Sunrise, Fla.-- If Craig Ramsay has any resentment toward the Winnipeg Jets, he’s not showing it.
Ramsay coached the Atlanta Thrashers last season but when the team moved to Winnipeg in May, he wasn’t invited to come along. Instead, the Jets’ new owners cleaned house, hiring Claude Noel and replacing Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley with Kevin Cheveldayoff.
Ramsay is now an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers, who the Jets play tonight at the BankAtlantic Center.
“I’m starting to get recycled I’ve been with so many teams now,” he joked this morning after the Panthers practised. “There are so many teams now that I have a tie to in some way.”
Indeed, Ramsay has been in the NHL as player, coach and general manager since 1971. He started his career in Buffalo where he spent 22 years in one role or another with the Sabres before heading off for stints with half a dozen other teams including Florida from 1993 to 1995.
But he acknowledged that the situation in Atlanta, with the team being sold and then getting left behind, was “different”.
“I haven’t buried that many teams before,” he said with a smile. “I’ve moved around to teams. This was the first time I had the team move. So whatever happens after the team decides to sell and move, it’s beyond my control.”
Ramsay spent just one season as the Thrashers head coach but he and Dudley recruited many of the players who make up the core of the Jets.
“I love the players and I think that Rick Dudley and I go back so long, I thought we were going to make a good pair and it didn’t work out. Again, it happens.”
The Panther’s new coach Kevin Dineen hired Ramsay this summer, mainly for his wealth of experience. “He’s just a great resource for me to bounce things off of,” Dineen said Monday morning. “We come in to work every day and I start a lot of questions with ‘What do you think?’ When you have the depth of experience with someone like [Ramsay]it makes my job a lot easier.”
Ramsay said he is happy to be in Florida. His son and daughter in law, who live nearby, are expecting a baby in December, giving him another grandchild. “I like it here,” he said.
He hasn’t seen the Jets play that often, but he spent time this morning studying video of them.
Did he get nostalgic watching his former players?
“When I look at video I’m looking at things that we can do as a group, nothing else.”
Jets captain Andrew Ladd said it will be strange seeing his former coach on the opposite bench.
“I thought he was great for a lot of guys in here in the sense of teaching and what he did,” Ladd said after the Jets practised. “It will be a little weird to see him over there but I got a chance to talk to him this morning and he’s happy and that’s good.”
Ladd added that he wasn’t too surprised that the new owners opted for a new coach. “A lot of things were happening this summer that you didn’t really know what was going on. New management, new ownership, they wanted to do this thing their way. I don’t know if it was totally unexpected.”
One of the big challenges for Ramsay and Dineen has been putting together a team with so many new faces. The Panthers did a complete overhaul this summer, bringing in more than a dozen new players including defencemen Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski, goalie Jose Theodore, and forwards Thomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg.
Dineen said the team is beginning to show some chemistry, particularly after a come back 3-2 win in Buffalo on Saturday.
“If the outcome was different, I think I would have been just as pleased,” he said referring to how the players played in that game.
“We’re only a couple of games over .500,” he added. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do. It’s a first snap shot of the season.”