Tag Archives: AHL

The train wreck that is the Saskatoon Blades

This column by Kevin Mitchell is why I won’t care about the Saskatoon Blades next season.

New people coming in will have to accept the Priestners’ hands-on approach, which is a direct contrast to the laid-back stylings of previous owner Jack Brodsky.

The new proprietors made it clear right from the start that they won’t, for example, allow a coach on their team to play a dull, trapping style of hockey – they want their fans to be entertained. Colin Priestner told reporters after dad Mike bought the team that while he wasn’t qualified to make trades or scout talent, “I will be actively involved within the dressing room.”

He kept that promise, maintaining regular dialogue with players within the locker-room, and it didn’t sit well with assistant coach Curtis Leschyshyn, a longtime NHLer who left the team last week.

“Those were some of the things that, as a player, I never saw in my career, nor do I think is part of the game,” Leschyshyn told our Daniel Nugent-Bowman when speaking about those frequent locker-room forays. “The room is a very special place for the players. It always should be that way.”

Those dynamics have been laid bare, the working conditions made readily apparent, so here’s the deal as the job hunt commences: If you’re uncomfortable with members of the ownership team hanging out in the locker-room, if you’d chafe at the hands-on approach the Priestners prefer … then Saskatoon’s not for you. Stay far away.

If you don’t see it as a big deal, then send in your resume and join the competition.

Molleken talked quietly Tuesday about “passing the torch.” while Hogle said the search crew will seek “candidates that have a rich hockey history, a tradition of success in the playoffs, who are leaders of culture.”

The new owners, while far from universally popular, talk a bold game when it comes to the Blades’ future. Much of the old guard has been swept away. A fresh canvas waits for either a masterpiece or a dud.

This 16-51-2-3 team is keeping things interesting, if nothing else.

I can’t think of a single successful owner who is doing what Colin Priestner is doing here.  Lots have tried it his way (Dan Snyder, James Dolan, Al Davis, George Steinbrenner, Mark Cuban in his early years) and it has never worked out.  The owners job is to hire good people, set expectations, and let them do what they know how to do.  Priestner’s way undermine the very thing that he says that he is trying to do.

At the press conference he said that he is going to be advised by ex Flames GM Craig Button.  Really.  Was Gord Stellick too busy?  Button had a horrible run as Flames GM.  In addition to not being able to assemble talent on the ice, his management tree doesn’t have any notable limbs on it either.  He struggled to find talent on and off the ice and now we are bringing him in as a consultant.  

If Priestner isn’t careful, he is going to so damage a product that when the AHL comes calling (and it will), the Blades will be looking for a new home.

100 Ideas to Improve Saskatoon: 6. Do something with Cairns Field

I love Cairns Field.  It seats 5000 people which is small enough to feel cozy yet large enough to feel like an event.  The best part of it is that if you are there, you are watching some pretty good baseball being played by the Saskatoon Yellow Jackets on a warm Saskatoon summer night.

Cairns Field

The bad part about Cairns Field is it’s location.  It’s tucked away between Holiday Park and the South Industrial section.  It’s hard to get to and even hard to find.  I have had more than one person that was going to meet us at the game text and ask, “now where exactly is this Cairns Field”.

Cairns Field represents Saskatoon’s best chance at professional sports.  Professional basketball in Canada is the Toronto Raptors, we aren’t big enough for MLS or even NASL soccer, the CFL won’t put an additional team in Saskatchewan, and those that think that the NHL is coming are delusional (I’ve heard the arguments and they aren’t based in reality).  Minor league baseball (and maybe an AHL team) is the one team that can thrive in Saskatoon but it’s going to be hard if it is stuck back in it’s current location.

So where do you put it?  Well baseball needs to be close to downtown and close to amenities.  That is going to be a challenge anywhere in Saskatoon unless we can put it in the North Downtown redevelopment where the city yards are currently located.  

I am not saying it is ever going to happen but it would be an amazing place to walk down to and have dinner and then watch a game followed by a couple of drinks at a nearby pub.  They have done it in Winnipeg and for 50 nights each summer (plus playoffs) up to 7481 people come downtown to enjoy The Forks and watch a game (and spend money while down there).

A cozy stadium of 5,000 seats in the heart of Saskatoon with affordable ticket prices?  I can see that working.  Especially if we can find a way to up the quality of ball being played to A or AA baseball.

If that fails, maybe the city can build a decent website for the field that makes it clearer that it exists and how to get there.  That would be a good first step.

Mark Messier’s Dilemma

I am not a fan of the The Captain and this post does little to change my mind

But NHL coaches aren’t born, they’re made. Adam Oates is a great example: Extremely intelligent, a student of the game, and a player with name recognition for generations of talent that came after him; but he needed some time as an NHL assistant coach before he could earn a head coaching gig with the Washington Capitals.

Wayne Gretzky is another example, and one Messier shouldn’t follow: He hadn’t coached a game before taking over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2005-06, and proceeded to miss the playoffs for four consecutive seasons – losing 161 games and much of his luster as a man that could master every facet of hockey.

Messier’s coaching experience is limited to coached the Canadian national team in the Deutschland Cup and Spengler Cup in 2010. This hasn’t stopped teams like the Edmonton Oilers and the Rangers from inquiring about his services as a head coach, but in both cases that’s as much about name recognition as it is coaching acumen.

So if the former captain is serious about this stuff, he needs to understand that his name is a foot in the door but that it doesn’t automatically get to appear on that door next to “head coach” just because he’s Mark Messier.

He can take the Oates route and work as an assistant. He could be a rock-star AHL coach, honing his craft and earning experience as a bench boss. He can learn the ropes like any novice and become a better coach because of it.

Or he can just admit that this was about being HEAD COACH OF THE NEW YORK RANGERS and nothing else will do. That’s fine. Leave the other 29 jobs to those with the hunger for the job rather than the job title. Hey, the Rangers will probably be hiring a GM soon.

If you recall, Messier wanted to be named the New York Rangers GM before despite having no experience scouting, coaching or really anything than being a team captain.  He doesn’t seem to be willing to do the work to succeed as an executive that he was as a player.

I know he won those rings but it’s almost as if he forgot how he got them.