By Les Lazaruk
The Saskatoon Blades are in the market for the 21st head coach in franchise history after Dean Brockman was fired Sunday morning. That was less than 24 hours after the bridge city bunch finished a fifth consecutive season without qualifying for the playoffs, the last two of which Brockman was head coach for.
In the campaign just completed Saturday night, the blue and gold held an eight-point lead on Prince Albert for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a month left to go, only to be eliminated this past Tuesday when they fell seven points back of the Raiders with three games left to play.
“The fact that we were playing meaningless games at the end of the year with an eight-point lead was extremely disappointing to me and our players and our coaches,” said general manager Colin Priestner. “Nobody was happy with what happened. But, the fact that it happened last year (the Blades couldn’t hold a three-point lead over Calgary going into the final week of the season) and it happened again this year just led us to the decision that we needed a new voice.”
The decision was made just a few hours after Saturday’s 5-4 victory over P.A. that finished the blue and gold’s record at 35-33-4, leaving Brockman with a two-season log of 62-68-13.
“I give all the credit in the world to Prince Albert and Brandon for stepping up and galvanizing their teams at that point in time and I didn’t feel our team did,” continued Priestner with regards to the late-season swoon. “I felt we faltered and I think that some of the habits that were created and developed throughout the year showed themselves a little bit in those big, important games. It’s a results-based business. Unfortunately, we didn’t meet the expectations which we feel the fans deserve a playoff team and we had a playoff-level team.”
The firing of Brockman also came as blue and gold players packed up and went through exit meetings with Priestner and Associate GM Steve Hildebrand. A trio of the players were nervously put into media scrums.
“I actually can’t comment on that, sorry,” stammered recently-turned 18-year-old centre Chase Wouters when asked if he was surprised by Brockman’s firing.
“Sorry, no comment on it,” stated outgoing captain Evan Fiala when the same query was posed.
“Yeah, definitely surprised,” said overage left winger Braylon Shmyr, a little more forthcoming on being surprised by Brockman’s firing. “No further comments other than that.”
However, the Blades’ leading scorer backed away from the question of what type of coach Brockman was, “I don’t think I’m allowed to answer that question. Yeah, nothing sorry.”
Brockman was an assistant coach under Bob Woods for two seasons before becoming the Blades’ bench boss. Priestner says there’s no timetable for having a new head coach in place, adding he has no-one in mind right now. Plus, a decision on the status of assistant coaches Bryce Thoma, Ryan Keller and Jerome Engele hasn’t been made yet.