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Ice Bears coach Craigen not returning

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Knoxville, TN (May 15, 2016) The Knoxville Ice Bears President and General Manager Mike Murray has announced today that the contract of Head Coach Mike Craigen will not be renewed for the upcoming 2017-2018 season. A search for his successor will begin immediately.

 

 

 

Craigen spent seven seasons as the Head Coach earning a 206-151-35 regular season record and 16-15 playoff record. During the 2014-2015 season, he became the first person in SPHL history to win a President’s Cup Championship as a coach and as a player (2006, 2008).  

 

 

 

“I would like to personally thank Mikey for his commitment and professionalism over the past seven seasons for the Ice Bears organization and the community,” said Murray. “Mikey has grown tremendously within his first professional coaching job over this time, he is one of the more dynamic people I have had the opportunity to know. I have the utmost respect for him as a person on and off the ice and we wish him great success in his future.” 

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Wow! I didn't see this coming.

 

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10 minutes ago, 72Vette said:

Wow! I didn't see this coming.

 

it's long overdue, but I didn't think ownership would have the nerve to do it yet.  There were lots of apology letters and social media explanations coming out regarding necessary improvement since the end of the season.  It was obvious something was going on internally, but I thought a final warning shot had been issued.  I've heard rumblings that season ticket renewals may not be going well, and I assume the team is attributing that to Craigen now.  Honestly, I think his recruiting has been lackluster; and his "system" was failing more each year.  I"m not sure season ticket renewals are all on him, though.  The Ice Bears pricing is out of line for the level of hockey presented and the building conditions.  I understand they have to do that because of limited seating and no concession or parking revenue.  If you are in that situation, though, you have to put a winner on the ice consistently to maintain your fanbase interest.  SMG's management of the arena lacking severely in fan friendliness is the other side of the issue creating problems, but I'm sure the team has to tiptoe lightly around them.

Thoughts on potential coaches?

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Bechard is available...:eyes:

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I didn't renew...Craigen and their steadfast loyalty to him was part of the reason, pricing and my god-awful seat location was another part of it.  I didn't think they'd have the balls to do it, either, what with him being 'family'.  But, too late now...that's four seats and and close to $3k gone for them.

I get that it's Single A hockey and every year you put a bunch of guys on the guys on the ice whom ~50% of them have never played together before...I expect Oct, Nov, and even Dec to be rough as the guys learn to play each with each other and learn the system.  Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a 'system' as these guys have played like garbage into March the last several years (the Championship season...they lucked into that one).  They never seem to come together as a cohesive bunch, it's a dumpster fire into the playoffs every year.

That said, Craigen seems like a nice guy (and maybe that was his undoing) and I wish him the best.  He's not a great coach, though.  I get the feeling he's more a 'friend/one of the guys' than a coach, that's not what they needed.  He'll probably wind up with the org in some other capacity seeing as how he has roots here now.  Didn't he work for Bell in .ca before coming back here?

As for Bechard...ugh.  Another guy that proved to be inflexible and kept the same system and people year in and year out.  Darryl Sutter, however, is still looking for work. :)

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13 minutes ago, Speedracer said:

Bechard is available...:eyes:

Honestly, he and Craigen are extremely similar in their general approach to team building, hockey,  and results.  I like Bechard personally, but if I was a Knoxville fan, I wouldn't be interested in more of the same.  I kind of suspect they have someone in mind.  Only two names that I can think of that make sense are returns of Scott Hillman or Terry Ruskowski.  I'm not sure if Hillman's current situation (is he a scout since being let go by Indy?) is better or worse than an SPHL coach.  He may not want to take a step back.  The other is Terry Ruskowski.  I wonder if he is interested in a "semi-retirement" job.  I'm not sure they go the direction of a former player with no coaching track record.  It's too risky.  Is Jim Bermingham available to cross the border?

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4 minutes ago, bcruze said:

I didn't renew...Craigen and their steadfast loyalty to him was part of the reason, pricing and my god-awful seat location was another part of it.  I didn't think they'd have the balls to do it, either, what with him being 'family'.  But, too late now...that's four seats and and close to $3k gone for them.

I get that it's Single A hockey and every year you put a bunch of guys on the guys on the ice whom ~50% of them have never played together before...I expect Oct, Nov, and even Dec to be rough as the guys learn to play each with each other and learn the system.  Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a 'system' as these guys have played like garbage into March the last several years (the Championship season...they lucked into that one).  They never seem to come together as a cohesive bunch, it's a dumpster fire into the playoffs every year.

