Thursday, July 3, 2014

Laxdal leaves Oil Kings . . . Price is right at U of T

The KHL has announced that Lev Prague (Czech Republic) will go on “administrative leave” for the 2014-2015 season for financial reasons. Two major sponsors, Gazprom and Skoda, have withdrawn their financial sponsorship, reducing Lev Prague’s revenue by 50 per cent. Lev remains a member of the KHL and may rejoin the league in 2015. Ex-WHL players on Lev last season included F Michal Řepík (Vancouver, 2005-08) and F Jakub Klepiš (Portland, 2001-02), who signed with Färjestad Karlstad (Sweden, SHL) last week. . . .
D David Turon (Portland, 2002-03) has signed a one-year contract with Havířov (Czech Republic, 1. Liga). He grew up and played as a youth in Havířov. Last season, with Meran/Merano (Italy, Inter-National-League), he had 22 points, including 12 goals, in 25 games. In 16 games from January on with Fassa (Italy, Serie A), he had nine points, two of the goals, in 16 games. . . .
F Kris Foucault (Swift Current, Kootenay, Calgary, 2006-11) has signed a one-year contract with the Vienna Capitals (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, he had 22 points, 11 of them goals, in 58 games with the Iowa Wild (AHL). . . .
F Kris Beech (Calgary, 1996-2001) has signed a one-year contract with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, with the Straubing Tigers (Germany, DEL), he had 24 points, eight of them goals, in 36 games. In two games in March with the Vienna Capitals (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had a goal and three assists.
There will be yet another coaching change in the WHL with the news on Thursday that Edmonton Oil Kings head coach Derek Laxdal has signed a three-year deal with the Texas Stars, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars.
AHLLaxdal leaves the Memorial Cup-champion Oil Kings for the team that won the Calder Cup as the AHL’s playoff champions. Willie Desjardins, the AHL team’s head coach, now is the head coach of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.
Laxdal, 48, spent four seasons with the Oil Kings, with the team winning at least 50 games in each of the last three. The Oil Kings also appeared in the last three WHL championship finals, winning two of them.
With Laxdal behind the bench, the Oil Kings put together a 182-83-23 regular-season record.
Prior to joining the Oil Kings, Laxdal spent five seasons as head coach of the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads, who were affiliated with Dallas. Under Laxdal, the Steelheads won the Kelly Cup as ECHL champions in 2007.
From Stonewall, Man., Laxdal also played in the WHL (Portland, Brandon, New Westminster, 1982-86) and was a member of the Memorial Cup-champion Winterhawks in 1983.
It will be a shock if the Oil Kings don’t fill the head-coaching vacancy from within by promoting highly touted assistant coach Steve Hamilton, who is presently on vacation. Chances are he’ll be introduced as head coach next week.
Meanwhile, the Moose Jaw Warriors, Portland Winterhawks, Regina Pats and Vancouver Giants continue to search for head coaches, while the Calgary Hitmen, Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Saskatoon Blades and Tri-City Americans have already made changes at that position.
Interestingly, only the Rockets have promoted from within as five-year assistant coach Dan Lambert has taken over from Ryan Huska, who now is the head coach of the Adirondack Flames, the Glens Falls, N.Y.,-based AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames.
Hockey Canada will have to replace Derek Laxdal as head coach of the U-18 team that is to play in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August.
Laxdal was named head coach on June 12, with Jody Hull, the head coach of the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, and Eric Veilleux, the head coach of the QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar, as assistant coaches.
The U-18 team’s selection camp is scheduled for Calgary, Aug. 2-5, with the tournament to run Aug. 11-16 in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia.

1. So what are we to make of all these WHL coaches who have move on up hockey’s ladder? . . . “That tells you how good this league is,” former Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Mike Stothers told Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald. “It’s outstanding. I don’t want to blanket it and say it’s the best in all of junior hockey, but I don’t know how it can’t be. Every team has a great coach and that just bodes well for the league and the future of it.” . . . After three years with the Warriors, Stothers is leaving to become head coach of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.

2. The Swift Current Broncos are expected to introduce Josh Dixon as associate coach this morning. . . . “Although Dixon offered a polite ‘no comment’ when contacted via text message on Thursday,” Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post reported, “multiple WHL sources confirmed that Dixon is set to be named the new associate coach of the Broncos, replacing Darren Evjen, who recently stepped down for family reasons.” . . . Evjen is going back to teaching school, although he will remain involved with the team to some extent. . . . Dixon spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach with the Regina Pats but resigned last month when he and the team’s new owners weren’t able to reach agreement on a new contract.

3. Malcolm Cameron, who was fired as head coach of the Regina Pats last week, has told the Regina Leader-Post’s Greg Harder that he is “very, very interested” in the opening in Moose Jaw. In fact, Cameron already has submitted his resume. . . . Cameron spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Pats, before taking over a year ago after the resignation of Pat Conacher. In Cameron’s lone season as head coach, the Pats finished atop the East Division and then were swept from the playoffs by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the first round.

4. Jim Brosnan was a decent relief pitcher who turned out to be a much better writer. He wrote The Longest Season, one of the best baseball books in anyone’s library. In fact, it’s one of the best books. Period. . . . Brosnan died Saturday at 84. . . . There’s more right here from The New York Times.

5. Ira Berkow of The New York Times writes:
“Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner whose remarkable story of survival as a prisoner of war in World War II gained new attention in 2010 with the publication of a best-selling biography by Laura Hillenbrand, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 97.
“A statement released by his family said he had been suffering from pneumonia.”
If you haven’t read Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, do yourself a favour and give it a read.
Berkow’s obituary of Zamperini is right here.

6. D Nick Walters, 20, of the Lethbridge Hurricanes has signed an amateur tryout (ATO) with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. A fourth-round pick by the St. Louis Blukes in the 2012 NHL draft, Walters wasn’t signed, so was a free agent. He also has played with the Everett Silvertips and Brandon Wheat Kings.

7. Veteran WHL coach Dan Price has signed on as a full-time assistant coach with the CIS U of Toronto Varsity Blues. Price, a former goaltender with the U of Regina Cougars (1995-98), will work alongside Darren Lowe, who is preparing for his 20th season as the Blues’ head coach. . . . Price graduade from law school at the U of Saskatchewan in 2001. . . . Last season, he was an assistant coach with the Tri-City Americans. He also has worked as a scout or assistant/associate coach with the Regina Pats, Calgary Hitmen and Chilliwack Bruins.

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