|Cory Clouston is out as Wheat Kings' Head Coach|
The Cory Clouston coaching era with the Brandon Wheat Kings came and went in a span of 287 days.
After being hired last August 3rd and signing a two-year contract with the club, the Wheat Kings announced Tuesday that Clouston would not be back behind the bench for the 2012-2013 season.
“I have given a great deal of thought to our coaching situation for the upcoming season," said Brandon general manager Kelly McCrimmon in a release, "I do not want uncertainty with this important position and as a result have decided we will not have Cory return next season. He will perhaps have opportunities to coach professionally, failing that; we will honor the second year of his contract.”
The club is framing the move as a preventive one, not wanting to be caught without a head coach if Clouston were to leave for the professional job at some point in the next few months.
However, it had become apparent to even the most casual of the Wheat King fan that Clouston wasn’t the proper fit for a club that, moving forward, will be employing a number of rookie players in 2012-2013.
One could also argue that he wasn’t as good a fit for the club during the 2011-2012 season as initially thought.
The hard-driving coaching style employed by Clouston was looked upon with disdain by the players, and his treatment of the players, especially the younger players, became such an issue that sources told me that team captain Mark Stone met with GM Kelly McCrimmon midway through the season to discuss the matter.
In addition to those interactions with the players, there was also obvious dysfunction within the coaching staff.
On the ice, there was a real lack of offensive imagination to the Wheat Kings’ game in 2011-2012, and the club used mainly a passive style of play rather the aggressive style fans had grown accustomed to.
Skill development was put the back burner for a more defensive style while, in my mind, there were also some questions about how some players were used.
For example, Ryan Pulock and Eric Roy were overplayed on the blue line throughout the season, which may have led to their lack of production late in the season and in the playoffs (a combined 70 points prior to January 1st, 43 points after plus a combined eight points in eight playoff games).
Another would be how Ayrton Nikkel and Dylan Kuczek were handled in the first half of the season – not only playing forward when they were in the lineup, but also PRACTICING as forwards instead of as defencemen on a daily basis.
An observation during the post-season for me came in the post-season, when I had a chance to watch the Wheat Kings’ opponents (Calgary and Edmonton) practice, something not often afforded during the regular season.
Those teams ran high-tempo practices with coaching staffs that worked in sync with one another – two things lacking during Brandon’s practices.
Bottom line, Cory Clouston might be good with the X’s and O’s of the game, but his motivational techniques and personality might be in conflict with what’s effective in this day and age of hockey.
Does not being warm and fuzzy make Cory Clouston a poor hockey coach? Not in the least.
But, it does make him a difficult person to be around on a daily basis.
For the most part, I could pick and choose how much time I wanted to spend around him.
His players don’t have that much freedom.
Moving forward, Wheat Kings’ general manager Kelly McCrimmon said that no decision has been made on Clouston’s replacement.
“There are a lot of those things that I’ll give consideration. I’m telling you honestly, there has been no decision made with respect to the coaching for the 2012-2013 season,” McCrimmon told CKLQ’s Tyler Crayston, “I say that sincerely and, because of that, there’s not a lot more that I can say about any possibilities that you might throw out.”
I did go through a quick checklist in my head, and here’s some men I’d consider to be potential candidates:
Dean Chynoweth – former Swift Current Broncos’ GM/Coach and Seattle Head Coach. Was recently let go from his assistant coaching position with the NHL’s New York Islanders.
Dave Lowry – former NHL player spent one successful season as head coach of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen in 2008-2009 before spending the past three years as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Was let go by the Flames last month.
Dave Hunchak – associate coach with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers this past season after four years as head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Steve Hamilton – assistant coach with WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings for past two seasons and former head coach of the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints.
Mike Vandenberghe – former Wheat Kings’ player and assistant coach, spent the past 1 ½ years as an assistant with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Prior to that, was head coach for the University of Regina Cougars and the SJHL’s Notre Dame Hounds.
Dave Struch – Saskatoon Blades’ assistant coach for the past six years, although whether he would leave the Blades as they prepare to host the Memorial Cup would be a question.
Darren Kruger – Medicine Hat Tigers’ assistant coach for the past five years.
Dean Brockman – longtime coach of the SJHL’s Humbolt Broncos, leading the team to four league title in the last six years.
Chad Mercier – former WHL assistant with Regina and Saskatoon, has spent the past six years as GM/Coach of the AJHL’s Bonnyville Pontiacs.
I would have to also throw both current Wheat Kings’ assistant coaches – Dwayne Gylywoychuk and Darren Ritchie – into the mix.