Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

True North isn't about to rest now

Lots left on to-do list including hiring coach

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AS much as Mark Chipman and the folks at True North would probably like to savour the moment -- all the moments since the return of the NHL to Winnipeg last week -- the clock keeps ticking.

So much to do, so little time...

Indeed, it wasn't long after Winnipeg's NHL franchise introduced Kevin Cheveldayoff as the new executive vice president and GM and made Craig Heisinger's title as assistant GM/director of hockey ops official on Wednesday that the questions starting coming about the number of other unresolved issues the organization must deal with ASAP.

Here's a snippet at some of the key items on the to-do list:

Heisinger on hiring a new coach:

"We're going to sit down after today and the first priority is the upcoming entry draft and 1B is the coaching situation. There are coaches in place in Atlanta and we're going to discuss what's best for this organization. Kevin will reach out and speak to those guys and we'll take a little bit of time because we're going to make enough mistakes as it is, we don't need to race through things. We'll make decisions as we see fit and not hang anybody out to dry."

Cheveldayoff: "For me (the hiring) doesn't have to happen until we drop the puck. That's when I need my coach in place. I would like to have my coach sooner rather than later, but my desire to make the right decision outweighs all of that."

Cheveldayoff on Andrew Ladd's contract situation (the captain and leading scorer almost had a deal done with the Thrashers and is scheduled to become a restricted free agent next month):

"Andrew is going to be one of my first phone calls when I get the opportunity to get away from the press duties. I'm going to explain the situation here with the excitement in the city and all the things that are going on right now with the organization, the foundation that is in place and my vision of what I would like to see happen. Andrew and I have a pretty good relationship based on the year we spent together in the Blackhawk organization. He is a big, big piece of this franchise moving forward and we need to obviously discuss things with him sooner rather than later."

Cheveldayoff on the upcoming draft:

"One of the things we're going to have to talk about is the type of player we want to come into this organization. It's something that is very important to me, that we get good people. There's a lot of good hockey players, a lot of great hockey players. But I want our players to be good people as well because that's the solid foundation that you can build a team aspect on."

Heisinger on the message he'd give to the players who will be moving from Atlanta to Winnipeg:

"Buy a parka."

But seriously, folks...

"We have to stand on our own two feet. The city of Winnipeg and province of Manitoba is a great place to live. Is it a harsh climate? Yeah. But it's a great hockey environment and I would think, and no disrespect to Atlanta, the coming here for he players where there's lots of accountability and where is hockey is passion and the No. 1 sport, I think they're really going to enjoy it here."

Cheveldayoff on the team:

"There's a lot of good pieces in place. If you look at the year Atlanta had, they started off great. But it's a long, long season and you have to have a team that can sustain. My expectation is to try and methodically build this franchise. There is no quick fix. If you try to look for shortcuts, you're fooling yourself. There's no going out and signing five or six guys and all of a sudden you're putting Stanley Cup rings on your finger. It doesn't work that way."

Can this team make the playoffs?

"That's certainly the goal. If you want a chance at the big prize, you've got to get into the playoffs. It's unrealistic right now to sit here and talk about guarantees. But certainly we're going to keep raising the bar and playoffs are something you have to expect."

Cheveldayoff on how much they expect to spend on the salary cap:

"We'll spend the amount that needs to be spent. I'm a firm believer that just because you give a guy more money doesn't necessarily equate to greater or bigger and better things. The NHL is based on a lot of things, a lot of comparables. We have the opportunity here to do what is necessary, but at the same time we want to do it the right way. We're not going to just throw money at people and say, 'C'mon to Winnipeg.' "

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 9, 2011 C2

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