After four seasons with the Saskatoon Blades, head coach Dean Brockman was fired on Sunday.
“Ultimately, I felt with our management staff, that the last two years we’ve been in a playoff position in a key time and we felt that we would take the lessons that we learned last year and that wouldn’t happen again,” said Blades general manager Colin Priestner. “We have been in a playoff position two years in a row coming down the stretch and just haven’t been able to take that next step, which ultimately led us to this decision.”
Priestner noted losing a three-point lead in the standings last year over the Calgary Hitmen that knocked them out of the playoffs.
“The fact that we were playing meaningless games at the end of the year with an eight point lead was extremely disappointing to me and our players,” he said. “The fact that it happened last year and that it happened this year led us to the decision that we needed a new voice.”
Brockman spent two seasons as an assistant coach before taking on the lead role in 2016. He amassed a 63-68-10-3 record over the course of those two seasons.
This season’s 35-33-3-1 record was the first time the team finished above .500 since 2012-13 season, but still wasn’t enough for Brockman to keep the job.
“It’s a results-based business, and unfortunately, we didn’t meet the expectations,” Priestner said.
Optimism surrounded the Blades a few weeks ago as they looked to be on track to make the playoffs for the first time since hosting the Memorial Cup in 2013.
On Feb. 20, the Saskatoon Blades held an eight-point advantage over the Prince Albert Raiders for the final playoff spot.
That’s when things changed dramatically.
Prince Albert won nine straight games en route to securing the final playoff spot in the Eastern conference.
Saskatoon lost four straight games and six of seven games overall in that stretch.
“We saw the team take a step backward in the biggest five weeks of the season and we other teams around us take a step forward,” Priestner said of the team’s final leg of the season.
In the wake of Brockman’s firing, fans began to show frustration on social media over management’s decisions in recent years.
Priestner dodged questions surrounding management’s experience and capabilities and instead spoke about having a good enough team to make the playoffs.
“I’ve said it before, we inherited a team that had no first round draft picks for six years. You can’t trade your way into it when you don’t have the assets. I’m very proud of the job we’ve done building it. I’m disappointed in myself and our management team that we didn’t get over the hump this year,” Priestner said before adding that the prospect pool is one of the best in the league.
Attacking Priestner’s lack of experience has been a common theme among fans. Priestner became general manager two seasons ago with little hockey experience after his father bought the team in 2013.
The team now begins its search for a fifth head coach since the 2012-13 season.