It's been said many times before that change is a good thing.
Well, if there's one word to sum up this off-season for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, "change" is certainly it! From hockey operations staff to branding, it's been quite the off-season of change for this WHL team and with that, I think it's brought with it a lot of excitement and anticipation as the Hurricanes get set for training camp August 29th at the ENMAX Centre.
After four consecutive seasons of not making the playoffs, something had to be done. Shortly after last season ended, the Canes Board of Directors fired the first shot in what would be the start of this ongoing change. Rich Preston was relieved of his duties as Head Coach and GM, after a total of only 100 victories over 4 seasons. With that came the promotion of long-time Assistant GM Brad Robson to the role of General Manager and has he ever put his mark on this organisation in a huge way.
After taking time to concentrate on the WHL bantam draft in May, Robson soon after turned his focus to finding a new Head Coach. More than 80 applications later, Robson hired former NHLer Drake Berehowsky as the new bench boss. He brings a wealth of experience on the ice as a player and coaching the last few years. Not too long after that, Robson announced Matt Kabayama's contract would not be renewed, opening the door to the hiring of a new Assistant Coach and with that, Robson headed back to the NHL ranks, locking up former Stanley Cup champion Brad Lukowich to work alongside Berehowsky on the bench.
With two former NHL defenceman now running the show, that left one more coaching vacancy which was recently filled by the hiring of former NHLer Mike Craig, who will be the guy to help mold the forwards on this team this season. Really, an incredible 180 degree flip from what this team has had in the past. And with this has come a renewed excitement. People have been bending my ear for weeks now about the changes on the bench and what that will be mean for the club. Accountability and discipline will be two things the players on this team will have to contend with when they come to camp on August 29th. Robson has said the players have been told by both himself and the new coaches to be ready for camp, come in shape, and be ready to be pushed.
Berehowsky, Lukowich, and Craig not only bring excellent hockey experience, but they also bring a youthful touch to the coaching ranks of this team. It certainly is the start of a new era of Lethbridge Hurricanes hockey, one I haven't seen since the first year I started broadcasting for this team in 2007-2008.
To cap off the coaching staff, the Canes are bringing back Jeff Battah to mentor the goaltenders. Battah was the guy in charge when Juha Metsola emerged in the 2007-2008 season, taking the Hurricanes all the way to the league final. Battah is well-respected when it comes to coaching goalies in Western Canada.
That's not the only change either! Sandwiched in between all the hockey personnel changes was the unveiling of a new logo, brand, and look for the hockey club. It's a brand the club can call it's own and one the organisation is excited about moving forward. Something they hope will not only catch on with the fans, but a brand they can stick with for several seasons to come.
So yes, I'm excited about the potential for this coming hockey season for the Hurricanes. More so than the past few years. In fact I told GM Brad Robson the other day there's an excitement around the team this year I haven't felt in a while. There are much higher expectations now with this group and I think the coaching staff will bring a whole new style to the on-ice product.
There's no doubt there is pressure to win and win consistently this season. Missing the post-season four years in a row is tough to swallow for a fan base in need of a little playoff hockey. Getting off to a strong start will be important for this new regime. If the players, new and old buy into what Coach Berehowsky and his staff and selling, I think this is going to be a pretty fun group to watch this season. I think we will see a new attitude, systems, accountability, style of play, work ethic with this coaching staff in charge. Sit back and enjoy the ride Hurricanes fans. A new on-ice era starts August 29th!