6 Takeaways from Rick Bowness’ Introductory Jets Press Conference

Three days after Darren Dreger broke news that Rick Bowness would be Winnipeg Jets’ new head coach, and just one day after the team made it official, the man True North will lean on to stabilize a team in turmoil fielded questions for the first time in an introductory press conference.

Related: Jets’ Bowness Hire Brings Vast Experience, Defensive Focus

The 67-year-old with more than 700 games of head coaching experience over four decades and Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff held court for more than 20 minutes and spoke on a number of subjects. Here are six takeaways from the availability.

1: Cheveldayoff Wanted Bowness Immediately After “Trotz Watch” Ended

After the much-sought-after Barry Trotz — who the Jets were courting hard for six weeks — decided he would not immediately jump back into coaching, Cheveldayoff said he “immediately turned my attention to reaching out to Rick.”

That’s quite the revelation, as Bowness wasn’t among the many names thrown around by pundits after “Trotz Watch” ended, while people like Scott Arniel, Andrew Brunette, Jim Montgomery, Kirk Muller, Rick Tocchet, and Pascal Vincent were. Cheveldayoff added the search for the third head coach in 2.0 history was exhaustive.

Related: Jets’ Best Coaching Options Now That “Trotz Watch” Is Over

“Certainly there was some synergies with us, having him play against us so many times, knowing our players, knowing our team, he said of the man who coached the Dallas Stars for the past three seasons. “It was an easy kind of conversation with respect to where we’re at, what we need to do, what adjustments, and thoughts, and systems, and beliefs that Rick had — there was a real synergy right there, with me.”

Kevin Cheveldayoff Winnipeg Jets
Kevin Cheveldayoff, general manager of the Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bowness said he turned down three other coaching opportunities, but no head coaching offers. He doesn’t have any hard feelings for being the Jets’ “Plan B.”

“If I’m in (Cheveldayoff’s) chair, I’m going after “Trotzy” too… do I feel bad about being second choice? Absolutely not because I would have done the same thing,” Bowness laughed.

2: Cheveldayoff Admires Bowness for Many Reasons

Cheveldayoff said Bowness checks a lot of boxes for him, touting “Bones” as a great communicator who connects well with players and conducts himself fair but direct way. Cheveldayoff also praised Bowness’ ability to establish structure in the game and hold players accountable — two things the Paul Maurice/Dave Lowry regime failed to do.

“This isn’t a ‘I think he can implement these things’ thing,” Cheveldayoff said. “I know he can. I’ve seen it… I’ve seen the structure. I’ve seen the hardness… You don’t take a team to the Stanley Cup Final just by luck.”

Rick Bowness Dallas Stars
Rick Bowness took the Dallas Stars to the Stanley Cup in 2020. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

“What impressed me about Rick is… his unique ability to have been in the game for so long but evolve and stay current,” Cheveldayoff said. “That’s what players are looking for — they’re looking to be heard but to know someone’s in charge. Over the evolution process of his career, that’s probably one of the most remarkable things is his ability to evolve and connect with young players.”

Kevin Cheveldayoff

3: Bowness Doesn’t See The Jets in a Rebuild, and Doesn’t Want to be a Part of One

“I don’t need a job,” was something Bowness said a few times throughout the presser. Considering he’s nearing 70 and has coached in some capacity since the mid 1980s, no one would begrudge him if he wanted to take it easy.

Bowness said he wasn’t going to pursue any jobs after stepping down from the Stars in May and he kept his word, explaining with his reputation that people would know where to find him if they wanted to reach out and talk.

“I wasn’t going to go back into coaching for the sake of coaching, I didn’t need a job… I wanted to have a chance to win,” he said.

The Jets 2021-22 season was a wasted one as they finished sixth in the Central Division and missed the playoffs despite being pegged as a Stanley Cup contender. With uncertainty surrounding the futures of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler, many fans suggested after Trotz turned the team down that the Jets’ front office blow everything up and undergo a full rebuild. Bowness clearly doesn’t think that’s necessary.

“This is a really good hockey club and for whatever reason it lost its way last season… we’re going to get it on the right track and we’re going to get this team back to the playoffs,” he said.

