The Saskatoon Blades front office has found its man.
Mitch Love was unveiled Wednesday as the club’s new head coach.
Love, 33, arrives in Saskatoon after seven seasons as an assistant coach with the Everett Silvertips.
“As a longtime assistant coach in this league, your job is to make the head coach look good by all the work you put in and that’s what I’m going to be as head coach here,” he said to reporters at a team news conference.
“I’m going to demand that of my staff and the players. I think over time, that’s going to translate into more wins than losses.”
The announcement came a little more than two months after firing former head coach Dean Brockman a day after the season ended.
If you ask Love, it all came together pretty quickly. Everett was eliminated from the WHL playoffs a little more than two weeks ago. Since then, he had been in constant conversations with Blades’ administration before coming to an agreement Tuesday.
Blades general manager Colin Priestner said that many applicants came forward the last number of weeks, but Love always remained his number one choice.
Priestner had his eye on the Quesnel, B.C. native after Blades associate general manager Steve Hildebrand told him the impression Love made at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge a few seasons ago.
“That always stuck with me,” Priestner said. “We met last year at the draft, it’s something so stupid, he came up to me with an enthusiastic gait about him and a big, firm handshake and looks you in the eye. I said to (Hildebrand) at the draft table, ‘I can see why you said that about that Mitch Love guy.'”
Love signed a four-year contract, with a fifth-year club option, showing exactly how much faith Priestner is placing in his new hire.
“We’re putting a big investment into him because we believe in him. Our goal is to have numerous banners up there by the time he’s done and onto the pro game.”
The Silvertips made the playoffs in each of his seven seasons behind the bench, highlighted by his work on the defensive end where the stingy ‘Tips defence allowed the fewest goals in the WHL the past two seasons.
Being the fifth different Blades head coach in seven years, Love has been gifted a rare opportunity for recent Blades coaches.
Brockman led the 2017-18 season Blades to a 35-33-3-1 record and 74 points in the WHL’s most competitive division. That was the team’s best finish since the Memorial Cup run in 2013.
In a WHL East division with Moose Jaw, Swift Current and Regina all losing important players, a Blades team stocked with young talent can make a big impression during Love’s time.
Priestner certainly thinks so.
“It was really exciting for us to be able to give him this chance and I just love the enthusiasm and passion he has and I think our players are going to play with that enthusiasm because it’s infectious to be around,” Priestner said.
—With files from 650 CKOM’s Wray Morrison.