That said, Craigen seems like a nice guy (and maybe that was his undoing) and I wish him the best.  He's not a great coach, though.  I get the feeling he's more a 'friend/one of the guys' than a coach, that's not what they needed.  He'll probably wind up with the org in some other capacity seeing as how he has roots here now.  Didn't he work for Bell in .ca before coming back here?

As for Bechard...ugh.  Another guy that proved to be inflexible and kept the same system and people year in and year out.  Darryl Sutter, however, is still looking for work. :)

I heard rumblings that Bryan Hince recruited the majority of the 2015 championship team.  That team fell apart also, until all of his hockey talent too good to be ruined returned just in time for the playoffs.  Honestly, it was luck because of extreme talent, and I'm not sure he put the talent together.  

He was at the telephone company in Canada between his playing and coaching days.  What happened with his dad disappearing from the bench mid-season this year, by the way?  He was his equipment manager and just mysteriously wasn't there any more.

He's been mostly a good guy, but I just wonder some days what the behind the scenes looks like there.  That being said, I"m not sure he is involved in any future capacity.  For this ownership group to let him go, that tells me his welcome is worn out.

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6 minutes ago, Carey Mahoney said:

I heard rumblings that Bryan Hince recruited the majority of the 2015 championship team.  That team fell apart also, until all of his hockey talent too good to be ruined returned just in time for the playoffs.  Honestly, it was luck because of extreme talent, and I'm not sure he put the talent together.  

He was at the telephone company in Canada between his playing and coaching days.  What happened with his dad disappearing from the bench mid-season this year, by the way?  He was his equipment manager and just mysteriously wasn't there any more.

He's been mostly a good guy, but I just wonder some days what the behind the scenes looks like there.  That being said, I"m not sure he is involved in any future capacity.  For this ownership group to let him go, that tells me his welcome is worn out.

It was also luck that MRK lost the use of their home ice for the final round and both games had to be played here.

Yah, Bell is the national telco in .ca...not sure what he did up there, but I'm pretty sure his dad retired from there as well.  My seats were behind the bench so I can't see who's there and who isn't...this is the first I've heard of him taking off.

Hopefully the go outside the org for a coach, this experiment didn't work out that well.

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12 minutes ago, bcruze said:

It was also luck that MRK lost the use of their home ice for the final round and both games had to be played here.

Yah, Bell is the national telco in .ca...not sure what he did up there, but I'm pretty sure his dad retired from there as well.  My seats were behind the bench so I can't see who's there and who isn't...this is the first I've heard of him taking off.

Hopefully the go outside the org for a coach, this experiment didn't work out that well.

Nice to meet you.  Are you still going to catch the occasional game without the season tickets?

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35 minutes ago, Carey Mahoney said:

Nice to meet you.  Are you still going to catch the occasional game without the season tickets?

Likewise, and, likely.  There are also some family medical issues coming up in the next 6mo that would have prevented me from straying too far from my parents should they need me, that played into it as well.  

I'll probably come back when/if a new arena gets built...my seats were horrible and the issues I had with them would be taken care of with a new venue.  I tried to relocate every year but all of the seats I wanted were always renewed by whoever had them

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1 hour ago, Carey Mahoney said:

 What happened with his dad disappearing from the bench mid-season this year, by the way?  He was his equipment manager and just mysteriously wasn't there any more.

Immigration issues.

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18 minutes ago, PlannedObsolescence said:

Immigration issues.

Seriously?

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37 minutes ago, bcruze said:

Likewise, and, likely.  There are also some family medical issues coming up in the next 6mo that would have prevented me from straying too far from my parents should they need me, that played into it as well.  

I'll probably come back when/if a new arena gets built...my seats were horrible and the issues I had with them would be taken care of with a new venue.  I tried to relocate every year but all of the seats I wanted were always renewed by whoever had them

Best of luck with the family situation.  And, I am starting to have serious doubts about a new facility.  There has been no movement on the selected plan that was announced last year.  I honestly think the city government would just as soon see the building shut down.  The only thing that makes me wonder is if they are reconsidering their site selection and there is something brewing with Randy Boyd's property downtown that is seemingly going to become the Smokies next stadium.  I wonder if a sports complex next to the Old City is a possibility.  If not, then I'm getting worried about seeing a new buildling any time soon.

