Skip to content
SLBAM: Who you know is important in hiring a coach

What’s up gang. By popular demand, I’ve got an article ready for you for Christmas Eve. The demand was there and I’m always happy to answer your questions.

I’d like to start by wishing you all a Merry Christmas. I wish you everything you want, but above all, quality time with the people you love. We often forget that. And now for this week’s questions.

We may talk about the ECHL as a development league, especially in our case in Wheeling with the association we have with our AHL team and the NHL. But there’s a long way to go between playing in the ECHL and playing in the NHL.

As for Gauthier, he was a key player in the WHL and was part of a mega-trade as well, ending up in Portland, where he maintained a 24-4 record and incredible playoff stats.

Taylor is currently in the top 5 in the ECHL in terms of stats, and he’s excellent.

The plan for him is to see as many games as possible, since he’s a number 1 goalie. That’s better than being elsewhere and seeing one game every two weeks, for example. He’s still young, 22 years old and has his whole future ahead of him.

In terms of potential, yes, he has the potential to play in the NHL, but not in the short term. There are steps to follow, which is to perform in the ECHL. Then, to do the same in the AHL and then, to earn a call-up to the big club.

He’s improved enormously this season compared with last year. He understands the situation better, he’s matured a lot and it’s all been good for him and for our organization.

There is a transaction freeze in both the ECHL and NHL. In the ECHL, there’s a hockey operations freeze, i.e. transactions or waivers, from December 23 to December 27. So there’s less hassle for players at that level, knowing that from the 23rd, they can’t move.

Unfortunately, the reality is that we sometimes have to move personnel just before Christmas.

If we take ourselves as an example, as you mentioned, Pittsburgh and Wilkes are now healthy, so we’ve been able to get Laderoute, Addamo and Svejkovsky to strengthen our team.

Unfortunately, this means that we have a surplus of players and have to move some around. In the last 10 days, we’ve made three transactions in order to be compliant.

In the first, we picked up Quebecer Jordan Martel from Utah for our defenseman Wichers. We were starting to be tight in terms of top-6 forwards and we had a surplus of defensemen.

Subsequently, we traded a forward and a defenseman for the future. Unfortunately, this was, as you mentioned, a little more difficult as the holidays approached. But that’s part of the business. Now, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the teams above us stay healthy.

To answer the other part of the question. Those responsible for transactions, signatures and the like. It’s pretty much me and my coach Derek, who’s the team GM. I help him with all decisions and players. I do player analysis too, just like my coach.

So, without having the official title, I’m assistant to the GM.

When it comes to ECHL players without LAH contracts, we make the decisions. For players with NHL/LAH contracts, the Wilkes GM works with us.

So we work as a team.

Often what happens is, coaches want to start fresh and make sure they’re working with people they have a connection with. As a result, we often see the same hockey staff following each other from team to team.

When my KHL coach, David, signed his new contract this year, he phoned me straight away to ask if I’d like to follow him, because we have that kind of complicity.

It’s also important to remember that we spend more time – a lot more time – with our coaches, both at home and on the road, than we do with our families all year round. So if you hate your assistant… it’s not great and it’s going to show.

What also happens when one of the assistant coaches stays on is to allow the transition between the new guard and the old guard, but sometimes also because he has a link with the GM.

In the ECHL, we often see a complete overhaul, since most teams have only one assistant. So it’s easier to start from scratch, and also because we don’t have the same salary as NHL coaches.

Who does the firing come from? It can come from two places, from the team management, for example the president, otherwise, for our part, it could come from Pittsburgh/Wilkes, because they have an idea of how they want the teams to run and want to make sure it’s well respected.

Let’s take my interviews as an example. I’ve always had the Wilkes GM question me during my interviews, because he wanted to be involved, and at my last interview, Pittsburgh’s assistant GM, Jason Spezza, was in the interview with his series of questions.

In other places, we talk about the president or the owner taking care of this.

If you’d asked me that question two years ago, I’d have had a different version, if you’d asked me that question a year ago, I’d have had a different version than now and two years ago.

Not so long ago, I saw myself making a career in the KHL, because I loved the hockey experience with my coach David. When the war started, I came back and my plans changed.

I wanted to become a video coach, even though I don’t like it any more than I have to. But I wanted to get my foot in the door in the AHL so that later I could make the jump to assistant coach. Because it’s a lot harder to get into a league than it is to walk around in one.

After that, I turned down three positions as a video coach to stay with the family and the kids because they needed their daddy, and I felt too selfish not to let my kids have a father around.

In the meantime, the Montreal Carabins came into the picture with Danièle Sauvageau and I saw myself with them for the very long term, because I loved my hockey experience with the group of girls we had and, in terms of hockey employment, the conditions were perfect.

Things took an unexpected turn when I received a call for a position in the ECHL and decided to be curious and see what the interviews were like, questions to keep me up to date.

Now that I’ve taken the plunge, I see myself as a long-term assistant and I love my role, even if I took a second assistant coach with us, because the workload is enormous.

My aspirations remain the same: to work for the NHL, but I see myself as an assistant coach for the short, medium and long term.

I know my strengths and weaknesses and I know I’m a better assistant coach, or at least you can get more out of me if you have me as an assistant than as a head coach.

I’ve been lucky enough to occupy practically every position in the hockey world. But here, I have a one-year contract plus an option. I didn’t know what my family and I were getting into, so we thought, why not give it a try and see.

So far, it’s been one of the best adventures and experiences we’ve had, and I’m not going to lie and tell you that I like it here and I see myself here for the long term.

So much so that I’d love to have a bigger “title” as associate coach following the next negotiations and new contract if necessary. My experience as a GM in Western Canada and Russia gives me a helping hand with transactions here in Wheeling.


This concludes my article. I’d like to wish you and your family a happy holiday season. But above all, happy junior championships.

As for me, my little family is in Quebec for the holidays, I’m at home taking care of the cats and recharging the batteries, we have a few games over the holidays. Once again, thank you all. Have a good Sunday and we’ll talk again @Mitch_Giguere.

More Content