Warriors coaching search in full swing

Matthew Gourlie
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Training camp starts in seven weeks for the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Moose Jaw Warriors

Even as Mike Stothers was saying goodbye Thursday, the clock was already ticking to find his replacement.

"There's a hole to fill, a significant one, and we will take it as a challenge," said Warriors GM Alan Millar. "Now that it's official and now that it's out there, there has been quite a bit of interest and quite a few calls."

Thursday morning the Western Hockey League's coaching carousel picked up speed as Edmonton's Derek Laxdal was hired by the American Hockey League champion Texas Stars. In addition to the Oil Kings opening, Portland, Vancouver and Regina are all looking to fill coaching vacancies.

Given the size of the markets and the success of the franchises that are looking to fill vacancies, it's going to be a competitive job market.

"It's a challenge. I understand that," said Milar. "I think we're going to be dealing with some movement pro-wise and that will trickle down to the potential candidates. We have a lot of great coaches — experienced veteran guys and up-and-coming young guys — who are looking for an opportunity. 

"I believe in what we're doing here. I believe in these facilities and the resources that we have for our players. I believe in what we have here with our community and I think we're an intriguing job."

In addition to Laxdall and Stothers, Kelowna's Ryan Huska also moved to the AHL and Portland's Mike Johnston was hired by the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

"That tells you how good this league is," said Stothers. "It's outstanding. I don't want to blanket it and say it's the best in all of junior hockey, but I don't know how it can't be. Every team has a great coach and that just bodes well for the league and the future of it."

Millar noted that junior hockey is meant to be a developmental league and he felt it was a credit to the league that so many coaches are being tapped by the professional ranks.

"I think it's very positive for all of these gentlemen who are getting these offers to move on," said Millar. "The quality of people and the quality of coaches in our league is first rate. Now we're in a situation where more young people are going to get new opportunities (to coach) in our league."

In addition to losing Stothers, Warriors assistant coach Mike Vandenberghe also left to pursue other interests. That leaves 29-year-old assistant Mark O'Leary as the only coach on staff. 

"The time line is the right guy. If the right guy comes in in the next 48 hours, he'll be the guy," said Millar. "If it takes three weeks than he'll be the guy. It's not about rushing the process, it's about getting the right person."

Jim Hiller, the WHL's coach of the year in 2012 with the Tri-City Americans, is looking for work and is expected to fill one of the vacancies within the league.

Former Regina Pats head coach Malcolm Cameronconfirmed to Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post that he’s “very, very interested” in the Warriors’ job and believes it would be a “great fit” for himself and his family. He has already spoken to the team and officially submitted his resume on Thursday.

Organizations: Western Hockey League, American Hockey League, Oil Kings Pittsburgh Penguins Regina Leader-Post

Geographic location: Portland, Edmonton, Vancouver Kelowna Tri-City

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