It's fitting fans salute Teemu Selanne tonight and view this game as a celebration, but it's a bit of a disappointment without Randy Carlyle standing behind the Anaheim Ducks bench.
Selanne was a big part of the old Winnipeg Jets and fully deserves the welcome he'll receive. But Carlyle is an integral figure in the return of the NHL to Winnipeg.
If not for the Manitoba Moose and their presence in Winnipeg for 15 years there would be no ownership group consisting of Mark Chipman and David Thomson, no MTS Centre and very likely no return of the Jets.
Carlyle, who served as an assistant coach, head coach, GM and president with the Moose, was fired by the Ducks on Nov. 30 and won't be here when his old team meets his other old team.
"It was going to be a special evening. That's not going to happen. The people will be excited to see Teemu Selanne in the place where he started his career," said Carlyle, when reached at his home in California. "I'm proud and happy with what's happened in Winnipeg. It's a credit to the people that worked extremely hard in building that franchise. It started a long time ago with a lot of work that was going on behind the scenes. Mark Chipman and his group did a heckuva job in securing the franchise and they did it the right way."
Chipman said he'll miss not having Carlyle in the building.
"I'm disappointed that Randy's no longer coaching that team. Having him back in the building would be fun and to a certain degree bring things to a complete circle," said Chipman on Friday. "He was a very vital part of our organization and our success and our ability to advance and ultimately find our way to the NHL."
As much as Chipman and True North have admiration for Carlyle — "his fingerprints are all over our organization" — there will be no immediate return to Winnipeg for the former Norris Trophy winner.
Chipman and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff are thrilled with the work coach Claude Noel has done.
"I have no doubt Randy will coach again in the NHL," said Chipman. "I don't know where, but that will probably be up to Randy more than anything else. He's proven to be an elite NHL coach."
Carlyle's record with the Ducks was 273-182-61 and included a Stanley Cup victory.
"I think what's best is to step back for a bit and take a look at which direction I'd like to go from here," said Carlyle. "But I consider myself an NHL coach and I'd like to coach again."
Carlyle was fired by his boss and friend Bob Murray and while the sting has receded, it's still there.
"I've come to the conclusion this is like a divorce. They've moved on without this coaching staff and now it's up to the staff to put themselves back together and find new jobs," said Carlyle. "It's not easy. It's very emotional. It's frustrating. The days following are difficult.
"I don't think my message is old. I think it's consistent. Some people have the ability to turn messages off and others have the ability to accept the message and face reality. Our message changed. In the end. The reason we were fired was because we didn't win enough hockey games."
The ending may not have been to his liking but Carlyle does view his Anaheim experience as a great one.
"This was my first opportunity to coach in the NHL. I worked for some great people and we worked extremely hard and we won a Stanley Cup," he said.
"We've had a great lifestyle and my family has lived here in California for six-plus years. The way I feel and the way our coaching staff feels, is we worked hard to get this hockey club playing in the right direction."
While he won't be in the house, he won't miss the action tonight.
"I'll watch the game. For sure," said Carlyle.
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