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2 hours ago, Carey Mahoney said:

Honestly, he and Craigen are extremely similar in their general approach to team building, hockey,  and results.  I like Bechard personally, but if I was a Knoxville fan, I wouldn't be interested in more of the same.  I kind of suspect they have someone in mind.  Only two names that I can think of that make sense are returns of Scott Hillman or Terry Ruskowski.  I'm not sure if Hillman's current situation (is he a scout since being let go by Indy?) is better or worse than an SPHL coach.  He may not want to take a step back.  The other is Terry Ruskowski.  I wonder if he is interested in a "semi-retirement" job.  I'm not sure they go the direction of a former player with no coaching track record.  It's too risky.  Is Jim Bermingham available to cross the border?

Hillman: I think he's an awesome coach, giving us 2 championships, but guys like Swider and Craigen stopped playing for him because he wasn't one of the boys. Which in my opinion is exactly what that team needed. I'd welcome him back, but many wouldn't.

Bermingham, while good as a coach, unfortunately had too much baggage and needed to be let go. 

Bechard was a semi joke. He could be a benefit here, but I think his heart is too entrenched in Columbus to go anywhere anytime soon.

Ruskowski won't be back anytime soon I don't think. Barry Smith retired to this area but as long as Murray's around, I doubt Smith would want to work for him...history...

Best bet is to go with someone outside looking to get their coaching feet wet. 

Le Colisee: There will NOT be a new venue to replace it anytime soon. Unless that building completely disintegrates, which is looking more likely than a new building.

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I know a number of season ticket holders who didn't renew because SMG (the Coliseum management company) did everything in their power to treat hockey fans like crap, and it got worse as the season progressed... by the playoffs they set up "cattle shutes" for the pretend "security checkup". Was it a coincidence that the coach was fired the very same day 2017-18 season ticket payments became due? I'm betting the team management continues the age old tradition of "let's get a cheap ex-player to coach and see how it goes".

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Posted (edited)

48 minutes ago, Speedracer said:

Hillman: I think he's an awesome coach, giving us 2 championships, but guys like Swider and Craigen stopped playing for him because he wasn't one of the boys. Which in my opinion is exactly what that team needed. I'd welcome him back, but many wouldn't.

Bermingham, while good as a coach, unfortunately had too much baggage and needed to be let go. 

Bechard was a semi joke. He could be a benefit here, but I think his heart is too entrenched in Columbus to go anywhere anytime soon.

Ruskowski won't be back anytime soon I don't think. Barry Smith retired to this area but as long as Murray's around, I doubt Smith would want to work for him...history...

Best bet is to go with someone outside looking to get their coaching feet wet. 

Le Colisee: There will NOT be a new venue to replace it anytime soon. Unless that building completely disintegrates, which is looking more likely than a new building.

Hillman's defensive style was boring, I'll admit.  It was effective,though; and I thought his professionalism was fabulous.  I also think he evolved offensively in the CHL and ECHL.  I think he'd have a more entertaining team now than he did prior.

I was joking about Bermingham.  Once he missed a game because he dropped his wallet in a parking lot and his head was bumped into by a car backing up, it was pretty much over.

I think Bechard had his house up for sale in Columbus (if I understood Facebook correctly).  Other than that, he's not leaving for anywhere with the Birmingham job filled already.

The only reason I mention Ruskowski is that Nick Gates told me years ago that he wanted to retire here and would consider coaching in a semi-retirement kind of gig.  Had no idea Barry Smith was anywhere around here.  Interesting, but how old is he now?  Update:  I get the two Barry Smith hockey coaches mixed up.  The former Knoxville coach is actually deceased.

I think a rookie coach is too risky for the organization at this point in time.  I can't see them going that way again.  They went cheap with Craigen because of the uncertainty of ownership with the previous majority owner's health decline at that time.  I don't think they can risk it again.  Craigen was marginally successful.  Marc Rodgers prior was horrible.  There's also the Emory Olauson example in Fayetteville that should scare them.

Sicard is moving back to town, I guess.  Maybe they go waaaaayyyy off the board and bring him on as coach.  Please don't take that seriously, though.  I think he's less loved by management than fans.  I don't think they can touch Jason Price as coach with the suspension issue.  Not sure who else would even entertain it.  Should be interesting.

Edited by Carey Mahoney

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I didn't renew but it wasn't because of Craigen.  Moving to Middle Tenn and having a 3 hour commute to watch a game quickly made watching hockey here a not enjoyable prospect.

