The coaching carousel let one on and another one off Thursday.
The Seattle Thunderbirds introduced Steve Konowalchuk as the 16th head coach in franchise history.
Konowalchuk, 38, spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. (By the way, Colorado filled the vacancy on its coaching staff by promoting Adam Deadmarsh to assistant coach from video and development coach; Konowalchuk and Deadmarsh both played for the Portland Winterhawks.)
Konowalchuk played in 14 NHL seasons, splitting them between the Washington Capitals and Colorado. Washington had selected him in the third round of the 1991 NHL draft.
Meanwhile, the Regina Pats dismissed Curtis Hunt, who had one season left on his contract.
At the same time, Regina didn’t renew the contract of Todd Ripplinger, who had been the director of scouting since 1997-98.
Hunt spent six seasons as the Pats’ head coach, although he spent one season in the Ottawa Senators’ organization in the middle of his Regina stint. However, the Pats missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons with Hunt as their head coach. (Regina now has missed the playoffs each of the last three seasons, the first one under Dale Derkatch, who now is in the Prince Albert Raiders organization.) Hunt was 185-201-46 as the Pats’ head coach, winning an East Division title in 2007-08.
You have to wonder what took the Pats so long to make this decision, considering that they played their final game of the 2010-11 season on March 19.
What this means is that general manager Chad Lang, who took over from Brent Parker (he is the team president) after the 2009-10 season, is putting his stamp on the franchise. He had hired neither Hunt nor Ripplinger, and now will be able to put his own people in place. Remember, too, that the Pats earlier had said they wouldn’t be renewing the contracts of assistant coach Shaun Sutter or goaltending consultant Ryan Cyr.
The Pats, then, will have a whole new look when another season gets here.
I was told Thursday that Ripplinger had been offered a contract but hadn’t signed it or even agreed to it, but had planned to get together with Lang when the latter returned from the WHL’s annual general meeting that was held earlier this week in Calgary.
However, Ripplinger was told Thursday morning that the decision had now been made not to bring him back.
“After 14 years, it’s over,” an emotional Ripplinger told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post. “It’s a hard feeling. I shed some tears. It was tough walking out of that office. It’s hard to put closure on something like that. I’ve met a lot of good people in Regina. They’ve been good to me. I kind of figured this day would come sooner or later but you just can’t prepare for it.”
You have to think Hunt might have a chance to land the job as head coach of the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, assuming that is that he is interested in jumping right back into the water. That job opened when Jim Playfair left for a spot on the bench with the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes. The Heat is affiliated with the NHL’s Calgary Flames and Hunt has ties to Calgary head coach Brent Sutter and associate coach Craig Hartsburg.
Hunt also has experience as an AHL head coach. He was an assistant under Hartsburg with the Ottawa Senators when Hartsburg lost his job. Cory Clouston moved up from the AHL’s Binghamton Senators to replace Hartsburg, while Hunt went down to take over from Clouston.
And now Hartsburg is the only one of that trio with a coaching job.
Ahh, the coaching game!
If you’re counting, the Pats join the Everett Silvertips and Moose Jaw Warriors as WHL teams without head coaches.
THE COACHING GAME: The Central league’s Quad City Mallards have hired David Bell as general manager and head coach. Bell, 34, was an assistant coach with the OHL’s Barrie Colts for the last two seasons. . . . The Mallards also announced the formation of the Quad City Mallards Community Advisory Board. That board, according to a news release, “will provide guidance, advice and support in an effort to maximize the visibility and success of the Mallards in the community.” The first person named to the board is Kerry Toporowski (Spokane, 1989-91), who is one of two players in Quad City to have his number retired. He played 236 games over six seasons with the Mallards. . . . Former NHL D Darryl Sydor (Kamloops, 1988-92) may be in line for an NHL coaching job after one season as an assistant with the AHL’s Houston Aeros. Mike Yeo, the Aeros’ head coach, is to be named head coach of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and could easily take Sydor with him. Sydor also is one of five owners of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. . . . Curtis Brown (Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, 1992-96) has ended his playing career after three years in Europe. He has joined the NHL’s San Jose Sharks organization and will work in an area called Sharks Ice as a development coach. He played three seasons for the Sharks during his NHL career. . . . Réal Paiement is the new program manager and head coach of the U of Ottawa Gee-Gees. He has coached five different QMJHL teams and had two years left on his contract as head coach of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Don Campbell of the Ottawa Citizen reported that Paiement, 51, exercised an out clause in his contract. The U of Ottawa dropped head coach Dave Leger in March. . . .
Like the Seattle Thunderbirds, the Prince George Cougars have opened an account at Sporcle, which is turning into a popular spot on the Internet. It’s a site specializing in trivia and quizzes. Check it out right here.
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