Mark Scheifele is ready for change with the Winnipeg Jets this season.
The forward, entering his 12th NHL season, will play for a new coach in Rick Bowness, who was hired July 3. He replaced Dave Lowry, who was fired after the Jets (39-32-11) and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2016-17.
Paul Maurice had been Jets coach since Scheifele’s rookie season, when he replaced Claude Noel on Jan. 12, 2014. Maurice resigned Dec. 17 and Lowry, an assistant, coached the final 54 games.
“I’ve been with pretty much the same coaching staff for my entire career,” Scheifele told the Jets website Tuesday. “It does seem like a little bit of a fresh start. We have new coaches. There’s obviously going to be some new ideas and obviously the same players, but I’ve loved our group of guys. We have a lot of fantastic guys on our team that I think from talking to them, they’re just as excited as I am about this upcoming season and what it’s going to hold and how things are going to change.”
The Jets were 30-23-3 in 2020-21. They swept the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup First Round before a four-game loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the best-of-7 second round.
“With the squad that we had last year, everyone was touting us as the next Stanley Cup champions,” Scheifele said at the Manitoba Open golf tournament in comments tweeted by the Winnipeg Sun. “I think we have a great team. We have a great group of guys.”
Scheifele questioned his future in Winnipeg after the Jets finished eight points behind the Nashville Predators for the second wild card from the Western Conference last season. The center has two seasons remaining on an eight-year, $49 million contract ($6.125 million average annual value) he agreed to July 8, 2016.
“When I was saying my comments, it was kind of strange how so many people took it in such a different way,” Scheifele said. “I started off the question that I was asked by saying, I love it here. I’ve been here for 10 years. It’s been an amazing community. It’s been amazing to me, and I want to be a Winnipeg Jet. And then everyone seemed to just start recording after I said that, so it’s kind of one of those things that I was confident that was going to be around.
“I knew there was going to be some hard questions to be asked on my part to management in terms of the direction of the team and I know a lot of the guys were kind of all in the same boat. The last couple years haven’ And then all of a sudden it’s, I’m getting traded and who knows where I’m going and all that stuff. “
The Jets’ most significant moves during the offseason were signing restricted free agent forward Pierre-Luc Dubois to a one-year, $6 million contract July 22 and hiring Bowness, who began his coaching career as a Jets assistant in 1984-85 before coaching Winnipeg for 28 games in 1988-89. The 67-year-old is 212-351-28 with 48 ties in 639 regular-season games in 12 seasons as coach of the Jets, Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars.
Bowness’ arrival has Scheifele excited about the possibilities for the season.
“A fantastic human being is what I’ve heard over and over,” he said. “He did wonders when he came in in Dallas. I’m really excited to get the year going, get training camp going and start to talk hockey theory and X’s and O’s and a little more of that. He seems like a great communicator, which I’m really excited about.”
Bowness told NHL.com on July 4 he thought the culture was an issue for the jets last season.
“Everyone kind of wanted to see a little bit of change,” Scheifele said. “We needed to see some new things. We want an idea of where the team is going and what our team is going to look like. It will get more and more interesting as it gets closer to training camp.”