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Cameron's project is turning Jackals into champs

Thursday, 06.03.2010 / 1:18 PM / ECHL Report

By Lindsay Kramer - NHL.com Correspondent

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Cameron's project is turning Jackals into champs
The new coach of ECHL Elmira is all too familiar to the organization as the coach who ousted it from the 2010 playoffs.
First, Malcolm Cameron helped beat the Elmira Jackals when it mattered most.

Now, he's joined them.

It's a little different twist on how these things sometimes go, but, as Cameron himself points out, working in pro hockey can be unpredictable.

Cameron was introduced this week as the new coach of the Jackals. When Elmira last got a look at Cameron, he was coaching the Florida Everblades to a first-round playoff series win against the Jackals this spring.

"I think right now you want to take a look at what were the strengths of the team last year, what were the weaknesses, what you can make better. I think up North, you typically see younger kids. Those are fun teams to coach. The younger kids, their goal is to get out of this league. It's fun to watch guys learn and get better."
-- Malcolm Cameron

''There is nothing normal about the hockey business, as we all know,'' Cameron said. ''Sometimes people who were your adversaries become your friends, and people you work with.''

Cameron replaced Steve Martinson, whose contract was not renewed. Martinson was 117-76-11-12 in his three seasons there, and took Elmira to the playoffs in each of those years.

Cameron brings a .645 winning percentage in seven ECHL seasons to Elmira. His specialty has been taking over teams that were struggling and jump-starting them up the standings.

When Cameron joined the Long Beach Ice Dogs in 2004-2005, they were coming off a 23-44-0-5 inaugural season. The next year, Cameron helped push the Dogs to a 43-20-4-5 mark, a 44-point turnaround and the sixth-best improvement from one year to the next in league history.

After going 17-44-0-2 in 2004-05 and suspending operations for the following season, the Texas Wildcatters brought in Cameron as their coach for 2006-07. That season, he led them to a record of 41-22-5-4 record, and the 46-point improvement from 2004-05 is the fifth-largest in league history

Elmira poses a different, and perhaps harder, challenge. The Jackals won the East Division in 2009-10, so the main upgrade on the plate now is going deep into the playoffs.

''I think right now you want to take a look at what were the strengths of the team last year, what were the weaknesses, what you can make better,'' Cameron said. ''I think up North, you typically see younger kids. Those are fun teams to coach. The younger kids, their goal is to get out of this league. It's fun to watch guys learn and get better.''

Cameron started the summer thinking this was going to be his year to move up. He left the Everblades after two seasons with the intention of putting himself on the market for an AHL job.

That didn't work out as planned -- though his Elmira deal has an AHL out -- but Cameron sees coaching a team in the hockey-connected Northeast as an appealing platform from which to build his chances for career advancement.

''I think the position I'm in right now will put me in a better position to make that happen,'' he said. ''I just love to coach. The past month I've thought about the pride I've taken moving players up to the American League. I've really enjoyed that. Sometimes you have to jump at something when it comes.''

Morrison gets extension --  Mark Morrison's plan was to milk the ECHL experience for all it's worth. He isn't done yet.

Morrison agreed to an extension last week that will keep him as head coach and general manager of Victoria at least through the 2011-12 season. Morrison still had a year left on his previous pact.

Finishing his third full season as the Salmon Kings head coach in 2009-10, Morrison, 47, is already the organization’s all-time leader in wins and games coached with a record of 141-97-11-12. He took over the team in December 2006 and has guided it to the postseason four straight seasons.

''I think as the years go on, the experiences I've learned are really invaluable. You are always getting players plucked out. You don't have anywhere to pluck from,'' he said. ''It's a very strategic league. Coaches who have experience in this league, it's invaluable. I think we're in that spot where we've learned enough in Victoria so that we know what needs to be done. I think we've come a long ways.''

While the business focus of Morrison keeps him locked in on trying to win a championship, there's also room for a rare slice of sentimentality. Morrison is a British Columbia native and was a star for the WHL's Victoria Cougars.

''For the first time (in his career), I gave some thought to moving on,'' he said. ''But the commitment has been there from the beginning. This is my home. It'd be pretty cool to win a championship from that point alone.''

Burlew returns to hockey --  Kalamazoo's new general manager won't need a map to maneuver the terrain out there.

Jim Burlew already has a good working knowledge of the area. It comes from his first swing through town, when he was the K-Wings assistant general manager from 2002 to 2004. During that stretch, he was named the United Hockey League’s Marketing Director of the Year in the 2003-04 season

Prior to his return to the K-Wings, Burlew was the Regional Management Consultant for RE/MAX of Michigan, the company’s corporate headquarters in the state. He worked with and advised the region’s more than 100 franchise owners on all facets of their business, including strategic planning, recruiting, retention, day-to-day operations and overall profitability.

It was an experience that Burlew said enhanced his business planning capabilities and marketing and selling tools, but it didn't quite quench his thirst for the sport.

"It seemed like the right time. I never lost my passion for hockey,'' Burlew said. "I enjoy challenges. The chance to go back there and work with people I know is exciting.''

ECHL well represented in AHL Final --  The ECHL is represented by 32 players and three coaches on the Hershey Bears and Texas Stars, who are meeting in the American Hockey League's Calder Cup Final.

Six of the former 16 ECHL players who have played for Hershey in the playoffs skated in the ECHL in 2009-10: Simon Ferguson, ECHL All-Star Braden Holtby, Johann Kroll, Ashton Rome, Patrick Wellar and Dylan Yeo.

The head coach of the Bears is former ECHL assistant coach Mark French, while the team's assistant coach is former ECHL player and coach Troy Mann.

Ten of the former 16 ECHL players on Texas once played for Idaho: Richard Bachman, Matt Climie, Aaron Gagnon, Ethan Graham, Sergei Korostin, Trevor Ludwig, Warren Peters, Greg Rallo, Matt Stephenson and Francis Wathier.

The head coach of the Stars is former ECHL head coach Glen Gulutzan, who coached the Las Vegas Wranglers from 2003-04 through 2008-09, including a trip to the 2008 Kelly Cup Final. Gulutzan was named ECHL Coach of the Year in 2006.


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