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It's déjà vu for new assistant coach Pearn

Habs' move 'a little premature'

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A little patience has led the Winnipeg Jets to a quality fit for their coaching staff.

The NHL team hired Perry Pearn as an assistant coach Thursday, giving the Edmonton native a second stint in the Manitoba capital. Pearn spent the 1995-96 season as an assistant on the staff of Terry Simpson, then head coach of the original Jets.

In the interim, Pearn has been an assistant coach on three other teams -- the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens -- the latter controversially dumping him on a game-day afternoon just eight contests into their dysfunctional 2011-12 season.

"This was an easy decision to make," Jets head coach Claude Noel said of the new hire.

Pearn was contacted first by Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger, and while he was in town this spring to visit his daughter, met with Noel for an interview.

"The first thing that made it attractive to me was that I didn't want to leave when I left the last time," Pearn said Thursday. "I'm sure a lot of people in Winnipeg felt the same way. I really enjoyed the year I coached in Winnipeg."

His experience and hockey wisdom will make him a valuable addition. He's likely to provide the kind of depth to the staff that simply wasn't available when the Jets went searching for assistant coaches at a very awkward time -- last July. It was mostly due to the relocation scramble.

Noel and the organization landed Charlie Huddy and rookie NHL coach Pascal Vincent as assistants, but decided to stop there, even though they suspected another qualified coach might be required.

"We looked at a lot of different things in the little time we had, like how many people we should have on staff, two or three," Noel said. "And who's out there? What was available? We determined at that juncture we'd start with two assistants.

"As we went through the season and when we assessed the season at the end of the year, we tried to figure out what was the best thing moving forward if we wanted to improve, and we could see the need for another assistant.

"A guy with his experience and stature, it's pretty hard to ignore the fact that he would certainly make us a lot better and certainly make me better as a head coach."

Pearn rhymed off a list of coaches he said he's been privileged to work with -- Roger Nielsen, Mike Murphy, Craig Ramsey, Tom Renney, Jacques Martin among them -- and although he'd never encountered Noel before this spring, had some previous contact with Huddy and Vincent.

Pearn knew Huddy from when Huddy's son Ryan participated in Pearn's three-on-three hockey camp in Edmonton.

And Vincent?

"He had approached me and introduced himself," Pearn said of his stint in Montreal. "We sat down a couple of times and went through some hockey things. He picked my brain one day on penalty-killing. Talked for over three hours one day. I knew that there was some rapport there as well."

Pearn even coached Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff as an assistant for Team Canada at the 1986 World Under-18 tournament.

He was on the coaching staff when Canada won gold at three world junior tournaments, including as Team Canada's head coach in 1993.

His role with the Jets has yet to be determined, Noel said Thursday. Neither has it been decided whether two or all three assistants will work behind the bench at games.

The Jets also announced Thursday that Huddy, Vincent, goalie coach Wade Flaherty, video coach Tony Borgford and St. John's assistant Mark Morrison have all agreed to contract extensions.

Huddy, Vincent, Flaherty and Borgford reportedly signed for just one initial year when they joined the Jets but now are on the same track as Noel, with two more years to go on their agreements.


THE Montreal Canadiens were criticized, even ridiculed, for how they handled many things last season, one of their worst ever.

Among them was firing assistant coach Perry Pearn on the afternoon of a game day early in the season, one of the oddest moves ever in a bid to shake up a team.

Pearn, hired by the Jets Thursday, said he's moved on from the mess, having used the ordeal to become a better coach.

"You know what you're in for when you accept the job in the first place," he said. "Obviously, I was really disappointed with how things ended there. I felt like the first two years, as a staff, we'd done a very good job of maximizing the talent we were working with. The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of patience. Eight games in to make the kind of decision that was made just seemed to me to be a little premature."

He was tasked with watching other teams for the rest of the season -- including games in Winnipeg, so he's well-versed in what went on inside the MTS Centre. He said it allowed him to catch up on teams and players outside the Eastern Conference, where he had coached since leaving Winnipeg in 1996.

"I flipped it around to try to make it a positive," Pearn said. "To make myself a better coach."

-- Campbell




Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2012 C4

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