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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.

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31 Comments

  1. ICEWEST

     /  July 5, 2012

    Does anyone know if Quesnelle was interviewed as a legit candidate? Also, as mentioned here before,has there been a Mike Cavanaugh sighting? Maybe he’s one where the timing became an issue…Finally the wording regarding Pecknold and Pearl varied between “turned down” position to “pulled their names out..” two very different things. Do we know if they were both offered the job? Maybe McCutcheon isn’t panicking, but his options, already very few, are down to almost none..

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    • Anonymous

       /  July 5, 2012

      I say pull the trigger on one of the BC coaches…They are accomplished and know how to recruit and WIN!!

      Like

    • I haven’t heard anything about Quesnelle interviewing. That’s not to say he hasn’t. As far as I know Cavanaugh interviewed and is, for all intents and purposes, still interested in the job. Pecknold and Pearl were both reported to be offered the job, something that I can confirm through my own sources, and turned it down.

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    • zamboni man

       /  July 6, 2012

      Why hasn’t Quesnelle even been considered yet. From my understanding he has been responsible for a lot of the recruiting since he came up here from Princeton. I believe he has played a major role in recruiting players such as Quick, Bruan, Daiton and Wellman. HMMMM Where are these guys now. Not to mention the current players that have been invited to the NHL camps. He is familiar with this group of players and these kids need to have somebody they can trust in this transition. I hope that they give him an opportunity.

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      • He deserves at least the opportunity to go for this job. But so far I haven’t heard that he has or hasn’t.

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  2. George

     /  July 5, 2012

    First of all Rocks, thanks for having the guts to write this. When I need UMass hockey information, I will go to you and would also look at Dick Baker. It seems that his role has changed or greatly diminished. So you are in the top three of the media along with Matt Vautour and Ron Chemelis in Western Massachusetts. Chemelis comes along and states the obvious during huge moments in regards to UMass hockey (actually this is huge and I’ve seen nothing from him). And Matt, who I enjoy reading, is so into writing about Joe Schmo getting a paper cut on the hoops teams, that he inherits the same labeling as Chemelis. He’ll show up when there is a train wreck and God knows, he’s here for this gruesome crash. So you’re the guy FTT and I thank you again for taking what is probably an uncomfortable stand, pointing the barrel of the gun at someone who, to be nice, has done awful job. And here’s the thing, John McCuthcheon’s car has a hug leak in it. We know an awful lot about some things we have no business knowing about. Yet, anyway. Very curious.

    And just to pile on to your already thorough column, UMass and McCutcheon manage to break the NCAA record for taking a tremendous recruiting tool, Jon Quick winning the Stanley Cup and playoff MVP, and destroying all good and feel good it would bring the University/hockey program and it’s fans in record time. Throw in Mike Kostka’s AHL feat and you John McCutcheon have scored a rare daily double. Congratulations for setting this program back to early Triangle days.

    Because he cares too much about his players and obviously Len Quesnelle, I imagine Toot Cahoon is upset, if anything, about what is going on. But I imagine he has time to fit in a chuckle or two towards his former boss.

    Hey “Billy Martin”, stay close to your phone. “George Steinbrenner” needs you!

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    • That’s a great point about this offseason, which started with such promise watching Jon Quick do his thing, turning to complete crap mere hours after he won the Cup. Here we thought the big question hanging over the program this summer was going to be will Quick bring the Cup to Amherst or won’t he? If only we were dealing with something so trivial right now.

      Just one thing about Matty V. I can safely say that he knows a lot about hockey and the program, as with the story I linked to, and enjoys writing about hockey. But, understandably, the direction is for him to concentrate on the two higher profile sports. And I accept that. But I think if it was up to Matt he’d be writing about hockey more.

      As for Dick Baker, I’m still not completely sure of his status. It sounded like he wouldn’t blog anymore but still might write print articles. Yet there haven’t been many of those either. I too wish we had his perspective regularly during these events.

      While I won’t put myself in the class of either of those actual journalists, I’m glad to give UMass fans a central place to go for news.

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  3. Anonymous

     /  July 6, 2012

    What I cannot figure out is why you and UMass has not recognized Gene Reilly from Springfield as a viable candidate. Can you explain that to me? Reilly won a national championship as first assistant at Maine, was interim head coach in his 30’s when Walsh was sick, turned the Northeastern program around as first assistant there, won an ECAC title as first assistant at Harvard, has expereince as a first assistant in the AHL, has won three titles as a head coach in the European equivelant NHL and is from Springfield

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    • If I didn’t recognize him as a viable candidate I wouldn’t have put him on my Coaching Candidate list. I haven’t written about him more because I think his qualifications are good and I love the local ties but nothing puts him heads above other candidates. Also, from everyone I’ve talked to, he’s not near the top of UMass’ list. Maybe that will change.

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  4. McGlock

     /  July 6, 2012

    Reilly also has extensive junior hockey experience in new england with lots of connections for recruiting in UMass’ backyard

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  5. McGlock

     /  July 6, 2012

    Under Mcutcheons head coach requirement criteria UMass basketball never would have found Calipari, it is a stupid requirement, the Pearl offer is a JOKE, he would have set the program back 10 years.

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  6. Anonymous

     /  July 6, 2012

    Here we are 1st week in July and no coach , when do the players have to report back to school .. The AD must be a smart person for sure , but he blew this one that may take years to correct .. Have the returning players ( no captains yet ) been talking .? This team will need some strong leaders to keep it all together to over come this summer joke , they will have a chip on their shoulders that the other teams will find out , if they all return GO UMASS HOCKEY .. One more thing , Let’s have the school band at home games weather it’s a UMASS band or a local school what’s you thoughts ?

