Cory Clouston is heading home to Cranbrook, B.C., in a couple of weeks. The million dollar question is, will he be staying there?
After being fired by the Brandon Wheat Kings last month, Clouston’s name has been bandied about as a natural fit to return to his former WHL team, the Cranbrook-based Kootenay Ice.
While that may indeed come to pass, reports that he has been formally interviewed for the job are apparently incorrect.
“I have spoken to him, but I haven’t interviewed anybody,” said Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth Thursday, pointing out that he regularly chats with all of his former coaches. “Have I spoken to Cory Clouston? Yes. I have spoken to a lot of people. But actually, I haven’t even started the (interview) process yet. That’s the honest truth. I just don’t know which way I want to go yet ...
“I think there’s lots of good candidates out there. I think the biggest thing is what do we need, what’s best for the Kootenay Ice right now.”
Clouston, a two-time WHL coach of the year with Kootenay, confirms he would consider returning but is still weighing his options.
“Yeah, there’s definitely interest,” said Clouston, who will also have a chance to network with all the movers and shakers in the game when he heads to this year’s NHL Entry Draft on June 22 and 23 in Pittsburgh. “I mean, that’s my hometown, it’s where I consider home. … Jeff and I have talked, but we talk about everything and anything. He’s a friend of mine and I still have a house there and that’s where I will be going here in a couple of weeks, that’s where I spent eight years (in the organization) … and that’s my home base.”
Interestingly, the Ice job came open when Kootenay suddenly fired former head coach Kris Knoblauch on May 25, just 10 days after Clouston was let go. But to be clear, the two events were not related.
Wheat Kings general manager Kelly McCrimmon, who said he was “disappointed” with Brandon’s season under Clouston, stated that he did not want a summer of uncertainty as Clouston pondered possible opportunities in the professional ranks, so he fired him with a year left on his contract.
As for Knoblauch, who led the Ice to the 2011 WHL championship title, he was dismissed after chasing the University of Alberta Golden Bears job without permission while still under contract to the Ice. Knoblauch said he was led to believe that he was the leading candidate to get the head coaching position at U of A, which didn’t even place a courtesy call to the Ice to ask for permission to interview Knoblauch. The whole slimy affair has left Knoblauch — widely regarded as one of the best young coaches around — out of work. It also brought widespread criticism of the way the Golden Bears conducted their search, especially after first-year general manager Stan Marple vehemently denied that AHL coach Ian Herbers was a candidate and then hired him only days later.
It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that Knoblauch winds up in Brandon and Clouston in Kootenay in a bizarre swap of coaches, if you will.
However, there are plenty of candidates out there for both teams, from the likes of former WHL head coaches Craig Hartsburg (Everett Silvertips), Dave Lowry (Calgary Hitmen) and Dean Chynoweth (Swift Current Broncos/Seattle Thunderbirds), who were all let go as NHL assistants this spring, while former WHLer Jared Bednar was just let go as coach of the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen.
WHL assistant coaches like Darren Kruger (Medicine Hat Tigers), Dave Hunchak (Kamloops Blazers), Steve Hamilton (Edmonton Oil Kings), Dave Struch (Saskatoon Blades), Jon Klemm (Spokane Chiefs) and former Wheat King Mike Vandenberghe (Moose Jaw Warriors), along with Junior A coach/GM’s like Dean Brockman (SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos) and former Regina Pat Chad Mercier (AJHL’s Bonnyville Pontiacs) may also be in the mix.
Here in Brandon, McCrimmon may look within the organization to longtime assistant coaches Dwayne Gylywoychuk or Darren Ritchie, or return to the bench himself.
“I have been working on this for a while now,” McCrimmon said.
“It’s been a month, there have been some other things take precedent, for example our lease, prospect camp, WHL annual meeting as well as Eastern Conference scheduling, but it is coming together.”