It’s been a revolving door for OHL coaches and general managers this off-season.
Nearly half of the 20 teams in the league will begin the 2017-18 season with a new head coach as many successful ones from last season have moved on to coach in the professional ranks.
Among them, Memorial Cup champion coach Rocky Thompson is moving on from the Windsor Spitfires in order to become head coach of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves while Kris Knoblauch was hired as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers after guiding the Erie Otters to the OHL championship and Memorial Cup final.
Also departing the OHL for greener pastures in the NHL are the Owen Sound Attack’s Ryan McGill (assistant coach with Vegas Golden Knights) and the Kingston Frontenacs’ Paul McFarland (assistant coach with Florida Panthers).
Just this week, Dave Bell and Spencer Carbery of the Niagara IceDogs and Saginaw Spirit, respectively, accepted assistant coaching positions in the AHL, Bell with the Ontario Reign and Carbery with an unspecified team.
They’re among nearly 30 moves involving OHL head coaches, assistant coaches or GMs, many of whom have accepted positions elsewhere in hockey circles, if not the NHL or AHL.
It goes to show that the CHL isn’t just a development stream for players.
There have been several years where coaches have earned roles in the NHL, in a lot of cases right after leading their junior teams to a league or Memorial Cup championship.
In Knoblauch’s case, it can be argued his call up was a long time coming. As a 32-year-old in 2011, he coached the Kootenay Ice to the WHL championship and followed by guiding the Otters to a historic four straight 50-win seasons.
While it’s been a steady stream of movement from junior to pro for coaches, it has gone the other way too.
Cory Stillman and Todd Gill, both of whom played more than 1,000 games in the NHL, will be OHL head coaches after serving roles with professional teams last year.
Gill, previously an assistant coach with the AHL’s Stockton Heat, will oversee the Attack and Stillman is the new bench boss of the Sudbury Wolves after working as a developmental coach with the Carolina Hurricanes.
In addition to all of the head coaching changes, eight teams will have new GMs while 10 will have new assistant coaches.
Entering their first seasons as GMs of their teams are Barclay Branch (Flint Firebirds), George Burnett (Guelph Storm), Mike McKenzie (Kitchener Rangers), Darren Kelly (Kingston Frontenacs), James Richmond (Mississauga Steelheads), Joey Burke (Niagara IceDogs), Rob Papineau (Sudbury Wolves) and James Boyd (Ottawa 67’s).
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