 You think this hockey is expensive?  I had considered season tickets with the Preds until i got to figuring.  Two tickets about 25 rows up at a blueline were going to cost me upwards of $9000 a year.  I guess I'll be watching tv hockey.

My understanding on Craigens dad was he asked management to help pay for his work visa which is around $450.  They agreed to half but changed their mind.  When he complained they pointed to the door.  Mike was told about 30 minutes before game time that dad had been fired.  I know Mike appeared she'll shocked that night and it looked like the entire team lost interest after that game.

As far as Hillman goes theres not much entertainment value there.  While his teams win theyre about as exciting as watching paint dry.  They won because the other team couldnt cross the blueline.  They didn't score many goals but they didn't have to.  I don't know who they're going to get but I wish them all the best.  I've enjoyed watching hockey in Knoxville since the Knights days and have been a season ticket holder since the Cherokees first year.  Good luck.

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4 minutes ago, gliderider said:

I didn't renew but it wasn't because of Craigen.  Moving to Middle Tenn and having a 3 hour commute to watch a game quickly made watching hockey here a not enjoyable prospect.

 You think this hockey is expensive?  I had considered season tickets with the Preds until i got to figuring.  Two tickets about 25 rows up at a blueline were going to cost me upwards of $9000 a year.  I guess I'll be watching tv hockey.

My understanding on Craigens dad was he asked management to help pay for his work visa which is around $450.  They agreed to half but changed their mind.  When he complained they pointed to the door.  Mike was told about 30 minutes before game time that dad had been fired.  I know Mike appeared she'll shocked that night and it looked like the entire team lost interest after that game.

As far as Hillman goes theres not much entertainment value there.  While his teams win theyre about as exciting as watching paint dry.  They won because the other team couldnt cross the blueline.  They didn't score many goals but they didn't have to.  I don't know who they're going to get but I wish them all the best.  I've enjoyed watching hockey in Knoxville since the Knights days and have been a season ticket holder since the Cherokees first year.  Good luck.

Well, that sounds like there's been some writing on the wall for a long time.  I wonder if announcing today was a last ditch effort to save some season ticket sales, or if this was the last day of his contract that isn't being renewed?

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Posted (edited)

Just a thought but, Former antz coach Mark Desantis is looking for work after being fired from RC Rush. I would like to see him back with the Antz/Marksmen but, we are sticking with Bes. Hopefully he can get us deeper into the playoffs this season.

 

Edited by 72Vette

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9 minutes ago, 72Vette said:

Just a thought but, Former antz coah Mark Desantis is looking for work after being fired from RC Rush. I would like to see him back with the Antz/Marksmen but, we are sticking with Bes. Hopefully he can get us deeper into the playoffs this season.

 

That's an interesting possibility.  If his timeline of dismissal starts intersecting with the demise of Craigen and this past year's team, you have a great first conspiracy theory/rumor.

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32 minutes ago, 72Vette said:

Just a thought but, Former antz coah Mark Desantis is looking for work after being fired from RC Rush. I would like to see him back with the Antz/Marksmen but, we are sticking with Bes. Hopefully he can get us deeper into the playoffs this season.

 

Rapid CIty certainly had a quick trigger with him. The Rush have been dwelling at the bottom of the ECHL for several years now, so it's surprising they'd expect that to change in just one season.

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2 hours ago, ShaunS said:

Rapid CIty certainly had a quick trigger with him. The Rush have been dwelling at the bottom of the ECHL for several years now, so it's surprising they'd expect that to change in just one season.

The hockey natives in South Dakota are VERY restless.  That ownership has gotta shuffle the deck chairs quickly or there won't be a band left to play the final overture.

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30 minutes ago, JMC-STL said:

The hockey natives in South Dakota are VERY restless.  That ownership has gotta shuffle the deck chairs quickly or there won't be a band left to play the final overture.

So, he's not "damaged goods" per se?

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With the exception of the very first year of the Ice Bears they have always chosen a first year head coach. I don't think that's the way to go but maybe that's all they think they can afford. At this point in the year I have to think they had someone in mind before they pulled the trigger. 

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34 minutes ago, Carey Mahoney said:

So, he's not "damaged goods" per se?

He wouldn't seem so, according to the public knowledge.  But I don't hang out in locker rooms or coach's offices  in desolate places.

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