by Massimo DiGeronimo
Before we get into this, we need to first admit that the staff at Spinorama Hockey are HUGE Dale Hawerchuk fans, so forgive us for any pro-Ducky bias that you read from here-on-in. But if you have been Jets fans for as long as we have, it’s hard not to be big Hawerchuk supporter.
As the first and arguably the most popular Jet from the 1.0 era, it is always great to see Hawerchuk when he visits the city and attends Jets games, whether it is for the Heritage Classic, a team anniversary, or his golf tournament which raises money for local charities. Each time he does, I wait for the announcement that he has been hired by the team, in some capacity. And each time, it hasn’t happened, and he has gone back to coaching the Barrie Colts of the OHL. A job he has held since 2010
Ducky’s ties with the current 2.0 Jets started back in 2011 when the team made Mark Scheifele the first player drafted since their return to the league in 2011. Dale was instrumental in convincing the Jets scouts and management that Scheifele was the player they should take in the 1stround. The advice paid off, as Scheifele is now considered one of the top 10 centres in the NHL.
For a few years now, Hawerchuk has been tagged as a likely candidate to make the jump to the NHL coaching ranks, but he indicated that he felt it wasn’t the right time and he is happy continuing to be Barrie’s head coach. Part of the reason was that his son Ben was on the team. He just completed his 9thseason behind the bench, which includes record of 305-269-38 over 612 games and he just signed a 4-year extension this past April. While that does provide him with some well-deserved job security, it would not prevent him from pursuing an opportunity in the NHL. Enter, the Winnipeg Jets.
If the Jets were to bring Ducky on board, what position should they offer him? The first thing that comes to mind is an assistant coach under Paul Maurice. The issue with that is twofold. First, Maurice will be entering his 6thfull season as the Jets’ Head Coach, which is the second longest current tenure behind Jon Cooper of the Tampa Bay Lightning. This means, barring an impressive season by the team, this could be the last season for PoMo. Bringing in a new assistant now may not make sense. Secondly, PoMo would very likely find it difficult to be looking over his shoulder at Ducky, thinking he was hired to be the Head Coach in-waiting.
While there might be some apprehension by the team in hiring Hawerchuk as their new Head Coach, due to not having any professional coaching experience, I am sure Ducky can convince the Jets he is ready for the challenge, the same way he convinced the team to take a chance at an unproven Mark Scheifele. The hiring of an experienced assistant coach could also help him with the transition. Also, the Jets have already gone down the route of hiring a ‘recycled coach’. Hiring another one would not guarantee success. Ducky would also provide valuable assistance with the special teams by bringing his experience as a former top PP producer. This could be Ducky’s long-awaited first step back to the city in which he started his NHL career with back in 1981.
This would also bring Hawerchuk full circle with the Jets and Mark Scheifele, who he can help get to the next step in his career and helping the Jets get to a Stanley Cup win. This is especially important, as if you remember back to the disappointing end to last season, something was off with Scheifele. Whether it was a personal matter, an issue with players on the team, or maybe lack of confidence in the team’s current structure (stopped listening to Maurice), it’s not something you want to see one of your top players go through again if you expect him and the team to have any success in the future.
I’m pretty sure the majority of Jets fans will be ecstatic to finally being able to welcome home arguably the greatest and most popular player (Teemu is a close 2nd) in franchise history, and lead the team once again.
Comments are welcome:
@spinohockey or @Mass_insight