Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/5/2019 (386 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Three years after stepping down as general manager and head coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings, Kelly McCrimmon is back to square one, trying to replace himself.
Last week the Western Hockey League club announced that Grant Armstrong would not return to the Wheat Kings as general manager. His contract was set to expire later this month.
It couldn’t have been an easy decision as he led the team to the playoffs in two of his three seasons here, and the Wheat Kings missed this year’s post-season by just two points while playing four rookie defencemen for the most of the season. However, the team never got beyond the second round of the playoffs during his tenure and he was known for trading away big players at the deadline to build for the future. That being said, Brandon’s future is looking bright.
The job couldn’t have been easy for Armstrong. His family never moved from British Columbia to Brandon, so he spent a lot of time travelling back and forth while trying to be the face and leader of the organization. That may have been to his detriment even though he was always gracious with his time.
McCrimmon, who is also the owner and governor of the Wheat Kings, put a lot of time and effort into the team, and understandably so. He also holds people to high expectations, which leads to the problem. How can a workaholic who put so much of his life into one team expect someone else to do the same when they aren’t the owners?
The answer is he won’t find that person. He does need to find someone who can get close to that level and keep the team competitive, but that isn’t easy either.
I have no doubt that McCrimmon’s search for a new general manager is well underway, but like in 2016, I would expect it to come from someone currently outside of the organization as I don’t see a promotion happening.
The most likely candidate from within would have been director of scouting Darren Ritchie, who has done a great job with the drafts, but his son, Nolan, looks poised to crack the Wheat Kings’ roster next season and that would cause a awkward situation. The contracts of head coach David Anning and assistant coach Don MacGillivray are also up at the end of the month and I’m not sure either of those two will be promoted, and their futures may be determined by the new general manager.
With prospects camp a week and a half away, I’m sure McCrimmon would like to make a hire before then, even though he said there is no timetable. I’m thinking he’d want someone in place before the coaches’ contracts expire as well so a decision can be made there.
We will have to wait and see who is hired as the next GM, but it’s not an easy position to fill, especially if McCrimmon is looking for someone to put as much into the team as he did.
A few other random thoughts:
• Congratulations to Brandon’s Spence Mott and Neepawa’s Hayden Delaloye on winning their age division titles at the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour’s event in Portage la Prairie on the weekend. Mott, 12, shot an 86 and 85 to top the peewee boys’ division by three strokes, while Delaloye carded an 83 and 76 and then had to win a playoff to take the bantam boys’ crown. Virden’s Eric Reid was seventh in juvenile boys, while Brandon’s Brynne Paschinski was second in the 15- to 18-year-old girls division.
• The Crocus Plainsmen varsity boys’ soccer team continues to build up momentum as provincials approach. Crocus finished second in a tournament in Kenora, Ont., dropping the final 1-0 to Winnipeg’s River East Kodiaks. The Plainsmen can lock up the city title with a win over the Vincent Massey Vikings at Crocus on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
• Novell Thomas has been great for basketball in this community. In addition to guiding the Brandon University Bobcats women’s team, he also brought club basketball back to a community that used to embrace the sport but now is more known for volleyball. Josie Grift, a Grade 12 student at Vincent Massey, recently committed to BU’s women’s basketball team and credits her four years in Thomas’s Junior Bobcat program for her development and getting this opportunity to play at the U Sports level.
"There’s so many girls now that go and try out. From when I started to when it ended, there’s way more girls going to tryouts, which is really good," Grift told Brandon Sun reporter Thomas Friesen. "The Junior Bobcats program itself was really helpful for me. Seeing some of the girls now at the (under-14) age, they’re so good for how old they are, and it’s really good for them."
Thomas also founded Brandon Youth Basketball Association and continues to help grow the game in the region again.
• The end of the Toronto Raptors game on Sunday may be one of those "Where were you" moments in time. Not only was Toronto’s Game 7 win over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers in their Eastern Conference semifinal the most-watched NBA game ever in Canada, but it was also the first buzzer-beater to win a Game 7 in the playoffs in NBA history. It may not have been the prettiest play in terms of how it was drawn up and executed, but it will be hard to forget a game-winning shot that hit the rim four times before falling to send the Raptors into the conference finals for the second time in franchise history.
• One of the most impressive playoff runs of this year took place in the Ontario Hockey League. The Guelph Storm overcame a 3-0 series deficit in the second round and came back from trailing the conference final three games to one to advance to the league final against the Ottawa 67s, who had not lost a game during the playoffs. After digging themselves a 2-0 hole, Guelph stormed back to take the final four games, win the championship and advance to the Memorial Cup.
I’m interested to see how the team will fare in a round-robin event, which begins on Friday, especially since Guelph will be the only team in Halifax that was not in the Canadian Hockey League’s final top 10 rankings of the season. The Storm will face some pretty impressive competition there.
» Twitter: @jasterch