Friday, February 3, 2012

Doug Soetaert was fired Thursday as the Everett Silvertips' general manager.
(Photo from the Silvertips' website)
The Everett Silvertips played their first WHL season in 2003-04.
They finished atop the U.S. Division, going 35-27-8-2 (the 8 being ties) and, incredibly enough, getting all the way to the WHL’s championship final where they lost to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
The Silvertips were in their first season in the WHL; the Tigers were in their 34th. In the previous 10 seasons, the Tigers had, in order, been bounced in the first round four times, missed the playoffs five times and lost in the second round once.
I bring this up because the Silvertips fired general manager Doug Soetaert on Thursday.
Soetaert, 55, was named the Silvertips’ vice-president and GM on April 16, 2002, a position he filled until May 16, 2005, when he left to work as the GM of an AHL franchise in Omaha that was hooked up with the NHL’s Calgary Flames. He stayed there one season, then returned to Everett.
Soetaert, a former WHL goaltender, built a franchise that won three U.S. Division titles and a Western Conference championship in its formative years. The Silvertips also finished atop the WHL’s overall standings in 2006-07, when they went 54-15-3.
Two seasons ago, Everett went 46-21-5 and finished in a tie with the Tri-City Americans for top spot in the U.S. Division and the Western Conference. The Americans, however, won one more game (47-46) than did Everett, so was awarded the pennant.
The last two seasons, however, haven’t been as kind to Everett. It was 28-33-11 last season, after which head coach Craig Hartsburg left to join the Flames’ coaching staff. You may recall, too, that the season was disrupted somewhat when Hartsburg left the team to undergo a heart procedure.
This season, under head coach Mark Ferner, the Silvertips are 12-30-9 and may well miss the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history.
Prior to this season, Soetaert admitted that he was beginning a full-scale rebuild. This wasn’t a reload. This would be a complete rebuild.
Soetaert now won’t be around to see his plan to fruition.
“Doug's contract was expiring this year, and we've been spending months evaluating our direction," Silvertips president Gary Gelinas told Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald. "We made the decision not to renew his contract. We decided to make the decision sooner rather than later so we could find the right individual to bring in and lead the organization.”
Gelinas also told Patterson that no other changes are expected for the time being.
The Silvertips are owned by Bill Yuill, who sold the Seattle Thunderbirds in order to purchase the expansion franchise for Everett. Gelinas is the franchise’s president and governor.
Firing Soetaert at this particular point in time is a risky proposition and, on the face of it, doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.
Soetaert has more than proven himself in this league and, one might have thought, had earned a chance to right the ship.
You also have to wonder how secure Ferner is feeling this morning. He left a situation with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers in which he could have stayed indefinitely. Under Ferner, the Vipers had made three straight trips to the RBC Cup, the national junior A championship tournament, winning two of them.
With Soetaert gone, assistant GM Zoran Rajcic and Ferner will handle those duties.
Now, with a new GM to come in sometime in the next few months, you have to wonder just how safe the coaching staff will be once this season ends.
As one WHL team official told me last night: “It’s a (crappy) game sometimes.”
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Why only allow players to have until Dec. 31 of the completion of their 21-year-old season to play professional and then force them to make a decision about pro vs. school? Why not give them a full season or two . . . or five? Also, how much is currently in the WHL education fund and how much gets used?
JUST NOTES: D Corbin Baldwin of the Spokane Chiefs has drawn a two-game suspension after taking a major and game misconduct for a check to the head in a 4-1 loss to the Blazers in Kamloops on Wednesday night. With the score tied 1-1 in the third period, Baldwin laid out Kamloops F Dylan Willick with an elbow to the head. . . . I would love to show that video to OHL commissioner David Branch and ask him what a check like that would be worth in the OHL. . . . Baldwin won’t play against the visiting Victoria Royals tonight or against the host Kootenay Ice on Saturday. . . .
Rose Mary Hartney and Greg (Spike) Wallace are the recipients of the WHL Distinguished Service Award for this season. Hartney, who has worked at Vanier Collegiate in Moose Jaw for 38 years, has been a long-time education advisor to the Warriors. Wallace has been around the WHL for a long while, first in Victoria and now Kamloops. He joined the Blazers as their trainer/equipment manager in 1984 and now is their community and sponsorship co-ordinator. . . .
The Vancouver Giants will wear special sweaters tonight for a game against the visiting Kamloops Blazers. Zip on over to the Giants’ website for a look at the sweaters that will honour Gordie Howe.
Patrick Roy, the GM and head coach of the Quebec Remparts, has been fined again. This time he’ll pay $5,000 for comments he made concerning Gilles Courteau, the league’s commissioner. That story is right here.
Writers from The Associated Press have spent the last two months interviewing ex-NFL players about concussions.
Here is how the story, written by Howard Fendrich, Martha Irvine, and Nancy Armour begins:
The helmet-to-helmet shot knocked Tony Dorsett out cold in the second quarter of a 1984 Cowboys-Eagles game, the hardest hit he ever took during his Hall of Fame NFL career.
“It was like a freight train hitting a Volkswagen,” Dorsett says now.
“Did they know it was a concussion?” he asks rhetorically during an interview with The Associated Press. “They thought I was half-dead.”
This is a lengthy and frightening story. It is right here.
The Globe and Mail has decried fighting in junior hockey. In a crisp, four-paragraph editorial headlined ‘The game’s dark side,’ the newspaper notes that “there is no earthly reason to put teenagers’ brains through a meat grinder to keep purists happy.”
Brent Peterson, a former player and coach with the Portland Winterhawks, will be inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame tonight prior to a game against the visiting Everett Silvertips. Jim Beseda of the Oregonian checked in with Peterson, who has been battling Parkinson’s disease. And the picture with the story tells it all — a smile on his face and a golf club in his left hand. That story is right here.


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