June 15th, 2024

New Jets head coach Arniel says he’s learned lessons since being fired by Columbus

By Jim Bender, The Canadian Press on May 27, 2024.

WINNIPEG – Scott Arniel believes overcoming the lowest point in his career will help him reach higher aspirations with the Winnipeg Jets.

Arniel was named the new head coach of the Jets on Friday, 12 years after his only other time in the role ended with hem being fired by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“One of the darkest times for me in coaching – probably in hockey – was when I got fired in Columbus,” Arniel said at a media availability at Canada Life Centre on Monday. “I had never been through it. It took a long time to get over it.

“Whether it was anger or it was doubt. Whatever it was, it took a while. You can ask my wife, you can ask my kids, even some of my friends – I was a grumpy person.”

Arniel, 61, did not know if this day would ever come again.

“I’ve been sitting here for 12 years wondering, always wondering, “˜Am I ever going to get a second chance?'” he said. “And I’ll tell you what, there’s some great coaches in our league right now that got a second chance and a third chance, who are having great success, and I like to think I’ve learned a lot over these past few years that are going to help me move forward.

“There’s only 32 of these jobs in the league and I feel fortunate to be a part of the NHL, part of representing Winnipeg and the Jets.”

Arniel, who had been the associate coach in Winnipeg over the last two seasons, takes over the reins after Rick Bowness retired.

He has come full circle since being drafted in the second round by the Jets in 1981, playing for the team for five years, then being traded away, then returning.

He eventually played for the International Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose before becoming the team’s head coach in the American Hockey League.

Arniel met his wife in Winnipeg and they raised their two kids in the city.

Bowness and Arniel had led the Jets to a franchise-tying record 52 wins while earning the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed last season. But, after going 52-24-6, the Jets bowed out in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the second straight year.

“It’s a hard league and you can’t rest on what you’ve done in the past,” said Arniel, who wants the team to be five to 10 per cent better. “There are lots of teams that have success, then take a step back. That’s going to be a big message to our group.

“We did a lot of good things because we worked at it. Guys bought in to how we needed to play. We feel like we have a pretty good handle on what it takes to be good in this league and one of those areas is defending “¦ We’ve got a little bit of a recipe for success, and we have to build on that.”

Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff believed that Arniel had a good enough handle on the team to hire him after interviewing only two other candidates.

“He’s sitting here today because he’s earned this opportunity,” said Cheveldayoff, who liked the way Arniel communicated with the players and handled the team under duress. “The reality is, you’re going to build upon something that the foundation has been laid.”

Arniel, who posted a 45-60-18 record over a year and a half with the Blue Jackets, admitted that he was pretty green when he was hired by Columbus, but has since learned from his mistakes. He recorded a 15-7-3 record over three stints when he was pressed into duty – twice when Bowness was ill and once while his wife Judy recovered form a seizure.

“It helped me to build confidence in myself and what I can do as a coach,” Arniel said. “In my coaching career, this is the greatest personal chapter to become the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets.”

The Jets have parted ways with assistant coach Brad Lauer, but will keep assistant coach Marty Johnston and goalie coach Wade Flaherty. Arniel started to interview assistant coach candidates on Monday. He needs someone to take over special teams and the defence.

Arniel also plans to hold a summer summit to improve the team’s use of analytics.

Arniel gave a shout-out to his mother, who is almost 90. She was watching the press conference from Kingston, Ont.

This report was first published by The Canadian Press on May 27, 2024.

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