4: Bowness Believes the Buy-In Has Started

Bowness said when facing the Jets last season he felt there was something “missing” compared to prior seasons, when they were always tough to play against. “You could feel it and you could see it,” he said.

Some things are certain: some players gave less than 100 per cent from a defensive standpoint, Maurice favoured veterans, and toxic personalities poisoned the team. Obvious rifts and oversized egos exist that Bowness will have to close and cut down.

Winnipeg Jets Celebrate Kyle Connor, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Brenden Dillon
Bowness doesn’t believe he’ll have problems getting buy-in from the talented but fractured Jets dressing room. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

“We got to to work together, all of us, players included, to get it back,” Bowness said, explaining he’s reached out to a number of players already who are “realistic and enthused.”

“They know they’re better than they were last year and they’re all excited… to get back on the ice and prove they were a better team than they were last year,” he said.

Rick Bowness

“The buy in starts from being frustrated of the failures of last year,” he continued, adding getting that buy in requires coaches communicating expectations and roles clearly. You can’t have a buy-in if you have grey areas, and I hate grey areas.”

He told the Winnipeg Sun’s Scott Friesen in a scrum after the presser he has no problem discipling those who don’t give it their all.

“If (a player) wants to win, he buys in. And if he doesn’t buy in, then you’re taking away his ice time…his ability to get all those points. Because the team has to come first,” he said. “And the players know who’s getting away with murder and who’s not getting away with it. So we have to hold everyone accountable at the same level. Everyone. Top to bottom.”

5: Arniel Joins As Associate Coach; Bowness Wants Good Communicators With Positive Attitudes to Round Out Coaching Staff

“Scotty will come in as the associate coach,” Bowness announced. “He and I have always kept a good rapport over the years.”

When Bowness was an assistant coach with the Jets 1.0 after retiring from hockey in 1984, left-winger Arniel — who himself was pegged as a possible head coaching candidate — was on the team for two seasons. Arniel, 59, has more than two decades of coaching experience himself, most recently serving as an assistant coach for the Washington Capitals for the past four seasons.

He was the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets from 2010-12, and has also been with the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres. Like many staff True North brings on, is a known commodity, having served as the Manitoba Moose head coach from 2006-2010.

Bowness said the race is on to fill out the coaching staff considering the NHL Entry Draft is Thursday and Free Agent Frenzy is July 13. He said he wants his staff to be good communicators and have “positive upbeat attitudes.”

“This game is supposed to be fun,” he said, which is something the Jets and their fans didn’t have much of last season.

“We all need to be able to work together, communicate, and have the right attitude to turn things around.”

6: Bowness Wants Jets to Be Hard to Play Against

Bowness is known for leading defensively-stifling teams that do not give up a lot of chances; that was one of the hallmarks of the Bowness-era Stars. He will not be one to allow the free-wheeling style the Jets tried to play last season under Maurice and Lowry to their continued detriment, when they tried to trade chance for chance but gave up too many high danger opportunities as a result.

“When you’re hard to play against, you’re skating, you’re pressuring them, you’re not giving up much, you’re in their face, you’re right on top of them all over the ice,” Bowness said.

Dave Lowry Winnipeg Jets
The Jets weren’t strong enough defensively last season under Paul Maurice and later interim head coach Dave Lowry. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bowness said he wants the Jets to be creative with the puck and possess it as much as possible, and when they don’t have it, to be on top of their opponents. “If you do those things you’re going to spend a lot less time in your zone; you’re going to be better defensively,” he said.

Bowness called the Central Division the toughest in the NHL, but said he’s confident that if they address their issues right at the start of training camp and work on them all season, postseason hockey will return to Winnipeg.

Cheveldayoff acknowledged that Bowness faces a big challenge and believes his new hire won’t shy away from it. He said the communication between he, Bowness, and Arniel has a good energy to it and it seems as though they’re in training camp already.

Related: 3 Biggest Challenges Facing Jets Head Coach Rick Bowness

“Anybody who doesn’t want to embrace that challenge doesn’t want to be a coach,” Cheveldayoff said. “They want to get in the room, they want to get on the ice, they want to start talking hockey.”

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