Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Here to Help....

For those readers locally who follow the "AAA" Legionnaires and their past and present struggles may I offer you this.

The Legionnaires haven't been a successful team since the Tim Tisdale/Terry Pavely regime came to an end four years ago.

Good friend Jim Mcgee tried to follow in the big footsteps left by Tisdale's departure but it was proven to be a tough act to follow. After awhile, both Mcgee and his assistant (Terry Pavely) decided to move on to other hockey endeavors locally.

Enter Gary Janke and Kent Woods.

At this point recruiting is getting tougher and tougher with their "local players first policy" put in place when they took over. The team struggled to compete. Most nights they were shelled quite handily. Sure the wins would come here and there but it was clear the Legionnaires would have a long way back if they were to become a SMAAAHL contender once again.

With rumoured problems with parents... and things I saw first hand including huge shouting matches outside the Legionnaires dressing room between parents and coaches... (come to think of it, the shouting was pretty one-sided as the coaches took it quite handily from parents) the end was near. Then it happened this week.

Gary Janke resigned after two seasons and 12 games. He leaves with a win/loss record of 15-69-4-4 and never really accomplished what he set out to do.

Kent Woods has been named the interim head coach. Good luck to Kent. There are times I've felt sorry for him when I've seen him at the rink. He's trying and this is what he wants to do. It just hasn't worked out.

A quick look around the city and there really isn't anyone willing or able to do the job. Willing may be the stronger term here.

May I offer this advice. Make a phonecall down to Frontier, SK and ask for Jaime Pegg.

Who is Jaime Pegg? I've never met the man, just talked to him on the phone a few times this past year and have been quite impressed with his thoughts and his communication skills. He's well spoken, seasoned and seems to have a great knowledge of what it takes to win.

The former V.P. of Sales for the Calgary Flames married a local girl from those parts and has moved out there to work and raise a family. In the meantime, he turned the Frontier midget Flyers into a smalltown hockey powerhouse. His team was the runner-up in the SSMHL league and were the Provincial midget "D" Finalists this past spring losing to Porcupine Plain.

Pegg's hockey experience is extensive. He's a former Assistant Coach with University of Calgary Dinos, has played for Canada's National program, pro hockey in both the U.S. and Europe. He also played three seasons with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL. In his first season with the Petes, he took on the Broncos in the 1989 Memorial Cup.

I suggest the Legionnaires call him before someone else does. The personable, friendly individual sounds like he would be a great addition to any coaching staff.

Would he be interested? He didn't rule it out when I talked to him this week... and that's a good start.



Anonymous said...

Hey Jon,
I will start by saying I really appreciate the blog. I will also give credit for your willingness to talk about the Legion subject - as it is a tough one. As a parent with children in the system in Swift Current, I will remain anonymous. You and I both know that me putting my name to this cannot do anything but bring potential problems to me and my children. Please respect that.

I have watched the Legion program for years. I witnessed it gain respectability through the Barry Flichel years. Yes, Barry had his own agenda to develop WHL players and that may have been counter-productive at times. But, he did a good job of creating a buffer for the program from the parents. He also brought a certain level of credibility.

Tim Tisdale and Terry Pavely were the golden boys. Do you get any better than this. A professional educator with a hockey background and a local hero with coaching at the highest levels. But, Tim didn't tapdance and quite frankly did not care about anything but the team and the development of players. Kids like Nolan Waker struggled in their first season as high end vets played a lot. Then, after keeping their MOUTHS SHUT, players like Waker prospered in their senior season and blossomed. Tisdale and the Legion were in great shape. Bruised egos of parents who had to eat humble pie as they realized their kid wasn't Gordie Howe took root and Tisdale was gone.

Magee came in at the tail end of the solid era. But, he came at the beginning of the new "tail wagging the dog" era. Magee's control away from and at the rink was continually undermined by a bloodthirsty faction who had a "we got rid of one coach, we'll do it to you" attitude. Magee made his mistakes, but Scotty Bowman wouldn't have won with this group. But Magee developed a large core of returning guys.

The next season, Janke came in and began what was his own demise. The first thing he did was get rid of nine returning players. I have heard about a stamp being put on a team. But, trying to replace battle tested guys with young 15 year olds just can't work in this league. The theory that they would build young for the future sounds great. But, the disparity between 15 year olds and 17 year olds is too much.

Add to the equation the fact that Janke overused certain players (I will leave it at that) and you had a frustration level boiling over. This overuse (talk to the scouts if you don't believe me) of a certain player drove people nuts. Call it what you will. Nobody can play that much and expect team chemistry to be sound.

Add Woods' abrasive, negative screaming style and you had a very, very bleak situation. That style is well documented. Perhaps it has changed. I don't know.

Last Christmas was the breaking point. The club voted against a BC tournament at Christmas. The staff never listened. A hot streak going into the break was nullified by complaints about the kids and their fatigue levels and extra expenses. This was compounded by a spoken perception that the coach only wanted to show case a certain player in BC. Either way they went to BC and got slaughtered and embarassed themselves in a basically AA tourney. Instead of heading into the second half well rested, they went in in a mess.

In closing, I hear complaints that Janke was saddled by home first ratios. If this is the case, then why were his imports so dismal. He never got one stud in his time in SC. Neither did management. If you are limited by ratios, then wouldn't good recruiting be important. If you are limited, shouldn't you make sure the guys you have are elite. If they can't fill a half a dozen spots with anything buy smalltown B players and AA castoffs, how would more imports help them?

I love the program and wish it the best. I also think Janke is a pretty likeable guy. But he cooked his own goose. And the board cooked the whole program's goose when they got rid of Tisdale for essentially "not smiling enough to parents."

You reap what you sow. The program and Janke harvested what they put into it. So sad.

Jon Keen said...

You are obviously much more knowledgable and connected on the subject than I. I appreciate your comments. Lets hope they can get it turned around.

Anonymous said...

One other thing to go along with my above comments:

The Legionairres during the Magee and Janke eras basically eliminated all competition for jobs by making guarantees and promises to certain players and not to others.

So, you have 14-15 kids who go through camp knowing that they have a job and you have 5-6 kids battling for the last spots.

Does this make sense. You create a two tiered system right off the bat. You tell 14-15 kids they are better than others. You tell 5-6 kids they aren't. More important, you tell the kids with guarantees that they really don't have to battle for those jobs. That FAT CAT mentality takes root very early.

Meanwhile, the kids who actually battled in camp have been stigmatized and labeled as the team peons. Makes no sense at all. Most teams forge their culture and identity in training camp by establishing what it takes. This team was giving guarantees to 15 year olds and unproven older players.

make em' all fight for their jobs.