by Bob CrawfordCourtesy of hartfordwolfpack.com
An interesting theme struck me as I pondered the recent announcement of the Wolf Pack's new coaching staff. Each of these guys has had glorious success in all of his previous endeavors, and has premier credentials for their respective jobs, but in each case they are, in a sense, treading on new ground.Jim Schoenfeld
has done just about all there is to do in pro hockey, and done it all with excellent results. Certainly no coach in the AHL is more qualified than he is, and that could probably be said of most in the NHL as well. Except for 25 games in his first-ever coaching job, though, Jim has never been behind the bench of a development team. His wealth of head-coaching experience has all been at the NHL level. I have no doubt that will be a quick adjustment for him to make, but it will be interesting to talk to Jim 30 or so games in about the difference between guiding players who are trying to make themselves into NHLers and guys who have already grasped that brass ring.Kenny Gernander
, for his part, has spent 14 seasons as a "player's player", the kind of guy who epitomized what it was all about to respect the game. He has also been an individual about whom everyone who was around him on a day to day basis usually thought, "this guy will make a great coach someday". That someday has come, and although Kenny has generally been older than most of his teammates for some time now, the move from occupying a stall in the locker room to a desk in the coaches' office is a threshold that marks a major milepost in an athlete's life. I would imagine that the things that are running through Ken's mind this summer are a little different than in the previous 14 offseasons, and that he may feel somewhat as though he is stepping into the unknown. As someone who has had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with #12 for ten of those 14 campaigns, I can say confidently that his work ethic and dedication to the game will ensure that he contributes just as much in his coaching role as he did in his brilliant playing career.
As of this writing, I have never met Ulf, but from all I hear about him I'm sure he will be a lot of fun to be around also. Like Gernander, he is undertaking his first pro coaching foray, although he has been retired from playing for the last five seasons. As I scan the numbers from his playing career, two things stand out. One, in addition to the two Stanley Cups he won with Pittsburgh, he made a number of other runs deep into the playoffs. And two, he could play it whatever way you wanted to play it, score some points, mix it up, whatever. No doubt he will have a lot to impart to the players in the Wolf Pack locker room, not only technically and skill development-wise, but also in terms of approach to the game.
Since this announcement I've realized that in 17 years of knocking around this league, I've never been associated with a team that had more than one assistant coach. I'll be interested to observe how the division of labor and the roles develop with this new troika.
And speaking of coaches, it's been a good month or so for ex-Whaler greats, as the Atlantic Division added another great hockey man with the hiring of Kevin Dineen
to run the bench in Portland. In addition to the competitiveness that made Dineen one of the most effective players of his era, he has some excellent coaching bloodlines. His father, one-time Whaler head coach Bill Dineen
, won two championships in the WHA and two more in the AHL. The ten battles that are on the schedule between the Schoenfeld-Gernander-Samuelsson Wolf Pack and the Dineen Pirates should be some hum-dingers. Also, Bruce Boudreau
, who parted ways with Manchester after this past season, has landed in Hershey, and Dave Baseggio
has been elevated from assistant coach to head man down the road in Bridgeport. That's another hire I was happy to see, as I've really enjoyed dealing with Dave over the years and, even though he is an ex-Eli, I've found him to be a real class guy. Also in relation to Bridgeport, I have to correct a factual blunder I committed in the last edition of this column. Tom Ellis of Norwalk correctly pointed out that I claimed that Greg Cronin
had left the Sound Tigers to coach the University of Maine, while it actually is Northeastern he's taking over. Cronin had been an assistant coach at U. Maine prior to joining the Islanders organization, that's how I managed to get confused. His assistant at Northeastern will be another U. Maine product, the recently-retired Brendan Walsh
, meaning that whoever broadcasts the Huskies' games could probably do an hourlong pregame show just talking to the coaching staff.More >>