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Jets to use Pascal programming

Ex-Quebec league GM Vincent in charge of forwards, power play

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It was the business-world equivalent of a cold call but the Winnipeg Jets used it to fill their vacant assistant coaching position Friday.

The NHL team has hired 39-year-old Pascal Vincent of the Montreal Juniors.

Vincent was introduced to Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger at the NHL entry draft by former Moose assistant coach Mike Kelly, now the associate coach and director of hockey operations for the QMJHL's Saint John Sea Dogs.

It wasn't a meeting, just a hello, but when the Jets' first choice, Ray Edwards, declined the position, other options were explored.

Including a cold call on Vincent, who had been a coach and/or GM in the QMJHL for 12 years.

"I think one of the strengths that I have is that I'm able to integrate people and really get along with people and get the best out of people, not just players but staff," said Jets head coach Claude Noel, asked about hiring somebody he didn't know. "It's going to be a challenge for me but I'm welcoming the challenge."

Noel said last Tuesday's interview with Vincent went very well.

"And he came highly recommended," Noel said. "He's a young guy. He's had some success in junior hockey. He relates well to players. I really liked his character traits, what he brought to the table. He's well-versed."

The former assistant coach for Canada's national junior team will be responsible for the Jets forwards and for the team's power play as he starts his two-year contract.

Noel also said he likes the fact that Vincent is the youngest member of the coaching staff. Noel is 55, assistant coach Charlie Huddy is 52 and goalie coach Wade Flaherty is 43.

"I think the youthfulness is good," Noel said. "It's a good mixture for our staff. It was something I was looking for."

Vincent, who ran the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles between 1999 and 2008, then the Montreal Juniors, had a record of 429-313-87 over the 12 seasons. That time included nine playoff series wins and the Ron Lapointe coach-of-the-year trophy in 2007-08 when he coached the Screaming Eagles.

Vincent was also QMJHL GM of the year in 2006-07 when his Cape Breton team went 46-22-2 and went to the third round of the playoffs with current Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec.

"It's certainly a privilege to work with great quality people," Vincent told reporters via a conference call Friday. "Obviously it's a dream coming true for a coach or a player when you reach the best league in the world, it's always very special."

He said he was surprised by the cold call.

"I didn't know Claude," Vincent said. "I didn't know anybody in the organization. Because you know in this business, and like every business, it's people you know and it's OK that way. It's been like this forever.

"When I got the call, well, I know a lot of people in the NHL but I didn't know Claude or Mr. Cheveldayoff (Jets GM Kevin), or anybody (there) so that's why I was surprised. It's a small world at the same time.

"All I can say is I'm extremely proud and it (the interview) went very well. I spent the day with Claude and got to know a little bit about each other and talked about a lot of things, who we are as coaches and who we are as persons and what type of philosophy and culture Claude wants to install."

Vincent said he did a little of his own homework on the Jets organization prior to his interview, but remained tight-lipped for fear of word getting around he was coming to meet Jets staff in Winnipeg.

"I did a little bit," he said. "When I got the call from Claude I did do some research because on the Internet you can find (information). I didn't speak to anyone. I could have spoken to some people I know around the league but I didn't want to do that. The reason is I'm a pretty private person and I didn't want anybody to find out about it. I did my research on my own and trusted my instincts."

Vincent said he'll have no trouble adapting from a job as the man in charge to being an assistant coach.

"I've been a head coach and GM for the past 10 years and it's not a concern whatsoever," he said. "If I have to wipe the floor to make the team win, I'll do it."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 23, 2011 C5

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