Pearl Out, Time To Hit The Reset Button

First up, the facts.  This afternoon the Worcester Telegram & Gazette tweeted that Holy Cross’ Paul Pearl was no longer a candidate for the UMass head coaching position.  Joe Meloni of College Hockey News later relayed the news that Pearl was offered the position and turned it down due to family reasons.  Through other sources I’ve also been told it was family reasons, and nothing to do with the offer, the position, or the UMass hockey program itself, that led to Pearl turning UMass down.  So I guess at least we’ve got that going for us.  But (opinion time) frankly, I don’t think Pearl ever should have gotten the chance to snub UMass’ offer.  Why?  Because, as I wrote yesterday, UMass should not be offering the position to someone that has a losing record and no league titles in the last six Atlantic Hockey seasons.  Don’t get me wrong, Pearl is an asset for the Crusader hockey program.  But he’s the wrong fit for the UMass hockey program.  As was Qunnpiac’s Rand Pecknold who it sounds like turned his UMass offer into a raise and contract extension in Hamden.

Let me be clear.  In general, I want to give the Athletic Department the benefit of the doubt.  I’ve gotten to know a lot of the people who work hard for UMass in their roles there and I have a lot of respect for them.  They’ve been nice enough to provide me with access and other things that have benefitted this blog and thus you, the readers.  I’m happy to stump for them when it comes to events or the Pond Club because ultimately it benefits the hockey program.  But I started this blog with the idea that it would be an honest take on the UMass hockey program from the perspective of a UMass fan, for UMass fans.  I’m not a fan of coaches or administrators or, to a degree, players.  I’m a fan of UMass Hockey.  So as someone who wants the best for UMass hockey and to remain true to that primary objective of FTT, here is my honest take.  John McCutcheon has completely botched this coaching search and there is permanent damage being inflicted upon the UMass hockey program because of it.  No wait, I take that back.  The entire offseason has been botched.  If McCutcheon had any inkling that Toot Cahoon was not the right person to be coaching UMass next season he should’ve done something about it in March when the school would’ve been in the best position to find a qualified replacement.  Instead, shortly after forgetting to acknowledge hockey in the new flagship radio deal for UMass sports, whatever the hell it was played out between he and Toot and we now find ourselves without a head coach post-July 4th.  What’s worse, UMass has now been publically rebuked by two guys from lesser conferences who haven’t even made the NCAAs more recently than one Toot Cahoon.  The hockey program already was hurting from lack of success and charges that it was not properly supported by the school and McCutcheon responds with a totally inept coaching search that is putting a serious blemish on UMass hockey.  And I put this squarely on his shoulders because I continue to have multiple sources suggest that the search committee is either hardly involved in the search or handcuffed by the qualification limits McCutcheon has put on potential candidates.

However, the Pecknold and Pearl refusals give McCutcheon and UMass an opportunity.  As Harry Plumer reported on Masslive, the search committee is regrouping.  Excellent, because you know what?  The current approach was getting sub par candidates and no results.  Time to expand the way of thinking.  This looking for head coaching experience only, even without a great deal of success, was a poor choice to begin with.  It shows a serious lack of understanding of college hockey.  There are a lot of assistant coaches out there, some from top tier programs, some from up and coming programs, that would be excellent choices.  So far, to my knowledge, those types of candidates have been passed over for the Paul Pearls of the world when it comes to consideration.  There are other coaches who have head coaching experience in developmental leagues like the USHL or BCHL who would be great candidates.  They need to be seriously considered as well.  Personally I think McCutcheon should hop on a plane to Edmonton first thing in the morning and see what it will take to get Darren Yopyk to be the program’s next coach.  If that doesn’t work it’s off to Dubuque, Iowa to pursue Jim Montgomery.  Otherwise seriously focus in on some of the top Hockey East assistants or even some from the power western programs.  Want someone familiar with the program?  I’m sure Red Gendron or Len Quesnelle would like to be considered.  Still stuck on the idea of a head coach?  Fine, see if Rick Bennett or Seth Appert would be interested.  Those guys have at least made the NCAA tournament in recent years unlike Pecknold or Pearl.  One thing is for sure, I have lost all confidence in John McCutcheon during this process.  If he continues the search the way it has been going and it ultimately results in a mediocre candidate at great expense to the program’s reputation I hope the next search at UMass is for the position of Athletic Director.

Matt Vautour has this story in the Gazette updating the current state of the search with quotes from McCutcheon that go against a lot that has been reported by reputable, some would say legitimate, media outlets (i.e. not FTT).

But I recommend everyone read this second piece by Vautour on the challenges the next UMass coach will face once hired.  It’s too bad that Vautour, understandably, is unable to spend more time writing about hockey because that piece shows he has the pulse of the UMass hockey community and an understanding of the state of the program.

Masslive has this story on Joel Hanley’s time at Columbus’ Development Camp.  A picture of Hanley is featured on this blog post about camp on the Jackets’ site.

Paul Dainton will have a chance to play with those Blue Jackets some day as he was re-signed by their AHL club in Springfield today.  Great to see Dainton will be staying in the valley next season.