Archive for May, 2016

The Right Choice For St. Lawrence

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

When I first heard Mark Morris’ name pop up, it was early in the process. I included Morris in my preliminary look at candidates that should be involved. It was based mostly on his North Country connections. I said then and I will say here, Mark Morris was the best, most seasoned candidate that wanted this job. Remember, I have seen all the candidates and I say this with plenty of confidence.

Now here we are with the former Clarkson coach, who led that program to new heights, being announced as the head coach at the Golden Knights’ biggest rival St. Lawrence… Who would have ever thought this was even remotely possible about ten seasons ago, five or even last year?

I suggest you read CHN editor Adam Wodon’s piece last week on why this move was a move SLU should make. There we were getting the idea that this was happening and he wanted to start the conversation on it… Enjoy the other perspective, while you read mine… He comes from a past perspective on this, having reported on Clarkson during his firing, while I come from the present having watched Morris’ work with Manchester.

It was hardly a shock when I learned Mark Morris applied for the job (I was the first to report that), it was not a shock when I learned he was the favorite and it certainly wasn’t a surprise to me that he quickly went to the top of the list of candidates. A guy with 300 wins as a college hockey coach, 9 appearances to the NCAA tournament and 374 wins at the AHL level should have never been dismissed.

His success speaks loudly of the person that he is. Quite frankly, accept it or not, everywhere he has gone he has won. If you polled people about a coaching hire, I would assume they would say they want someone that could win and win a lot.

Why would St. Lawrence, a place close to his home, be any different? Morris wanted this job, because it offered him a way to be closer to his family that he has been away from for over a decade. For what it is worth, isn’t that something that would ┬ámake a guy strive to be better? He wants this to work, he wants to prove Clarkson was wrong for firing him over a decade ago and of course isn’t there a lot of pride in knowing he will be around a school that is close to home, where his friends and family will be around for every game? I would think so…

Of course the character and coaching style were always going to be in question. Will there be a loss or more among the current roster and commits, I assume so because it happens in nearly every coaching change. Know what I say to that? A player that leaves a program in this regard probably doesn’t want to be in that program to begin with. Ya coaches play a huge role in where a player goes, but if they truly want to be there they will stay and attempt to learn, regardless of who the coach is.

Any player that wants to successful would want to play under Morris. He has developed players at every level. Just look at the Los Angeles Kings for example, he built those Stanley cups in Manchester, New Hampshire when he was the coach of the Kings AHL affiliate, the Monarchs. Many of those players that he coached in Manchester, ended up winning two cups in LA. During the 2014-15 LA Stanley Cup run, 13 of those players had played for Morris in Manchester and in 2012, 14 were former Monarchs. Of course many of his players at Clarkson also went on to successful careers, which should not be forgotten.

Now there are many SLU fans that won’t like this move. That is fine, of course, but at the end of the day if they really support the program they will come around to really love this guy as a coach. There may be a difficult transition for those that don’t think this is right, because he is a Clarkson guy, but eventually those ties will be forgotten, to some degree.

They may not like to hear it, but this was the best move for St. Lawrence not only from a coaching perspective but a marketing perspective as well. The Saints brand will now be easier to sell in the North Country, as a whole, and heck as a program Durocher hit a home run here because there may be many locals that weren’t drawn to SLU that now will be. You have to think too, Morris was affordable because of his local ties and the fact he wanted to be home (I do not know).

Of course comes the issue of age, with Morris being 58. Times have changed and those who think Morris will retire at 65 are probably mistaken. If he is successful, I assume he will be around for a while. I don’t even question whether he will be successful, I totally expect him to take the current roster to new heights this coming season. He will be around longer than those other guys that are younger than him and he is the best coach that was available.

It seems like a win for SLU, in my book because we just saw what happened when a promising coach that was an alum just did, he left for supposed greener and bigger pastures. I respect Carvel’s decision, as a friend of his, but at the end of the day it shows just what the SLU job has become, a stepping stone in the hockey world.

One of the things that draws me to St. Lawrence is the camaraderie of the area and the close knit nature of the community. In recent weeks, as this move started to become likely I have seen a lot of divisive, unhappy fans and alums come to the forefront. It concerns me, because this is one of the ECAC’s premier programs. I really hope that everyone can rally around this move, whether they like it or not, and support their Saints. I hope the players can appreciate why this move would be made and I also hope they realize how much they are learning from this guy who can teach them a lot.

My hope of course, is that SLU is the same place that I have come to love as a reporter. I know where I will be when Clarkson and SLU play for the first time this season. By then, I hope all SLU fans are behind this move and are unchanged in their opinions of the program. It seems like a large task, but it will happen and I hope it is sooner rather than later. The Saints will always be the Saints, or they should be…