According to TSN.ca, Doug Gilmour will be officially announced as the new head coach of the Kingston Frontenacs today. At first, that seems like a decent idea; just about anyone behind the bench would probably be an improvement over Larry Mavety, and the team has some talented players, so a coaching change might make a difference there. Gilmour's status as a local hockey legend also adds to the respect he'll get from the players. He has some coaching and player development experience as well, working as an advisor to the Leafs for two seasons and serving as a Marlies' assistant coach this year. His experience won't necessarily make him a great coach, but it certainly can't hurt.
More revealing, though, is Gilmour's recent cameo [Miss 604] in the soon-to-be-released Slap Shot 3: The Junior League, a straight-to-DVD movie. Perhaps he enjoyed seeing a gong show of a junior franchise on film and decided he'd go for the full experience? If so, he's certainly come to the right town: the Frontenacs are currently a bigger joke than anything in the movie will likely be. I usually avoid talking or writing about them due to this, but I still follow the team; it's gotten to the point where you don't even really need to read the stories any more though, as the losses have started to blur into each other.
I can see Gilmour as a good potential coach, but this is still probably a PR move from the organization's standpoint. The Frontenacs are sinking fast, and their tradition of mediocrity is no longer acceptable in town, especially considering the vast amounts of public money that went into building them a shiny new arena downtown. The team's personnel decisions and marketing efforts have been questioned at council meetings, and they're fast turning into solely a punchline. The vast numbers of fans disguised as empty seats at the K-Rock Centre is probably more worrying to owner Doug Springer than the team's 5-13-4-1 record (last in the OHL's East Division) and one regulation win in their past ten days. Bringing in Gilmour will reinvigorate local interest in and talk about the team, which was fast losing its relevance. However, the question remains as to how Gilmour will do in his first head coaching job, and more importantly, how much authority he'll be given.
It's been speculated for a while that Mavety wants to get out from behind the bench. As such, it's notable that all the information on this so far refers only to Gilmour as taking the head coach role. That would suggest that Mavety will stay on as general manager, and also that this plan may even have been his idea. Suddenly, he has a Kingston hero to deflect the ever-intensifying criticism. For an example of this, see Patrick Kennedy's piece in today's Kingston Whig-Standard which starts this way:
"The mystery and misery that is the 2008-09 Kingston Frontenacs continues to baffle and burn the diminishing base of faithful fans.
What in heaven's name is wrong with this outfit?
How can a team which offered so much promise at the end of last year, open this season - and if they don't wise up, said season could soon be closed - with just five wins in its first 23 games?
How can the Limestone lads be dead-last in the 20-team Ontario Hockey League?
In no particular order, folks wonder: What's wrong with the players? What's wrong with the coaching? What's wrong with the ownership?
What's wrong? In a word, plenty. The frightful Fronts secured their hold on the OHL basement last night with a 3-1 road loss to the Oshawa Generals, Kingston's ninth defeat in its past 10 outings."
That's pretty strong stuff, especially coming from a writer and media outlet that some, notably Tyler King, have repeatedly raked over the coals for being too positive towards the Frontenacs. Personally, I think the Whig's done a good job of telling what's going on without putting opinion into their news: their readers are intelligent enough to know how bad things are. Kennedy's piece today shows just how high the frustrations are getting, though, and that says a lot about the timing of this move.
Suddenly, Springer and Mavety, who have borne the brunt of the criticism thus far, have a convenient local hero to answer the questions and stand in the way of the flack. You can bet Gilmour will get more respect than either of them from the fans and the media, and deservedly so. The question is if he'll actually be given the authority to try and change the culture of defeat in the franchise. If so, then this could be a great decision and the start of a return to glory for the Frontenacs. However, if Mavety and Springer will be pulling Gilmour's strings from upstairs and watching his every move, then this will be a mere PR move that ultimately fails. Time will tell.
Duane has more at Out of Left Field, and I'm sure Neate will weigh in later. I'll update as info comes in.
Update, 2:59 P.M.: Neate has a great take on this, including the superb lines, "The only way to feel good about it is if Gilmour is trying out the coaching side before he buys the team lock, stock and barrel. Otherwise, this is intended to keep the diehards from organizing a Bring Your Own Pitchfork night at the K-Rock Centre."
- Neate's latest takedown on the team. [Out of Left Field]
- James Mirtle has a good take on how this won't be easy for Gilmour [From the Rink]
- Mirtle and PPP weigh in with some more links and thoughts [Pension Plan Puppets]
- "If nothing else, give Doug Gilmour credit" [Toronto Sports Media]
- "Gilmour takes over Frontenacs" [Terry Doyle, Loosepucks.com]
- "Doug Gilmour leaves Maple Leafs organization, set to coach Kingston" [Derek Harmsworth, Bleacher Report]
- Nathan Fournier weighs in [The World of Junior Hockey]