The 2012-13 WHL season may be over for the Everett Silvertips, but the most important work is still to come. Now that they have been eliminated from the playoffs, the Tips' top priority this offseason is to hire a new head coach -- one who can guide the team into a new era.
The 2012-13 season was a transitional one for Everett. It was general manager Garry Davidson's first full season in charge, and he decided for a full reset. First, he decided to turn over the roster, go young and begin a complete rebuild. Then Davidson decided coach Mark Ferner wasn't the man to guide the Tips into the future and fired him in January, taking over behind the bench himself on an interim basis.
But the transition is just about over, and next season it will be time for results. Tasked with delivering those results will be the new coach, handpicked by Davidson.
"(Having the right coach) makes a big difference," Davidson said. "The coach is dealing with young men who are immature both physically and mentally. He has a tremendous amount of influence, as well as the potential to mold and develop the players."
Returning players are keenly interested in who their next coach might be. But so far, mum's the word on potential candidates.
"We've heard a lot of rumors about who's coming in. I couldn't tell you who's the No. 1 guy right now," center Kohl Bauml said. "I'll be keeping an eye on it. There's not much we can do about it, it's all up to Garry and the front office.
"It'll be something we'll be looking forward to. It'll be interesting to see who he brings in and it'll be fun to see what kind of systems the new coach implements."
Davidson put the coach search on the back burner the past three months while he concentrated on the coaching duties. But he began the search in earnest the day after the season ended.
Here's what he's looking for.
The primary reason Davidson fired Ferner was a difference in hockey philosophy. Since arriving in February of 2012 Davidson has preached the offensive game.
Davidson came from a Portland organization that built a dominating team through speed and skill. Ferner, who was hired by Davidson's predecessor Doug Soetaert, was a defense-first coach who prioritized work ethic.
The new coach is certain to be more on the same wavelength as Davidson.
"I think we're looking for someone who has a similar offensive philosophy to what I'd like to see us do, which is try to be more of an offensive puck-possession team," Davidson said. "That doesn't mean we're sacrificing defense. You still have to play defense.
"But I don't want a team built around an absolute defensive approach to the game. I don't think that makes sense, and I don't think our fans want that either."
Davidson wants to install someone who knows what it's like to stand behind the bench at the junior hockey level. So, don't anticipate an unknown up-and-comer looking to land his first coaching gig.
"We're looking for someone who has some junior experience. I think that's critical," Davidson said. "Not that pro experience is an issue, but I think there's a substantial difference between the pro game and the junior game.
"I don't think age has anything to do with it," Davidson added. "I think it has to do with experience. It's got to be someone who's been a head coach before, it's got to be someone who has experience at junior hockey."
Davidson has emphasized all along his desire to hire a coach who can teach the game and help develop the players' skills. If Davidson is to build an offensive team, he needs a coach who can maximize the players' offensive talents.
"We're dealing with players you need to develop as juniors, as opposed to the pro guys who are closer to the finished product," Davidson said. "Therefore, we need somebody who has an appreciation for development and growth and the teaching of players."
What about fire and brimstone? At least one player is receptive to that possibility.
"I'm a pretty intense guy, so I wouldn't mind having somebody who would yell at us once in a while," returning goaltender Austin Lotz said with a laugh.
"I really haven't had a coach that's done that before, so maybe I'm just blowing smoke. But somebody who wants to win, believes in us, knows the game well and is the right fit for our team."
While Davidson is already hard at work finding a new coach, don't expect an announcement in the next week or two. Davidson said he doesn't anticipating making a hire until after the May 2 bantam draft. He also said he intends to wait until more teams' seasons come to an end, thus expanding the pool of candidates.
"If the right guy is there sooner than later, I guess we would move on it," Davidson said. "But you've got to look realistically at extending it to late May because there are potential candidates who are still tied up with their seasons. I think the idea of having it done by the first of June makes sense."
Meanwhile, everyone must wait in suspense.
"I'm excited to meet the new guy," Lotz said. "That being said, getting to know Garry was such a huge thing for us. When you're a general manager you don't really connect with your players as much as the coach does. Most of the guys in the room this year are going to be there next year, and we all know Garry so well now because he was in the room with us. We're really excited to see who the new guy is going to be. We have a lot of trust that Garry is going to bring in someone pretty special."
A special someone the Tips hope will return the franchise to relevance.
Check out Nick Patterson's Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.
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