The old saying goes, the captain goes down with his ship, and while the Manitoba Moose’s season resembled that of the Titanic, their coach sunk even faster. Yesterday afternoon the Jets organization announced they would not renew the contract of AHL head Coach Keith MCcambridge. Though the Moose finished with just one team below them in the AHL standings, this still came as a surprising move to many who have spent time around the team.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) April 22, 2016
McCambridge has been the Head Coach of the Jets AHL franchise since Winnipeg rejoined the NHL. Today’s move ended his term at seven seasons with this organization, seasons that saw some success and some failures. Starting as an Assistant Coach with the Manitoba Moose in 2009/2010, McCambridge was promoted to Head Coach when former coach Claude Noel took the coaching job with the new Winnipeg NHL franchise. McCambridge followed the AHL team to St. John’s and became the Head Coach. The future looked bright for the new bench boss as he followed in the steps of some very successful coaches in the organization. Randy Carlyle, Alain Vigneault, Scott Arniel, and the previously mentioned Noel all parlayed Moose jobs into NHL coaching jobs. Over his four seasons in St. John’s and one in Manitoba, McCambridge coached 380 games, winning 179. In 2014, McCambridge led the Ice Caps all the way to the AHL finals.
Low Expectations for Manitoba Moose
This season, when the Jets moved their AHL franchise to the same building they play in, growing pains were expected. Much like the big club chose to do, the Manitoba Moose went young. As one of the youngest teams in the league, not much was expected from this group. The few veteran players the Moose had like Jay Harrison spent much of the season injured, so this team had to form its own identity, and learn how to be professionals on their own. What made this move by the Jets organizations so surprising, was that these struggles were expected. The Moose came in with so many young players, guys making their professional debuts, that no one thought they would really be all that competitive.
As the season went along, the Moose struggled to get wins, but there was definite improvement as this team began to win more games. The Moose were a far more competitive in the second half, and in the last 15 games, when competition could be seen as the toughest all year the Moose were above .500. Apart from just their results on the ice, the Moose were also able to graduate many players to the NHL. From Connor Hellebuyck who became the Jets starter for a time, to players like Scott Kosmachuk and Chase De Leo who just played in a game or two, the Jets were able to fill many holes when they most needed it.
This will be the success focused upon going forward. Many players featured in the Moose lineup this year, may find themselves with NHL jobs next season. Hellebuyck, seems to have his name inked in on the Jets roster. As does Joel Armia, who impressed at the end of the year, and J.C. Lipon and Josh Morrisey will have every opportunity to make the team out of training camp.
These successes really make you wonder about this move. The Moose pretty much met expectations with the on-ice product they delivered this year, and the AHL team seem to have adequately prepared their players for a jump to the NHL. There may be more to this move than the team is willing to admit right now, but the facts are they will have a new face behind the bench next season.
Born and raised Winnipeg sports fan and contributor with The Hockey Writers.