Editorial: Coaching Wasn’t At Fault For Maroons Early Season Struggles
Why can we be that clear on this fact? Well, the Maroons haven’t had a different playoff result in five seasons, losing in either the first or second round, and the two seasons prior, they lost in the Western Conference finals.
Unfortunately, the coaching duo of Kyle Makaric and Andrew Donaldson took the fall this time for a sub .500 start as new General Manager Tyler Roeszler decided to put his own stamp on the team, which included taking the coaching reigns himself.
Although the axe fell on the coaches, the Maroons’ struggles definitely were not a coaching issue.
So what is the problem?
Well, the Maroons are the third youngest Junior B team in the province, and youngest in the GOJHL’s Western Conference.
Is that a problem? Not really, if you’re taking the time to build a championship program. It doesn’t happen overnight after all, or midseason, as has been attempted several times over by the Chatham Maroons in recent years. The club has repeatedly gone out and bought veteran players from all corners of Ontario and beyond, attempting to get over the hump.
The problem being, each time this has happened, it has pushed out, or stunted younger players, often local players, who with time, and patience, would be the cornerstone of more competitive, and possibly championship calibre teams.
Look at the Listowel Cyclones. They went to back-to-back Sutherland Cups in 2017 and 2018, winning it all on their second trip. Their team was built almost exclusively through the Huron-Perth ‘AAA’ system, with a spattering of local Junior C developed players. Their team had played as a unit for 2-3 seasons before that title. They are the model of successful development at the Junior B level in recent years.
Even in house, we can look back to the Chatham Maroons most recent teams who made the Western Conference final. The core were players like Michael Verboom, Trevor Richardson, Ian Faubert, Nate Pietens, James McEwan, Blayne Oliver, Blake Blondeel, and Sean Myers. You should recognize those names, because they were grown in house and locally.
Patience is a virtue.
Even this season. If the Maroons think the product on ice isn’t strong enough, they have to look no further than Chatham-Kent hockey products such as Cameron Welch, Thomas Michaud, Lucas Fancy, and Grant Spence playing elsewhere (sure Spence moved up a level). But these guys were victim to an impatient style of trying to win, which hasn’t worked.
The current, well now former, coaching staff had that vision, of slowly developing a core group, which of course was going to come with some losses. In the long run however, in a season or two, we would have seen something bigger.
They were looking at a roster with players who would become well known names in Chatham, and entrenched in our community. Local names putting local faces in the stands, and a higher probability of winning that elusive title.
Let’s hope coach/GM Roeszler stays the course. After all, he’s a Chatham product himself. Let’s hope he brings back a few of those familiar castaways as the veteran presences, and gives this group time to marinate together, and develop, before selling the future for an only slightly better present.
Losing is often a precursor to winning. Players and teams learn through adversity, learn through observation, and need time to develop and learn to play at a faster pace, especially with the inexperienced and youthful nature of this seasons Chatham Maroons roster. Inexperience and youth however, doesn’t mean the roster was bad, and doesn’t mean the coaching was bad.
Coaching was not to blame for the slow start this season, and coaching won’t be the saviour for the Maroons either.
A patient process of keeping and developing players, not trying to buy and insert outside veterans at the expense of those developing players will save this organization, and help it to rise back to the glory that Chatham hockey fans desire and expect.