Cole Perfetti given an advanced role after the trio impressed during their late introduction to the NHL last season.

Short-term fix

Bowness ticks a lot of boxes for what the Jets need now.

His calming presence should help the organisation re-gain control of itself and show them the way back to playoff contention.

He's well-liked and will bring much needed harmony to the Winnipeg locker room.

Passionate about development, Bowness will have an eye on the organisation's future but he and Cheveldayoff will know that the ultimate solution for a team considered strong contenders for the Stanley Cup just a couple of years ago is likely to come after him.

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