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Suitors lining up for Arniel

Blue Jackets, Thrashers show their interest in Moose coach

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The Columbus Blue Jackets are first in line, but Manitoba Moose head coach Scott Arniel is on a wider radar for an NHL job in 2010-11.

The Blue Jackets and their GM Scott Howson have received permission from the Vancouver Canucks, Arniel's official employer, to speak to the Moose coach about their head-coaching job for next season.

All inquiries must go through Canucks GM Mike Gillis or it's tampering under NHL rules.

Arniel's interview with Howson is likely to take place within the next three days. The Moose coach is scheduled to join the Canucks on Monday to help their coaching staff, particularly with the extra skaters, or "black aces."

"We have talked to each other and we're trying to work out a game plan," Arniel said Wednesday afternoon when asked if he's heard from Howson.

"I have to go to Vancouver for Monday, so we might try to get that done before."

There will be other teams in the mix, however. There are also coaching openings in Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Atlanta, and the Thrashers and new GM Rick Dudley are confirmed as parties interested in Arniel's services, two NHL sources said Wednesday.

If he already hasn't, expect Dudley to make the permission-seeking call to Gillis any time.

Dudley and Arniel have a long connection, dating from Dudley's head-coaching days with the Buffalo Sabres when Arniel played there. He also coached Arniel in San Diego of the IHL.

Choosing the right situation, as opposed to the first one that comes along, as well as having familiarity with a situation is important to Arniel. Since the day he took the Moose job, coming from an assistant coach's post in Buffalo, he has admitted his head-coaching aspirations as well as the importance of the right fit.

"The familiarity of who that GM is is important," Arniel repeated Wednesday. "If you're going someplace blind, well, I'd be a little more hesitant to do that.

"But it's also about opportunities, going through the experience of interviews and you learn from both the good and the bad."

That's certainly not bad news for the Columbus process. Arniel said he's known Howson since the Jackets GM played for the OHL's Kingston Canadians from 1979-82 -- Arniel's hometown is Kingston, Ont. -- and that the two have crossed paths from time to time in the hockey world.

The Blue Jackets have also made known their interest in Portland Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen. Jackets' interim head coach Claude Noel will also receive an interview.

Arniel has coached the Moose for four seasons. His regular-season point totals were 102, 99, 107 (last season's overall first place in the AHL) and 87, so oddly enough, all this interest comes after his weakest season in the AHL standings.

With the Moose, the AHL's coach of the year in 2008-09 won 181 regular-season games (181-106-33) and added 24 more playoff wins.

Before this season, the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars had previously sought permission from the Canucks to speak to Arniel, though nothing much came of those inquiries.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 29, 2010 C4

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