WINNIPEG'S new NHL team will conduct a very short coaching derby, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff confirmed Sunday night.
After a weekend of in-depth discussions with assistant GM Craig Heisinger, the franchise has decided to go through the process and it will include last season's Atlanta Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay, who's still under contract to the franchise.
The round of interviews is also expected to include Manitoba Moose head coach Claude Noel, though that will be contingent upon receiving permission from the Vancouver Canucks. Past Moose coaches, including Noel, are hired and paid by the Canucks.
Noel was the first and really only choice at this time last year to replace Scott Arniel and his selection, primarily by Heisinger and the Moose organization, was endorsed and confirmed by the Canucks.
"Zinger and I spent the better part of the weekend discussing lots of aspects of the organization," Cheveldayoff said Sunday.
"Obviously on top of the list is coaching. We've had long discussions and threw a lot of things against the wall and basically what we came up with was that while this is a different situation than most -- it's not just the same as a general manager coming in for another general manager; it's a relocation of a franchise, too -- we owe our franchise in Winnipeg the opportunity to look at all options.
"We think this is the best direction. We're working to identify a number of people and that's going to remain confidential to us at the moment, and one of them is Craig."
Cheveldayoff said he called Ramsay again Sunday to inform him of the decision. He said Ramsay was receptive to the process, which will begin immediately, but the interview is not yet scheduled.
"We talked about the uniqueness of this situation," Cheveldayoff said. "In some ways, it's a testament to his character that we had a good chuckle about that. It's all you could do at this point, be straight-up with people. The conversations I've had with him have been very straight-up. You have to deal with situations head-on, and that's what we're doing right now."
The list of candidates is believed to be very short, but conceivably could include fired Florida coach Pete DeBoer, Canadiens assistant coach Kirk Muller, ex-Red Wings assistant Brad McCrimmon, ex-Jet and current Wings assistant Paul MacLean, former Oilers player and coach Craig MacTavish or current Toronto Marlies coach and former Jets player and Moose captain Dallas Eakins. Other high-profile names such as former Dallas Stars coach Marc Crawford and former Columbus and Dallas bench boss Ken Hitchcock are also out there.
Four other teams -- New Jersey, Ottawa, Minnesota and Dallas -- are all looking for head coaches and have a significant head start on Winnipeg in terms of starting searches.
Cheveldayoff said that while some tough personnel decisions have been and are about to be made, the new NHL organization here is not insensitive to their effects.
"We've always maintained there are a lot of people involved, not just jobs," he said. "We always want to be cognizant of that. Everyone is anxious, but at the end of the day we want to make the right decision for the hockey club."
Asked if his newly hired coach could be in place by next week's entry draft, Cheveldayoff said: "Anything's conceivable, anything's possible, but realistically, we're not going to put time frames on anything."
Also Sunday, True North decided that Thrashers director of amateur scouting and player development Dan Marr, who has worked for the organization since 1998, will not continue in that position.
Cheveldayoff said that simultaneously with the coaching search, he'll be turning attention to the draft in St. Paul, Minn.
"I've seen a lot of the players play and have some opinions, but at the end of the day, the scouts that do this for a living, there's a reason they do it for a living," he said Sunday.
"My style isn't going to be there and dictate to the scouts, but I'm going to ask a lot of questions. Both Zinger and I are going to have some opinions, but we're getting into the process a little late in the game for this year's draft.
"When we get to the draft, we'll meet with the scouts and talk about our vision for what we want in players. There's not going to be a lot of time to rework the list, but we're certainly going to give them clear direction that if at all possible, these are the types of players that we want, character being very important."