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    • I believe players will be back on campus end of August. There have been a few stories, mostly out of the Collegian, with player quotes. They’ve banded together and are remaining positive through this. I hope they take on an us against the world attitude as well.

      I love the idea of a band. I doubt it happens. Though again it’d be a nice gesture for the athletic dept to make it happen in the wake of all that has gone on in the last month.

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    • Tony

       /  July 6, 2012

      ONLY a UMASS band – from football experience, having SH High (nothing against them) selling programs (never on time and hard-to-find) and boosters manning the foodstands bordered on the pathetic for a school that has aspirations!

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  7. George

     /  July 6, 2012

    Reilly is well known in the hockey circles….not really a HIDDEN gem. Below is a quote from Greg Cronin from 7 years ago. Gotta think maybe he’s a better recruiter and teacher than coach? Would think he would have made the jump. Just thinking out loud.

    “Gene Reilly is a dynamic individual who is capable of performing Several important roles within the program,” said Cronin. “He is a proven Recruiter and his knowledge of the game is outstanding as evident in his contributions to a national championship at the University of Maine in 1999.”

    Read more: http://www.uscho.com/2005/06/02/reilly-stays-at-northeastern/#ixzz1zr2teL2K

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  8. Hey fans of UMass Hockey….let’s take a step back and reel in our emotions. As someone who has been part of the UMASS Hockey Pond Club since 1992, I feel compelled to weigh in about the search for a new coach thus far. First of all, after extensive conversations last night with school administrators and others in the know, it is clear to me that both Pecknold and Pearl were not offered contracts. They both in essence withdrew their candidacies before anything formal was put in front of them. They both had other issues (family, housing, etc) that kept them from the position. It is important to the future of the hockey program that we keep this process in a positive light. We cannot afford to have anymore headlines that our beloved program was left at the altar again, the fact is we were not! The “information age” can be a detriment. False information flows as easily as true information. Let’s be careful going forward. I deal with contract negotiations for a living and there are always leaks and posturing and leveraging that goes on to advance ones cause. I am now comfortable with what I have heard took place in the last week or so. I want to make it clear that I have full faith in the search committee (Merchant and Trovato as former players) and in John McCutcheon. Let’s stay positive and promote how wonderful our hockey program is, how first-class our Mullins Center is, and how superior our student athletes are. We will get our new coach in due time.

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    • Tony

       /  July 6, 2012

      Far too much boola-boola .. “get a new coach in due time?” The time is past due — perhaps you clubbers should get on your knees and ask Toot to come back until we can replace him properly!

      Like

  9. Anonymous

     /  July 6, 2012

    Ok Mr. Positive – now could you please spin something up for us fans that don’t live within a stones throw and need/enjoy listening to the games on internet radio..

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    • Anonymous

       /  July 6, 2012

      Players have to be back Aug 12.

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    • Anonymous

       /  July 6, 2012

      One more thing , mr. Positive , your pond club needs help , it may be better than nothing but I don’t remember what they have done for the team over the years . Like other D1 programs Rocks keep up the good work and be sure to let us ( fans) know what the visiting team web sites are .. Have to go back to work

      Like

      • Anon

         /  July 6, 2012

        Mr. Sullivan , thank you for your input , AD should have mention that and put an end to all these rumors .. if Aug 12 is a fact .. whats that 37 days .. please help if you can

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      • Thanks. There are a bunch of links to other college hockey blogs I read to the right of the page if that’s what you’re interested in.

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    • Happy to relay that I’ve been hearing some positive things on the radio issue, though there’s still some work to be done.

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  10. Tony

     /  July 6, 2012

    Speaking about GOLF events – I hold/held season tix for FB and BB ….. BUT—i don’t play golf (nor do I watch yacht racing or paint drying): Pond club needs to come up with some new ideas for participation!

    Like

  11. STEVEN R. SULLIVAN, SECRETARY OF THE POND CLUB

     /  July 6, 2012

    Mr. Negative we are working on the Radio issue. Stay tuned! Also, the Pond Club is the non profit fundraising arm of the UMass Men’s Ice Hockey Program and we have been busy doing our part to off set costs of the program. Could we do better? Always! The Pond Club raises funds through it’s Golf Tournament, and Reverse Raffle. We were instrumental in securing the funding for the state-of-the-art locker room and lounge. Most recently we helped raise the funds for the new video equipment that is used to breakdown the game for the players and coaches. We are always looking for new ideas and new members. We would love to have you aboard. I am sure you would add value to the club.

    Like

  12. STEVEN R. SULLIVAN, SECRETARY OF THE POND CLUB

     /  July 6, 2012

    Tony please consider season tickets for hockey and joining the Pond Club. We look forward to your new ideas.

    Like

  13. George

     /  July 6, 2012

    Mr Negative? Please tell me that is not in response to the writer of this blog.

    Like

    • Anonymous

       /  July 6, 2012

      Not at all George….read the whole thread and you will see that someone referred to me as Mr. Positive. Just giving it back.
      Never put down MC!

      Like

  14. Anonymous

     /  July 6, 2012

    Mr. Positive – if perhaps we were supplied with such information rather than having to bitch about it in order to get info – maybe we (I) could be positive as well. Hugs and gropes – Mr. Negative.

    Like

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