Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets coaches get hands dirty

New hires Huddy, Flaherty excited, starting to get down to business

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They are just pictures on the TV screen and names on a depth chart right now.

But Charlie Huddy and Wade Flaherty, the Winnipeg Jets two new assistant coaches, can't wait to roll up their sleeves and get to work with their new charges.

Huddy, the long-time NHL vet who has spent the last 12 years working the bench for the New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars, will be in charge of a young defensive corps that is considered a foundation for the franchise.

Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom were both all-star game selections, Zach Bogosian is just 21 but already has close to 200 NHL games under his belt while vets Randy Jones and Derek Meech were added to a collection that includes Ron Hainsey, Mark Stuart, Johhny Oduya and Andrey Zubarev.

That said, only the Colorado Avalanche gave up more goals in 2010-11 than the Atlanta Thrashers.

"It's a good group back there," said Huddy Friday. "I've watched a few of the games of Atlanta -- I haven't had a chance to watch a whole lot of it -- but there's some good players back there and there's lots of potential for them to be really good players in this league.

"That part excites me and I hope I can lead them down the right road and be able to get them better as players."

Flaherty, now the Jets goaltending coach, has an intriguing mix to work with in veteran Chris Mason and rising star Ondrej Pavelec.

"I like it. I think it's outstanding and I think it was shown last year that it works," Flaherty said. "Mason is a veteran guy who has played a lot of games in the National Hockey League and has a lot of games left, I believe. And Pavelec is an up and coming guy who had an outstanding season last year. I'm looking forward to working with them both.

"My job involves many responsibilities. Obviously, keeping the goaltenders sharp and being a liaison between the head coach and goaltender. You build a relationship with them. It's not the typical coach-player relationship because you're their support staff, you're working with them and it's not just about goaltending. It's a friendship as well."

Flaherty said he planned to spend the next little while studying more film, not only of Pavelec and Mason, but of the other goaltenders listed on the Jets depth chart. That includes Peter Mannino and Ed Pasquale (Chicago Wolves), Alex Kangas (University of Minnesota), Chris Carrozzi (Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL), Fredrik Petersson-Wentzel (a member of Sweden's junior squad in 2011) and recent draft pick Jason Kasdorf (Portage Terriers, headed to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the fall).

"I like our organization and the depth we have in goal," said Flaherty. "I know the four guys, Mason, Pavelec, Mannino and Pasquale well but I'll be touching base with these guys on the weekend and start our relationship."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 17, 2011 B5

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