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Coach cards close to vest

GM Chevy eyes league in bench-boss sweepstakes

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No one is going to force Kevin Cheveldayoff's hand or call his bluff on his search for a head coach.

The GM of Winnipeg's new NHL team -- in concert with Craig Heisinger and Mark Chipman -- is admittedly monitoring similar hunts for head coaches currently playing out in Minnesota, Dallas, New Jersey and, until Tuesday of this week, Ottawa.

But what unfolds in those cities -- who moves to the front of the list, who drops off -- will ultimately have little impact on the decision here. And so Cheveldayoff will keep his cards close to his vest and don his best poker face.

"We're on it, but I can't put a time frame on the decision," Cheveldayoff said. "If it's the right guy then we'll act very quickly. If we need to continue to search if we haven't found him then we'll let it go longer. We have to recognize that we did get into this aspect of things a little bit later than the other teams. The time frame will take care of itself. The NHL gives us enough things to worry about from the deadline standpoint that I don't like self-imposing my own.

"Nevertheless, there's great candidates and we're trying to find the right one that fits for us."

TSN's Darren Dreger first reported Cheveldayoff will interview former Edmonton Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish, now an analyst at TSN.

MacTavish flew into Winnipeg Wednesday afternoon and he would join Craig Ramsay, who guided the team as the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010-11 and Montreal Canadiens assistant Kirk Muller as coaches confirmed to have earned interviews.

Manitoba Moose head coach Claude Noel is also considered a strong candidate and True North has sought permission to speak to him from the Vancouver Canucks, and Chicago Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland may also be on the team's candidate list.

"We've requested for permission from several teams and have been granted those permissions," said Cheveldayoff. "Now we're in the scheduling process so we can schedule, meet and talk to those candidates."

Interestingly, the 52-year-old MacTavish is also said to be a front-runner for the vacant head-coaching position with the Minnesota Wild. In fact, earlier this week the Edmonton Journal reported the former Oilers boss was "a step closer" to landing the job in Minny after twice interviewing with Wild GM Chuck Fletcher and spending time in St. Paul touring the Xcel Energy Center.

MacTavish also interviewed for the Ottawa Senators job, filled Tuesday by former Jet Paul MacLean, and is said to be a finalist with the Wild along with former Columbus/Dallas/Philadelphia head coach Ken Hitchcock.

He compiled a .528 winning percentage while coaching the Oilers from 2000-2009 and worked with Hitchcock for Team Canada at the 2008 world championships.

Meanwhile, as the coaching derby unfolds, it would seem Devils GM Lou Lamoriello may also watch his rivals move their chips to the centre of the table before making his play.

The Newark Star-Ledger is reporting the Devils may move Ramsay to the top of their list if Winnipeg passes on retaining him.

The Devils are looking for a replacement for Jacques Lemaire, who retired, and may have their new bench boss in place before next week's draft.

"I don't want to say yes, no or indifferent," Lamoriello told the Star-Ledger when asked when he would name the Devils' next coach. "I guess the best response to the question is, is there a need to have a coach by the draft? The answer is no."

In other NHL hockey operations department news, the Blackhawks named Marc Bergevin as their new assistant GM -- replacing Cheveldayoff -- while former Jet Norm Maciver becomes the club's new director of player personnel.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 16, 2011 C3

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