The True North Sports & Entertainment cone of silence has struck yet again. Earlier today, the Winnipeg Jets announced that they have elected not to renew the contract of Manitoba Moose head coach Keith McCambridge. In addition, the organization appears to have gone about the same inaction with Moose Video Coach Will Craig.
Following two years as an assistant with Manitoba, McCambridge has been head coach of Winnipeg's AHL affiliate for the last five seasons. As per HockeyDB, his record was:
After reaching the Calder Cup Finals in 2013-14, the Moose have missed the postseason for two straight seasons, with 2015-16 being a particularly ugly affair. Exactly how much blame should lie at the feet of McCambridge is a matter for debate.
For McCambridge's critics, it should be noted he was given nine rookies, Hellebuyck (for a half-season) & frankly very little else. #AHL— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) April 22, 2016
Also worth nothing that no help arrived for McCambridge when it was clear very early that the roster was very overmatched. #AHL— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) April 22, 2016
The 2015-16 Manitoba Moose were a team where offence went to die. With 41 points in 68 games, Brenden Kichton was Manitoba's leading scorer, followed by first year pro Chase De Leo's 40 in 73. Veterans of varying degrees underperformed, with captain John Albert taking a step back and both the Matt Fraser and Thomas Raffl experiments fizzling out. While Nic Petan proved an offensive shot in the arm upon reassignment, Manitoba still ended the season with the AHL's second lowest Goals For total.
On the back-end, Manitoba's d-corps was forced to rely upon rookies such as Josh Morrissey, Jan Kostalek and to a lesser extent Peter Stoykewych. Regardless of how they fared individually, the lack of insulation made for a tough slog night after night. Under these trying circumstances, Connor Hellebuyck and Eric Comrie provided remarkable goaltending, though the constant barrage seemed to eventually wear on Comrie's numbers in particular.
Kichton also admitted that the mood in the Moose dressing room was not good during some of the bleaker stretches. #AHL— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) April 18, 2016
While there are always questions of deployment and strategy, the issues plaguing Manitoba went far beyond coaching and into the realm of organizational depth (or lack thereof). With this in mind, it's perhaps unsurprising that initial reviews have been mixed at best:
Player gets called up during the season: "We're really happy with the way our young players are developing."— $40 LOL (@wazoowazny) April 22, 2016
Today: McCambridge out.
Surprised at #NHLJets firing of Moose coach K McCambridge. Helped several prospects get to NHL, kept a young team from disintegrating.— Paul Friesen (@friesensunmedia) April 22, 2016
There may be more to #NHLJets firing Moose HC Keith McCambridge - there often is - but this much is certain: The optics stink.— randy turner (@randyturner15) April 22, 2016
In an interview posted last Friday, Jets co-owner and TNSE's executive chairman of the board Mark Chipman gave no inkling of the change which was to come. Rather, he sounded upbeat when asked about the Manitoba Moose by Winnipeg Free Press writer Tim Campbell:
It’s gone very well. It’s challenged by loading that team with a whole bunch of young players and early on, they struggled. But I attended a lot of those games and was able to see some players really advance. Towards the end of the season the team was playing well.
Chipman's assessment wasn't off the mark. As NHL.com correspondent Patrick Williams pointed out, McCambridge helped guide Manitoba to a more respectable record by season's end, despite numerous recalls by the big club. It's tough to marry this truth, one Chipman seems to have been well aware of, with today's development.
In reality, it's entirely possible (perhaps even likely) that replacing Keith McCambridge as Moose head coach will not result in any sort of step-back for the AHL club. Another influx of young talent will take place this offseason, 2015-16's rookies will become second year pros, and frankly it'd be hard to perform much worse.
But if there was a message sent today, it stands in contrast to the limited tools McCambridge was provided, a general happiness with how prospects progressed and the aforementioned late-season turnaround. Perhaps @Puck_Headd is onto something:
People-how long do you expect McCambridge to be a minor league coach? This is probably as much about him as it is the Jets.Time to move on.— PuckHead2.0 (@Puck_Headd) April 22, 2016
On that note, what are your thoughts on the McCambridge news? If it was their call, did the Winnipeg Jets make the right decision in not renewing his contract? Does this fly in the face of the organization's usually obvious sense of loyalty? What kind of standard does it set, if any?
Be sure to share your ideas, questions and concerns in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!