Today I would like to get the conversation rolling on a topic I expect to be brought up frequently in the early goings of the upcoming season: the coaching staff.
The ending to the Milwaukee Admirals 2014-15 season was gruesome. The team went 4-14-5-3 after February 15th and proceeded to miss the playoffs for the first time since franchise’s debut AHL season in 2001-02. Whether or not it is a topic all agree upon the simple fact is this. The coaching staff gets put under the microscope just as firmly as players who might not be living up to potential. Should the 2015-16 start for the Admirals look a whole lot like the previous end to the season equally as many questions will be asked of the coaching staff as the players on the ice. In short, Dean Evason and his crew begin this season in the hot seat.
I’ll be honest with you all. I read many comments across different platforms last season calling for Evason to be fired. In fact, it happened really in two waves: December and practically from late February until the season ended. Getting to speak with him, as well as hear feedback from players on their thoughts on last season’s struggles and thoughts on the coaching staff, I never really bought into last season’s faults as errors directly as a result of poor coaching or game preparation. I instantly throw back to what Rich Clune had to say of the coaching staff late last season:
“I don’t want to say it is a disappointment because I think that the coaches did an amazing job with this group. I think that we didn’t handle the roster turnover as well as we should have but to say that we did something, made a colossal error in any era, would be wrong. It was unfortunate the way everything shook down and it is definitely not fun. There’s nothing we can sit here and say the players neglected one area. I mean, the power-play wasn’t clicking for a long time but we were given every chance to succeed. The ball was in our court for a long time. The coaches prepared us. This is the most I’ve ever seen a coaching staff prepare a team since I’ve been playing junior hockey. It just didn’t fall in our favor.” ~Rich Clune
The players are the ones ultimately responsible for delivering results. We all know that. Is it fair to kick dirt at the coaching staff and call for their heads when the results aren’t coming despite no one knowing who or what is the exact reason for points not being hauled in by the team? No, but it is way easier. Sadly that can be how sport operates in general as coaching staffs can often, regardless of previous track record of career success, can a rough patch on the chin and get the boot. It’s easier to ship out and ship in a new coach than an entirely new team after all. It doesn’t make it right. But that is essentially the cloud that hangs over Evason and his coaching staff before this AHL season even begins.
I think it is safe to say Evason’s standing within the organization is pretty good. I’m sure if they really wanted to the Nashville Predators could have aimed to go in a different direction when Peter Laviolette was brought in last off-season. It would have made sense seeing Laviolette aim to either get someone with similar coaching philosophies or someone whose advice he trusted brought into the AHL ranks to communicate players that could help at the NHL level or developmental progress. Did that happen though? No. Did it happen after the Admirals poor 2014-15 season? No. That tells me a lot about the communication levels between everyone being very professional and, frankly, good for all parties involved. That’s not to say I’m retracting any “short leash” remarks in saying that. I’m simply pointing out that there is a good reason why Evason will be back for the start of this season with the Admirals. I think he has the trust of Nashville and the respect of the players that he coaches.
Evason’s three season career with the Milwaukee Admirals has him at an overall record of 113-80-18-17 in the regular season and 1-6-0 in two playoff appearances. It’s not too bad but the playoff results and lack of playoff hockey last season doesn’t look pretty one bit. Truth be told, there are similarities from last year to this year with the team being as young as it is. The hope will be that those that were new to the AHL last season will take a big step forward and that new faces make the team function much better. Early results will do wonders for not only players confidence but as far as taking a weight off of the coaching staff’s shoulders. It will be important that the Admirals have an electric start as they did last season and be able to avoid big slumps. If the team opens the 2015-16 season spinning in place, unable to not only get results but take positives from early contests, then I fear for the longevity of the coaching staff this season.
What is your take on the Milwaukee Admirals coaching staff? Are you confident in Dean Evason as a coach? How long would you allow the Admirals to sputter at the start of the upcoming season before you feel a coaching change should be required?