Coaching Hot Seat
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Virg Foss, who used to cover North Dakota for the Grand Forks Herald and now contributes to us regularly, posed an interesting question recently in an article, asking whether former Sioux coach Dean Blais was ready to return to college hockey.
Foss, who knew the reserved Blais almost as well as any non-family member could during his 10 seasons and two national championships as North Dakota head coach, based his conjecture on recent comments made by Blais in a radio interview. Also, Blais is no longer coaching for Columbus Blue Jackets with Gerard Gallant, after Gallant was fired in favor of Ken Hitchcock.
At 56 years old, Blais may be ready for one more run as a college coach, to see what he can do with another program. Minnesota, his alma mater, does not figure to have an opening any time soon. And it's hard to see Blais at an Eastern school. But if he were to return, there are some possibilities out there.
That being said, it's also time for an annual look at who's on the Hot Seat. We don't take any particular joy in pointing out the coaches whose jobs may be on the line, and this isn't even necessarily our opinion. But there is usually a certain atmosphere that develops around a program when the signs are starting to point that way. Here are some, and thus, candidates for Blais to step in.
John Markell, Ohio State — Markell helped bring the Buckeyes into the national tournament regularly, but hasn't had any wins in it since 1998. The program has taken steps backward, and always seems to be a recipe in frustration. Assistant coach Casey Jones is well-prepared to take over if necessary. But Blais works in Columbus. I say "works" because he doesn't really maintain a residence there.
Troy Jutting, Minnesota State — The Mavericks got into the NCAAs in 2003, but have not been able to get back on track since. Defections of many key players have hurt, but keeping up with the big boys has proven more and more difficult. Jutting has a tendency to rankle a lot of officials, which doesn't help his cause.
Dave Shyiak, Alaska-Anchorage — Shyiak's situation has been well-covered here, but if he has to leave, would Blais be able to step in, as some have speculated. Well, first off, I'm not sure any coach is going to relish jumping on Shyiak's grave, and in the end, it's almost certain he will keep his job. Second, would Blais even want to go to Anchorage? So this is not really a traditional "hot seat" or a candidate for Blais' next stop.
Blaise MacDonald, Massachusetts-Lowell — Sort of a perpetual position for MacDonald, since his teams have underachieved.
Tim Whitehead, Maine — He's only here because his contract will soon expire, and because many fans are rabid in their dislike for Whitehead. He's not Shawn Walsh, after all, but how many other coaches would be. Meanwhile, Whitehead keeps making the Frozen Four. Whitehead should be safe, despite the hue and cry from the masses every time the Black Bears lose a game.
Jack Parker, Boston University — We included him last year, with an asterisk, along with Tim Taylor of Yale, pointing them out as older coaches who may soon be ready to retire. Taylor was forced out at Yale, but not sure at this point Parker is going anywhere. When he does, it seems increasingly likely current assistant Dave Quinn will be the next head coach. BU has churned out so many head coaches over the years, that there was always wild debate about who the next coach would be — Buddy Powers, Brian Durocher, Don Cahoon, Blaise MacDonald. But Quinn has a clear leg up on all of those guys at this point.