The Winnipeg Jets have slowly begun putting the pieces in place for what appears to be a strong 2020-21 COVID-19 shortened season. With the latest reports out of the NHLPA meetings indicating that the league will see an approximate 60-game season with divisional realignments, teams are starting to shape their rosters accordingly.
The Jets are no stranger to revamped lineups, and much can be said of the moves made already thus far in free agency for the team looking to challenge presumed No. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs in the all-Canadian division this winter. Having already added a key ingredient in second-line centre Paul Stastny (who will fill in nicely between Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers in place of injured Bryan Little), the team re-signed goaltender Laurent Brossoit and defencemen Dylan DeMelo, Nate Beaulieu and Luca Sbisa, while later putting the pen to paper on contracts with youngsters Sami Niku and Jansen Harkins. Oh and wait, Winnipeg also signed its 2020 first round draft pick Cole Perfetti to a three-year, entry-level deal.
On Monday, the club announced yet another key signing for the coming season, that of assistant coach Dave Lowry. And yes, that Dave Lowry – father to Jets third-line centre, net-presence, agitator and penalty-killer Adam Lowry.
“This is a great opportunity,” Lowry told reporters Monday. “I look at the staff that’s in place as an opportunity to come in and work with Paul Maurice. I look at his resume, his pedigree along with Jamie Kompon, Charlie Huddy and Wade Flaherty, this is a great opportunity. When you get an opportunity to come in and be a part of a staff where you can continue to learn, that’s something that is really exciting and that drew me closer to this opportunity.”
The 55-year-old Sudbury, Ontario product actually suited up for 1,084 NHL contests in a lengthy career that spanned 19 seasons and saw the former Calgary Flames captain (2000-02) dress for the Vancouver Canucks, the St. Louis Blues, the Florida Panthers, the San Jose Sharks and the Flames. His coaching career has also been in the works for the better part of 15 years.
“I think the big thing is how you connect with the players, and how you have to evolve with the times,” Lowry reflected. “I know when I first started playing hockey, you could talk to players differently than you can (now). And the conditioning skates in practice sometimes didn’t really have a purpose, it was more of a punishment. The biggest thing is the evolution of the player, but the coaches have also evolved as well, how you communicate, how you get your message across, your point across. And understand there’s a right way to do it.”
According to the veteran bench boss, Jets current head coach Paul Maurice had actually approached him on joining his staff four years prior, but in thinking of the best path for his son’s development, the well-travelled hockey mind stayed put, until this situation presented itself.
“This actually came right out of the blue,” Lowry shared. “I got a phone call from Paul wondering if I would have interest in coming in and talking to him and seeing if this would be a fit. Paul and I had talked I think it was four years ago when the NHL Draft was in Buffalo and he had approached me and asked if I would have any interest. We mutually agreed at that point in time that this wasn’t the right fit. I felt and Paul felt that Adam wasn’t an established player in the NHL and he was still finding his way. We left it at that. Four years later, he’s a solid NHL player, he’s established himself in the NHL and that’s what allowed this opportunity to come to fruition.”
“It was something that we had to have Adam’s blessing on,” Lowry said. “And I totally understood that if he wasn’t comfortable with me coming in and being part of the staff, this is something I wouldn’t have continued to pursue. With Adam’s blessing, I realize and recognize he’s an established player in the NHL and it should be an easy transition.”
With former assistant coach Todd Woodcroft leaving Winnipeg for an opportunity to serve as head coach of the University of Vermont this past spring, the door opened for Lowry, who had just finished off a strong 35-22-6 campaign as the man in charge of the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings. Accepting that job in time for the 2019-20 season, Manitoba’s oldest WHL team will now begin its collective search for a new head coach for the coming 2020-21 WHL season.
“I know there’s unfinished business in Brandon,” Lowry said. “I really like the way the team has grown; I really enjoyed watching the growth after Christmas and how this team came together and really understood what it took to be a competitive group. I really like the lessons that we learned. I know this team is in a better place today and I know moving forward this team has an opportunity to win. I’ll sit back and I’ll enjoy watching the success.”
Prior to joining the Jets, Lowry had spent time as a coach with the NHL’s Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings, while also serving for 10 seasons within the WHL in various roles with the Calgary Hitmen, Victoria Royals and most recently the Wheat Kings. But only once before has he coached his son, and it was a long time ago.
“I actually coached Adam in his peewee year, so 2004-05, the year of the NHL lockout, my final season,” Lowry reminisced. “I didn’t come back and play when play resumed. I coached his Peewee team with a couple other guys here in Calgary… But the coaching that he has received up to this point has been second to none and I’m excited to be on a bench and watch him continue to grow as a player. I look at this that we’re both professionals. I’m a coach, he’s a player and that’s the way this works. I know that early on there might some different looks he might give me and whatever but this is something we’ve talked about and are both comfortable doing going forward. It’s something we’re gonna enjoy.”
Maurice, who signed a fresh three-year contract extension with Winnipeg beginning in time for the 2020-21 season, had nothing but praise for his incoming staff member.
“Dave brings a tremendous amount of experience to our coaching staff in a variety of different areas,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice on Monday. “First of all, his success working with young players in their development can’t be denied as he had an excellent season last year in Brandon and has coached the country’s top junior players. He has worked in all aspects of special teams during his time as an NHL assistant coach, and in fact was part of a Los Angeles Kings team that saw a dramatic improvement of 25 goals at 5-on-5 in his first year there. We’re very excited to bring Dave on-board and join our staff.”
Lowry, who appears equally excited for the new position, knows his role with the Jets will be ever-shaping, and his relationship with his son – as well as that of his fellow coaches – will also continue to blossom.
“I look at the job Paul has done,” Lowry said. “I’m here to complement and to help any way I can. And whatever I’m asked to do, I look forward to the challenge. It’s funny, through a conversation that Paul and I were having, that’s one of the things he did mention. Out of a lot of candidates, this would be a team that I knew a lot about and was extremely familiar with. One thing that I like to do, when I do watch and when I did watch Winnipeg play, I like to sit back and enjoy the game. But as a coach, you’re always watching what the tendencies are, what the systems are and you just try to pick up as much information as you can. Hopefully, you can find something along the lines that you can implement into your game.”