MAINEiacs Change The Top

It was 5:30 pm Monday afternoon. I was sitting down to dinner with my wife and daughters when my cell phone rings. “Ed Harding was just fired” was the words out of the caller. Needless to say I abruptly excused myself from the table to get more information. At the end of the call, I realized that life was not going to be normal for a few days as others have called to talk about the change starting almost immediately after I ended the call. News spreads fast around town, and this news was too hot not to talk about. The emotion displayed to me by some was pretty incredible.

I want to be right out front with my comments here and say that Ed Harding is a very good hockey man. He didn’t work his way into the situation he did for nothing. I praised the man for the trades he worked at the draft in Sydney last June. Any general  manager who walks out of the first round with two of the best players (Garrett Clarke, Michael Chaput) and the best 17 year old available (Etienne Brodeur) certainly deserves a solid pat on the back. The deal that sent Kevin Marshall to the Quebec Remparts will go down as the trade that started the run for the next championship, and Harding deserves full credit for that. His last significant deal that sent Michael Ward to Cape Breton for Samuel Finn puzzled me a little thinking Harding could have got a little more from Screaming Eagles GM Mario Durocher out of that, in the design of an additional top-5 round pick other than the 5th rounder in 2010. Outside of that, Harding the GM really did a solid job in doing what needed to be done. While some have voiced frustration that Danick Paquette and Peter Delmas weren’t dealt, I will politely remind those that 18 year olds are worth more as 19 year olds, especially good ones. Harding was right in holding onto both as year is everything in junior hockey.

As a coach, the record stands for itself. Despite having great young talent to work with, it appeared at the onset of the season that the talent was handcuffed from the start in a defensive system that was better used with the talent in 2004-05 than 2008-09. Perhaps even Harding underestimated just how good the young horses he had in the stable. The bottom line is that the players just weren’t buying into what he was selling them. The last 11 games have been very trying on everyone in the organization and the Nation as no one likes to see long losing streaks, unless you are the Rimouski Oceanic tanking out to select Sidney Crosby with the top pick in the draft. You can’t fire 22 players as easily as you can the man at the top.

Long before the dismissal of Harding word was around of how players were frustrated with the way they were being treated for various reasons. The telling quote of the situation by MAINEiacs President & Governor Matt McKnight that was printed in Lewiston Sun Journal in a column by Justin Pelletier was this: “It’s about looking into the players’ eyes. A change needed to happen. It appeared that the players didn’t seem to have any fun coming to the rink anymore.” At the junior level, this is more fun for the players than it is a business for 95% of them, and it has to be presented that way. Enough said.

In comes Don MacAdam of whom brings in a tidal wave of low expectations and a ‘show me what you can do’ attitude to loosen up not only the players but the entire organization. MacAdam has already brought smiles and humor back to the forefront, and ‘fun’ will certainly be an adjective that will get more use. For a team that is 14-32, ‘fun’ is all it is about at this stage, and try to assemble some wins down the stretch.

It was announced that MacAdam would coach the remainder of the year and then re-evaluate the future after the season was over, and that is the fair way to approach the situation. Coaching changes in mid-season aren’t the most graceful positions to be in. Regardless of the reasons that the previous coach that was fired, there is a learning curve in this case for MacAdam to get to know the players, the organization, as well as the fans to make that determination of a longer term deal. It’s important for the organization to see results from MacAdam and see that he would be a good fit for the future plans. In this case of the state of the club, taking time and evaluating itself without haste is the right way to proceed. Rest assured that come draft day in June, this club will have a GM and head coach in place at the draft table.

As for the team, all the players are now starting with a clean slate. With a different man at the helm who is a tried and true teaching coach, the way one player has been playing could be a totally different player come March. It’s time to wipe our own slates in ourminds of what players used to play like and give it a few games to watch the new systems emerge.

Sit back, fire up the webcast this weekend or get over to the Flagship Cinema in Auburn and watch the hometown boys turn it around. ‘Fun’ is back, and so am I.

offthepost@lewistonhockey.com

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