Wheat Kings owner/general manager Kelly McCrimmon is looking for a new coach for the second time in two years. (FILE PHOTO)
A busy off-season has just become busier for Brandon Wheat Kings owner/general manager Kelly McCrimmon.
The Wheat Kings relieved head coach Cory Clouston of his duties on Tuesday, ending their relationship with the former Ottawa Senators bench boss after the first season of his two-year contract.
"It’s an important decision and, based on that, you put a lot of thought into it," said McCrimmon, who is also negotiating a new lease agreement with the Keystone Centre to replace the 15-year deal that expires at the end of this month. "Obviously, you make the decision that you think serves your organization the best."
The Wheat Kings went 39-28-1-4 under Clouston, winning their first playoff series against the Calgary Hitmen before being swept by the Edmonton Oil Kings, who went on to claim the Western Hockey League title.
While the season was hit-and-miss for a team that had high expectations and also made big trades to bring in veterans Kevin Sundher, Darian Dziurzynski and Brandon Anderson, McCrimmon said the Wheat Kings’ on-ice performance was not part of the reason for the dismissal.
Instead, he cited other factors, including wanting to avoid "uncertainty" at the position, with the possibility that Clouston could opt out of his contract this summer and accept a job with a professional team.
"In decisions like this, there are a lot of considerations and that was one of them," McCrimmon said. "Factoring all considerations together again led me to the decision that we were going to go a different direction."
The Wheat Kings will be on the hook for Clouston’s contract this season unless the coach takes a job with a professional team.
Meanwhile, McCrimmon is keeping an open mind as he enters the search for a replacement.
"I haven’t made any decisions with respect to where we go next," said McCrimmon, who coached the team for seven seasons before hiring Clouston. "We’ll look at a number of different people, we’ll look internally, we’ll look to sources outside our team. That process will start in earnest now."
Wheat Kings defenceman Ryan Pulock said he was caught off guard by McCrimmon’s decision.
"When I was told I was a little bit shocked," he said. "I knew he had a two-year contract and kinda thought he’d be coming back, but Crim has decided he’s not, so I’m excited for a new change again."
Pulock said the players faced a major adjustment going from McCrimmon to Clouston, but he expects the transition to be easier this time around.
"For sure, it was a big change and I think for every new coach you’re going to get, you’re going to have somewhat of a change," he said. "(Clouston) was only here for one year, so it think it would be easy to adjust again, since we’ve kinda all adjusted from Crim to Cory."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 16, 2012