The Manitoba Moose will have a very familiar face behind the bench next season after Pascal Vincent recently stepped down as head coach.
Former Moose assistant Mark Morrison was named the ninth head coach in franchise history on Monday.
The 58-year-old returns to the organization after holding an assistant coaching position with the Moose and St. John’s IceCaps for six seasons from 2011 through 2017.
It’s a job he had been coveting for quite some time.
“I can’t say what I said when I got offered the job, so I was really excited,” said Morrison. “To be honest, I’ve wanted this job probably for about 10 years of my career.
“It means a lot to me to be able to come back and work with surprisingly, or not surprisingly, pretty much the same staff as when I left. So, it shows the continuity of the organization, and pretty happy to come back.”
Morrison originally left the team to become an assistant coach with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. He held the job for the past four seasons until he was recently let go. But he does have some prior head coaching experience after running the ECHL’s Victoria Salmon Kings for five seasons.
His relationship with Moose general manager Craig Heisinger dates back to when the Salmon Kings were an affiliate of the AHL club, and the Moose staff looks much the same now as when he first left four years ago.
“I started looking at all the staff and there’s very few changes to that staff for years back,” said Morrison. “That’s very comforting to know that people are well looked after, and there’s a sense of loyalty within the organization.”
Morrison said his biggest coaching influences over the years have been Vincent, Randy Carlyle, and Paul Maurice.
Now he’ll be responsible for developing the Jets top prospects, while also trying to win at the same time.
“I don’t care if you make mistakes, as long as you’re putting the effort and the compete in,” he said. “It’s a fine line, as you know. You have to develop and you have to win. I’m going to be relentless on the work ethic, on competing. Everybody, all 23, or how many players we are going to carry, are all going to be competing as hard as they can every night.
“The biggest problem we had with our young guys coming up was they couldn’t execute at the pace that the NHL game is at. So, we’re gonna try to have a lot of pace in practice, and a lot of pace during the game where we execute, so it’s an easier transition into the NHL for them.”
Vincent resigned earlier this month to take the associate coaches job with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets.