Between the Lines: Coach Talk
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
Northeastern officials broke the ice Monday in a session with reporters, a session that CHN was given the transcript of and will report more on later. The session was held after head coach Greg Cronin was reinstated, and included athletic director Peter Roby and Cronin.
We thought that the suspension of Cronin and assistant Albie O'Connell while allowing the other assistant, Sebastien Laplante, to continue coaching, was a sign that O'Connell was the main person involved. Maybe that's still the case, who knows. But with word that Cronin and O'Connell were being reinstated, the school announced that Laplante would be suspended for the same amount of time, about three weeks, at the beginning of next season.
The school's statement went on to say that the student-athletes' best interests were taken into consideration with its decisions.
You have to read between the lines of that comment. But it sounds like the school is effectively saying all of the coaches were responsible, but suspending all three at the same time would've jeopardized the team's entire season, and it didn't want the current players to suffer.
Roby, who was brought in to clean up a recruiting scandal with the basketball program, clarified that Monday and said that Laplante wasn't as "overly involved" as the others, and he didn't want to bring in an outsider to coach the team.
Also, according to Roby and Cronin the relationship remains "professional," and Roby said the issues didn't rise to the level of firing someone.
The question is, what happens if Northeastern loses this weekend to Boston University? Will Cronin decide to step away? Though he's done a good job at Northeastern, he's never really fit into the college coaching crowd. Many people assume he'd like to get back to the pro game.
Speaking of coaches who could be on the way out, there's good reason to believe Massachusetts-Lowell will part ways with Blais MacDonald after a 5-win season. And more imminent, it seems, is the departure of Tim Army from Providence.
It's been a long time since the Friars have had any real success — the mid '90s, really. After an NCAA bid in 1996, Pooley won 20 games in two other seasons, with an NCAA bid in 2001, before a 12-win campaign in 2004-05 drove him out. Army, a legendary former player and a pro coach at that time, came in and won 17 games his first season. Fans rejoiced.
But the Friars have been poor ever since, and after seasons of 7, 10 and 8 wins the last three years, it marks the worst stretch in Providence history since Lou Lamoriello took over the program in 1967-68.
The athletic director is Bob Driscoll, a former hockey player, who just so happens to be the current chair of the Men's Ice Hockey Committee. He's also in the process of, probably, firing men's basketball coach Keno Davis, whose teams have floundered amid discipline problems.
So Driscoll has a lot on his plate, but he also knows what needs to be done. There haven't been discipline problems at Providence, but Army's teams simply haven't performed. Even when Providence made the playoffs in Army's first three years, they were outscored 26-3 in six straight losses.
Ther is time left on the contract of both coaches, but with attendance dwindling at the games, it may be more financially beneficial to actually buy out those coaches.
My assumption at Lowell, meanwhile, is that the decision has been made to let MacDonald go, and that the parties are trying to work out a deal for the final year of his contract.
Boy was I wrong. After initially thinking that ECAC coaches wouldn't bother trying to rat out Yale, and thus endanger the possibility of the league looking good nationally, it turns out that there's plenty of animosity to go around.
I don't really know specifics, but all I know is that the Chris Cahill story doesn't go away. Yale insists there's nothing to worry about it, and I pretty much wrote the whole thing off myself after the Ivy League re-determined that there was nothing to pursue.
But the story won't go away. In recent weeks, I've been stopped, out of the blue, by three different people (not necessarily coaches) with knowledge of the situation, to tell me that there's more to it than anyone would let you believe. They all insist that if you looked hard enough, you'd see that the league Cahill participated in France last year, really did have some players considered pro. And there would be issues if the Ivy League athletic directors had the stomach to pursue the issue.
But more than anything, what has struck me has been the ill will that is swirling around over the situation, from both sides. Certainly Yale coach Keith Allain is not happy knowing there are a variety of people gunning for him this way.
I'm wrong again. Third time's a charm in one article.
I should also say, however, that I was right, too.
What am I talking about?
Well, first off, two one-time New York Rangers NHL Draft busts are all of a sudden back in the spotlight this week, in a good way. Former Michigan goalie Al Montoya, taken No. 6 overall in the 2004 draft, and former Dartmouth forward Hugh Jessiman, taken No. 12 overall in 2005, both have made impacts in the NHL recently, long after they had been dismissed as afterthoughts and pointed to as reasons to ridicule the Rangers' draft acumen.
The New York Rangers may be forever gunshy from taking college players in the first round of the NHL Draft. But college players, overall, are not to blame. The Rangers are to blame for taking the wrong ones.
This is not to be disparaging of Montoya or Jessiman, it's just that, it should've been clear to anyone who'd scouted any college games at all that those guys were not No. 1 picks. Anyone who watched Dartmouth play that year knew Lee Stempniak was the better player, and that's certainly been borne out.
But all of a sudden, Montoya has surfaced with the New York Islanders, a team desperate to find any goaltending at all after trades and numerous injuries. They picked Montoya up off the scrap heap, and he's been nothing short of outstanding for the Islanders. It's a feel-good story for the one-time Michigan star who then struggled during his junior year, including at the World Juniors, and left Ann Arbor after three seasons, and never panned out with the Rangers either.
For Jessiman, it's been a lot of years in the minors, until he finally got a sniff of the NHL this week with the Florida Panthers, where he made news by winning a fight of all things. Jessiman now can finally join numerous former Big Green skaters who have made the NHL in the past decade — like Stempniak, Tanner Glass, Ben Lovejoy, T.J. Galiardi.
Oh — and as for being wrong? Colleague Elliot Olshansky, a Dartmouth alum, never lets me forget that I once insisted Cornell power forward Shane Hynes would have a better pro career than Jessiman. Hynes' career was derailed by injury and he never came close to the NHL, playing only 17 AHL games. My point back then was more about Jessiman's over-hype, something I felt bad about after meeting him at CSTV's studios in 2005.