Jets Should Add Nolan Baumgartner to Coaching Staff

A a familiar face could be the perfect person to improve the Winnipeg Jets coaching staff. That familiar face? None other than Nolan Baumgartner.

Baumgartner has recently found himself out of work. He served as Vancouver Canucks’ assistant coach since 2017-18, working alongside head coach Travis Green. On Sunday, the 45-year-old was a casualty of an organizational house cleaning as he was relieved of his duties alongside the underachieving Green, general manager Jim Benning, and assistant GM John Weisbrod. In the Green era, the Canucks posted a 133-147-34 record, qualifying for the playoffs once but underachieving this season.

Nolan Baumgartner Vancouver Canucks
Nolan Baumgartner was let go by the Canucks on Sunday. The Jets should consider bringing him on board. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Prior to joining the Canucks’ coaching staff, Baumgartner served as an assistant coach for two Canucks’ affiliates: the Chicago Wolves and the Utica Comets.

Baumgartner Knows True North Organization Well

Pursuing Baumgartner would be logical consider he is extremely familiar with Winnipeg and the True North organization. A hire would be something of a homecoming.

A defenseman whose professional career spanned 1995 to 2012, Baumgartner played seven seasons for the Manitoba Moose between 2003 and 2011, and was one of the Canucks’ farm club’s most recognizable and well-loved players. In 385 career games in antlers, he recorded 41 goals and 144 assists for 185 points, good for sixth all-time in points in Moose franchise history to this day.

Baumgartner served as Moose captain for the 2010-11 season, their final campaign prior to the Jets’ return and the Moose’s relocation to St. John’s.

Baumgartner also suited up for 144 NHL games for the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, Canucks, Dallas Stars, and Philadelphia Flyers, recording seven goals and 40 assists for 47 points.

Jets Are Shorthanded on the Bench Due to Kompon’s Absence

Adding Baumgartner would also make sense because the Jets have been down a man behind the bench all season.

Associate coach Jamie Kompon, who has been with the organization since 2016, is at home in Los Angeles to support his wife Tina while she undergoes treatment for breast cancer. The Jets have been wearing clothes with a pink ribbon bearing her initials at times this season.

Kompon continues to work in a remote role, with head coach Paul Maurice saying “Jamie’s work ethic from afar would astound you” and explaining that Kompon goes plenty of video every day and uploads it on OneDrive so the rest of the staff can discuss it. (From ‘Jets taking a run at cancer,’ Winnipeg Free Press, Nov. 22, 2021.)

True North is right to allow Kompon stay home to support Tina without making him give up his job. But having him working from home simply isn’t the same as having him with there in person.

Kompon has played a big role in working with the Jets’ power play and penalty kill in seasons past and both have struggled at times in 2021-22 — especially the penalty kill, which is near the very bottom of the league — with only Maurice and assistant coach Charlie Huddy overseeing things.

Baumgartner worked with both forwards and defenseman with the Canucks and was in charge of their PK. While the Canucks’ PK this season has struggled similarly to the Jets, it has been better than the Jets’ regime in two out of the past four seasons and comparable when it wasn’t.

Baumgartner Could Provide Fresh Perspective on Jets’ Flaws, Reign in Maurice and Huddy’s Worst Tendencies

It’s undeniable Kompon’s absence has effected how decisions are made on the Jets’ bench and how players are deployed. He is not there to keep Maurice in check when he runs practices or makes lines, nor is he there in-game to provide a different take on on-the-fly changes — not ideal considering Maurice’s infamous stubbornness.

Head Coach Paul Maurice and Assistant Coach Charlie Huddy
Baumgartner could provide Maurice and Huddy with a fresh perspective. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Maurice has a number of long-standing shortcomings as coach that are holding the Jets back from reaching their true potential, and those shortcomings have been even more glaring in Kompon’s absence. There is no one there to tell him “no” (such as “no, Blake Wheeler isn’t a first-line player anymore,” or “no, don’t put Kyle Connor, Mark Scheifele and Wheeler together on the first line, they’re too weak defensively at 5-on-5,” or “no, don’t play Riley Nash on the power play.”)

Related: Jets’ Full Potential Won’t Be Reached With Maurice Behind the Bench

If Huddy, who has been with the Jets since day one and survived the Claude Noel firing way back in 2014 has been saying those things, he’s been completely ignored.

The Jets are extremely talented on paper, with a number of offensive weapons, a much-improved back end, and Vezina-calibre goaltending. It would certainly be a different type of “free agent” signing, but it would behoove them to strongly consider bringing Baumgartner on board. He could provide a fresh perspective and help address the flaws that may prevent them from competing for a Stanley Cup.

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