'I would have done the same thing:' Bowness OK with being Jets' second choice

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Rick Bowness doesn't mind being the second choice.

The new Winnipeg Jets head coach took part in his first press conference Monday, a little more than a week after first target Barry Trotz declined the team's offer because the veteran wanted to spend more time with his family.

"If I'm in his chair, I'm going after Trotzy. I am. It's that simple," Bowness said with a laugh, referring to Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff sitting beside him.

"Trotzy is the perfect guy for this, I get that. With his resume, I would have done the same thing Chevy did. I got a nice text from Trotzy a couple days ago. It didn't work out and that's fine. So do I feel bad about second choice? Absolutely not. I would have done the same thing. He would have been my first choice."

Cheveldayoff said his pivot to Bowness was made quickly.

"Barry made the decision to take care of his family, which is an admirable one," Cheveldayoff said. "When that decision became apparent, I immediately turned my attention over to reaching out to Rick and seeing if there was some synergy there and some opportunity."

Bowness stepped down as head coach of the Dallas Stars after the season. He guided the Stars to an 89-62-25 record in 176 regular-season games over almost three seasons, and an 18-16 mark in the playoffs.

Dallas lost in overtime in Game 7 to Calgary in the first round of this year's playoffs. It reached the 2020 Stanley Cup final in the playoff bubble in Edmonton and lost to Tampa Bay.

Bowness, a 67-year-old native of Moncton, N.B., who signed a two-year contract Sunday, is the Jets' eighth head coach in franchise history and third since the club's relocation to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011.

Bowness said former Jets player Scott Arniel, an assistant with the Washington Capitals this year, has been hired as associate coach.

The Jets were looking for a bench boss with connections to the team and Bowness has that.

The former right wing ended his 173-game NHL playing career with Winnipeg in the 1982 playoffs. He also began his head coaching career with the Jets in 1988-89, when he ran the bench for the team's last 28 games. He has an 211-351-76 record as an NHL head coach over parts of 12 seasons.

He'll have a lot on his plate with the underachieving Jets, who didn't reach the playoffs this year for the seventh time since the club moved to Winnipeg.

Many players also expressed frustration about the season, which included Paul Maurice unexpectedly resigning last December. The club finished with interim head coach Dave Lowry and went 39-32-11.

"There was something missing there," Bowness said of the Jets last season. "I'm not getting into it because I wasn't here. It just got derailed a little bit.

"But if you go back and you look at the roster, how competitive they were for a while, it's there. We just have to work together, all of us, players included, to get it back."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2022.