Saturday, April 4, 2009
Parkers Aren't Giving Up So You Shouldn't Either
When discussing the fortunes of the Regina Pats in the Parker era, it would seem as if no one is sitting on the fence. There are those that will tell you Russ Parker in his 14 years as owner with the help of his son Brent have restored the Pats image from a time in the mid 80’s and early 90’s when tumbleweeds could blow through the Dome and no one would notice. There are also many people who will tell you the 14 years haven’t brought any championship chase of meaning. Over the past couple of years, rumours have circulated and been revived many times that the Parkers will sell the hockey team to a group of Pats alumni led by Mike Sillinger and Jamie Heward. If that indeed does happen, I don’t think it will be for a while.
The Leader-Post’s Greg Harder has written a story after speaking with Russ. Like many others in the organization, the owner is not happy with the fact the WHL playoffs did not include his team for the 3rd time in the 14 years he has served as owner. He is asking Pats fans to be patient. On one hand, I ask how much longer can the Regina hockey fan who has supported this team winter after winter with great crowds do that. A team that is capable of being in at least the WHL’s final four is something that is long overdue. On the other hand, it tells me Russ is not getting ready to put the “for sale” sign up and he is ready to do something to get this team to a spot where everyone in the Regina hockey community can be left smiling.
That means many questions.
1) Is it time for Brent to give up his GM duties and bring in someone who perhaps is a “name” GM? I say no. Brent is very passionate about his hockey team and while every deal has not worked out, it has not been for a lack of trying. Brent and his scouting staff have brought some great players through this organization over the last 14 years. Players that have gone to NHL careers like Derek Morris, Barrett Jackman, Rick Rypien, Josh Harding etc. etc and players who will play in the NHL like Jordan Eberle, Colton Teubert and Jordan Weal. This team doesn’t have a problem in getting guys ready for the NHL.
2) Is a coaching change needed? I had a conversation with someone this week who asked me if I would replace Dale Derkatch and I said no. That person then asked if I would replace Derkatch if Curtis Hunt were to become available. I still said no. That ship has sailed. Curtis was a great coach and led the Pats to a division title. Derkatch’s biggest problem last year may have been becoming coach so late which is no fault of his own or the organization. Curtis wasn’t going to turn down an NHL opportunity just because it was getting late in the off-season. What’s to say Curtis does come back and gets another NHL opportunity…then you are in the same boat. Others questioned why Marc Habscheid didn’t get the job last year and I admit I was one that would have liked to seen Habscheid behind the bench because of his track record. He didn’t come and Derkatch took over. He will admit he wasn’t a perfect coach and he has said he will be a different coach when he comes back next year. Those returning might be in for a shock when they walk back in the dressing room if Dale does come back and I endorse his return. If he is replaced, I will feel sorry for him because I don’t know if he’ll have been given a proper chance to succeed.
3) Is a major overhaul of the roster needed? Yes!!! There are some guys on that team who are eligible to return who frankly can’t even come back to training camp. Someway, somehow, some of the players on this team have seemingly forgotten what it takes to be a junior hockey player in the best developmental league in the world. I don’t know if they think they have a country club atmosphere in there because of everything they are given but its time to realize that being in the WHL is a privilege and so is playing for the Pats. There are many who would love to trade spots with some of the guys in that lineup now. This must be an off-season where some new blood is brought in. Positive blood. Players are needed who realize what needs to be done if they are to achieve the level of professional hockey…something they have dreamed of since lacing up the skates. There are guys in that room now who I think are content with playing University or senior league hockey.
A lot of next year will depend on what the Oilers and Kings do with Eberle and Teubert. If they are back, then this team can flourish in what I think will be a very good Eastern Division next year with Saskatoon, Brandon and Swift Current all bringing back what should be strong teams. With the Wheat Kings being the host for the Mem Cup, you know an already strong team with guys like Schenn, Calvert, Glennie and Aulie will be stronger. It will be a battle for this team to win the Eastern Division next year. To do it, they will have to be on the same page right from the opening puck-drop of the season. It won’t be easy but I have confidence that in the end Brent and his staff will bring Regina hockey fans what they so desperately crave. I’m in full support of what Russ and Brent have done. As I said, every move hasn’t been met with extreme glee but they are trying and one can’t deny that. I understand the frustration of the Regina hockey community but I hope they don’t give up. I’m not!