Sunday, March 27, 2011
Daily News Sports Editor
It was one day in January when the writing on the wall started to become larger and more legible.
That was the day when Scott Ferguson, the Kamloops Blazers’ fulltime assistant coach, went home and talked with his wife, Val, with whom he has three children.
“You know what?” Ferguson told her. “We better start preparing just in case. Because if the team doesn’t make the playoffs . . . potentially there could be changes.”
Well, the Blazers didn’t make the WHL playoffs and Ferguson now is out of work after the Blazers announced Saturday that neither he nor part-time assistant Geoff Smith would be back for a fourth season. Both men are former Blazers defencemen.
“It wasn’t a surprise to me. . . . I could see the writing on the wall,” Ferguson said late Sunday morning. “Now I’m just letting it all sink in.
“It’s just one of those things. You don’t make the playoffs and everybody’s accountable and I’m no different.”
Ferguson, a 38-year-old native of Camrose, Alta., played three seasons with the Blazers (1991-94) and was part of two Memorial Cup winners. During a lengthy professional career, he split 218 NHL games between the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Minnesota Wild. Ferguson played in Germany in 2007-08, and joined the Blazers’ coaching staff the following season.
Ferguson said his three seasons here could best be described by one word.
“It was really disappointing,” he said. “Not just this season, but when I came here I had high hopes. To lose eight straight (playoff games over) the first two years and then not make the playoffs this year, I was really frustrated.
“I think we had a really good team and we just underachieved.”
Asked if that represented failure by the coaching staff under head coach Guy Charron, Ferguson replied: “From my point, I always think I could have done more. We couldn’t get the players to understand or buy in with what we were trying to get them to do.
“Dealing with young players, it’s our responsibility to get them to buy in. We’re telling them, we’re showing them, but obviously something wasn’t working. So it’s a matter of finding a way for them to understand . . . so they can have success.”
When Ferguson and Smith were hired, they worked under head coach Barry Smith. When Smith was fired on Oct. 26, 2009, Ferguson was installed as interim head coach.
At that point, general manager Craig Bonner said the plan was to finish that season with Ferguson and Geoff Smith at the controls. However, majority owner Tom Gaglardi and Bonner travelled to Calgary where they met with Charron, who shortly thereafter was signed as head coach for the remainder of the season. Charron later signed a two-year deal that runs through 2011-12.
The Blazers went 3-6-1 under Ferguson, who feels he and Smith did a good job of getting
“I learned a lot in that month,” Ferguson said. “It was quite a different team. When they let Barry go, there was a lot of uncertainty. It was a matter of getting the guys back believing they were a team. I thought Smitty and I did a pretty good job for the 10 games we had. I would have liked to have gone a little bit further but it wasn’t meant to be.”
One thing Ferguson and Smith did was get defenceman Josh Caron turned around. Caron was ready to walk away from the team, when Ferguson sat down with him and told him, among other things, to relax and have fun with the game.
“It was really nice to see where he went to from that point on,” Ferguson said. “He was a force and he earned his chance with Minnesota.”
Caron went to camp with the Minnesota Wild as a free agent and signed an NHL contract.
This season, Ferguson and Smith got to work with defenceman Brady Gaudet, the 10th pick in the WHL’s 2009 bantam draft.
“Gaudet improved by leaps and bounds. He’s a great talent . . . it was fun working with those young guys,” Ferguson said. “I’m definitely going to miss working with the Blazers. There’s a lot of good people in the organization. I had fun going to the rink every day.
“Obviously, I would have liked to have been able to produce more on the ice. It’s too bad it didn’t work out.”
His stint as an interim head coach gave Ferguson enough of a taste that he would love an opportunity to run his own show at some level. And if that level is the WHL, that would be great.
“I would like to try coaching in this league,” he said. “That’s why I came here, to hopefully get a chance to be a head coach. It didn’t work out. It’s something that definitely interests me but it’s something as a family we’ll have to sit down and discuss.
“With a wife and three young kids, it’s only fair to sit back as a family and try and figure out where we want to go. If that means coaching minor hockey, then so be it. I’d love to help kids that way.
“There’s always an avenue to try and help people out through hockey. Now it’s just a matter of seeing what’s in my heart and what my family wants to do and kind of go on from there.”
Taking Note on Twitter