Ah, yes, it’s just about Frozen Four time and the WCHA is well represented. Much of the talk on this site and others (at least in terms of content) will be about North Dakota and Minnesota Duluth.
I wanted to check in and talk Michigan Tech. Remember them?
Us media jackals had our fun with the Minnesota coaching position in recent weeks. But the position in Houghton is the only one that’s open right now — and its the first opening in the WCHA in quite awhile. Off the top of my head, I believe Bob Motzko succeeding Craig Dahl in St. Cloud was the last coaching change in the league. Dave Shyiak got the UAA job that same offseason, but that came after John Hill left voluntarily to take an assistant job with the Gophers. When Russell took over the year before that, it came on the heels of Mike Sertich’s second retirement.
My point is — coaches in this league don’t get fired very often. They’ll either “move on,” like Dahl and Doug Woog did, or they’ll retire.
Back to Tech. As I tweeted (@CHNDanMyers if you’re not following already) Tuesday, I was reading a message board where Husky fans were naming potential candidates of coaches they’d like to see. Some I agree with (as you’ll see below). Some I don’t (I doubt Woog is coming back to coaching, much less in Houghton). This is completely speculative on my part, and simply an opinion on who I’d pursue if I were in charge of the search. Here’s my top 5, in order of how I’d go after them:
UNO assistant Mike Guentzel — For a team like Michigan Tech, in need of someone who’s experienced and knows the league, Guentzel would be the perfect fit. The guy’s won two national championships as an assistant, has coached under some of the best coaches in the country (Woog, Lucia, Scott Owens, Dean Blais), and was a former player at Minnesota. For many years, Guentzel was seen as the coach in waiting at Minnesota before the Gophers decided on Lucia after Woog’s “promotion,” and how the guy has never gotten a shot at a head coaching gig in the WCHA, or anywhere else in college hockey, is beyond me. Guentzel has three children — two of which play Division I hockey — and a third that will be a junior in high school back in Minnesota. He’s been on the move for much of the last four years, so moving to Houghton would likely not be an issue.
UND assistant Cary Eades — He might be the best recruiter in the country, although recruiting to Houghton would be a much stiffer challenge. He’s won everywhere he’s gone, spending more than a decade (two stints) as an assistant at UND under Gino Gasperini and now Dave Hakstol. He was a highly successful high school coach at Warroad and was some 40-games over .500 as a head coach an GM in the USHL. Eades will turn 50 in October, so he’s in his coaching prime right now. But with children in their teenage years, is he willing to uproot them for a job that probably doesn’t pay much more than he’s making at UND?
Green Bay (USHL) head coach Eric Rud — He has coached in the WCHA at St. Cloud State and Colorado College and played at the WCHA, also at CC. He helped turn SCSU from a perennial bottom-half team to a contender and has a successful recruiting background. He’s gaining experience as a head coach with the Green Bay Gamblers right now, because he likely wants an NCAA head coaching gig. The Gamblers are 38-14-4 in Rud’s first season and will contend for the Clark Cup this season. Rud and his wife have three young children, so moving now and dropping some roots in Northern Michigan is probably do-able.
Air Force head coach Frank Serratore — Would he leave the Falcons and Atlantic Hockey for a chance to coach in the WCHA? Air Force is a perennial contender for the NCAA tournament because they play in a weak league. Serratore’s teams are always competitive, though, and have been some of the toughest outs in those NCAA tournaments. His brother Tom is the head coach at Bemidji State, and while coaching success and bloodlines don’t always run hand-in-hand, they seem to here. Frank has experience with hard-working, overachieving teams and that’s exactly how Tech will win in the modern WCHA. He passion and attitude would make him a fan favorite in the U.P. He has four teenage children, so moving away from Colorado Springs could be an issue. Only one of those four is under the age of 18, though. He also has Michigan roots; he was a goalie at Western Michigan University.
Former NHL head coach Andy Murray — This may be shooting for the stars here, but it doesn’t hurt to ask? He was fired as head coach of the St. Louis Blues last season after his team started 17-17-6 (a dream season at Tech, no?), but before that, had only three losing seasons in 10 NHL seasons. His teams never finished more than four games under .500 and he led his team to the playoffs four times. Over the last 30 years, Murray has coached at all levels, spending much of his career as an assistant in the NHL and AHL. He was also the head coach at Brandon University in Canada in the late 70s and early 80s and served one season as head coach at Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School in the late 90s before accepting the Los Angeles Kings head coaching job. He would recruit Canada like no other and perhaps give the Huskies an edge in European recruiting, as Murray has coached a couple of different stints in Switzerland. At 60, he may not be a long term solution for Michigan Tech — but if he could turn things around over the next decade and give the reigns to a hand-picked successor, he’d be a great hire.
Others on my radar: Brent Brekke (Miami), Steve Rohlik (Ohio State), Paul Pooley (Notre Dame), Danton Cole (USNDT), Steve Miller (Denver), Mike Gibbons (St. Cloud State), Mike Hastings (Nebraska-Omaha), Dane Jackson (North Dakota).
What do you think?