By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips are changing course.
The Silvertips are headed in a different direction after firing head coach Mark Ferner on Tuesday. Ferner spent one and a half seasons as the Western Hockey League team’s coach, guiding the Tips to a 38-64-2-10 record.
Assistant coach Chris Hartsburg also was dismissed. General manager Garry Davidson will take over behind the bench on an interim basis through the remainder of the season. Assistant coach Mitch Love was retained. The search for a new coach will begin once the season ends.
Davidson said the primary reason for making the change was a difference in hockey philosophy between himself and Ferner.
“Mark and Chris are good people and they’ve done a good job,” Davidson said. “It’s just I think there’s a different approach. Mark is a think-defense-first coach, I’m a think-offense-first coach. I think defense is the most coachable aspect of the game, I think offense is the one that needs the most work. It takes a lot of time and practice.”
The Tips are 16-24-0-2 this season and in eighth place in the WHL’s 10-team Western Conference. Everett has scored 102 goals in 42 games, an average of 2.4 per game, the second-lowest scoring rate in the league.
“Obviously it’s disappointing knowing the organization didn’t feel we were doing a good enough job to keep doing what we love to do,” Ferner said.
“I know this is a blue-collar town, and that’s what we as a coaching staff were trying to create as a hockey team. We wanted the team to be something the fans could be proud of, that win or lose they were going to see a hard-working team.”
Ferner was hired in July of 2011 by Davidson’s predecessor, Doug Soetaert. Ferner arrived with an impressive resume at the junior A level, which is one level below the WHL, winning the Canadian junior A national title with the British Columbia Hockey League’s Vernon Vipers in 2009 and 2010.
However, Soetaert was dismissed last February and replaced by Davidson. Davidson, who had been the director of player personnel with the high-scoring Portland Winterhawks, arrived with a different philosophy, emphasizing speed and skill.
“When I came in I knew Mark from before, he’d been successful, I had no preconceived notion we couldn’t work together,” Davidson said. “In fact I was hoping it would be the very opposite, that he and I could pull together and get on the same page and make it happen. But as we went forward, I just didn’t feel that was going to happen.”
The Silvertips acknowledged this would be a rebuilding season in a league made up of players ages 16-20. Everett has one of the youngest teams in the league, carrying a league-high five 16-year-olds. The Tips have fared better of late, winning three of five games since the holiday break and five of their past nine overall. Everett also is ahead of last season’s pace, when the team won 22 games. Nevertheless, Davidson decided the move needed to be made now.
“I’ve been frustrated for a couple months now,” Davidson said. “I went home at the Christmas break and I continued to be frustrated with what we were doing. When I got back I just didn’t sense we were going to turn it around without making some changes, and I just didn’t think it made sense to wait to the end of the year to do it.
“I think people get hung up on the results,” Davidson added. “Yeah, we’ve won a few more games than last year. It wasn’t about the wins and losses for me. I said we’re in a rebuild, I’m a patient guy. But you can still look at the last five games, we won 2-1, 2-1 and 3-2. Why did we win 2-1, 2-1 and 3-2? Our goaltenders played very well and our guys competed. But we could have lost all three of those games, too. We’ve got to put a little more emphasis on other aspects of the game. The special teams also came into that as well, particularly the power play.”
Hartsburg was in his fourth season as an assistant with the Tips. Davidson said Hartsburg. the son of former Everett head coach Craig Hartsburg, also was dismissed because Davidson envisions a two-man coaching staff going forward.
Davidson said the resources that would have been used for a third full-time coach will instead be diverted toward specialists, such as skills coaches, who will work with the team on a part-time basis.
As for the remainder of this season, Davidson, who last coached in 2008 when he was the general manager and coach of the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks, plans on adjusting the way the team plays to a more offensive style.
“I’m not a miracle worker, I don’t think we’re going to change overnight,” Davidson said. “It’s the 30 games and the next three months, and then it’s the playoffs, (which) I hope reflects how we perform and the type of game we play.”
Davidson also said there will be changes in the way the Tips prepare on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s going to be a lot more regimented in day-to-day stuff,” Davidson said. “I don’t think it was like that here the last month or two. I think we need to be in the gym working out every day. We have to work on skill development every day. I just think we’re going to demand a little more energy out of the players and a lot more time.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.