The sun sets on another very disappointing Guelph Storm season.
Yes, it is Year 2 of the inevitable and understandable rebuild, but quite frankly, was there very much progression over Year 1 of that rebuild?
Heading into the final three games of the year they have seven more wins than last season and 15 more points. But they miss the playoffs for the second straight year and finish with the third worst record in franchise history.
Individually, several players expected to progress and elevate their game to the next level failed to do so. Defend your boys all you want, but that's fact, not opinion.
It would be hard for the most diehard of Storm fans to call that progress.
What needs to be done moving forward? Let me count the ways:
(1) Everything starts at the top: the ownership group of this team needs to address what kind of leadership and culture it wants and how to achieve that culture. They need to be on the same page. They have not always been.
Every decision made after that stems from that overall philosophy.
Then let the people you hire do their jobs to fulfil your mandate.
(2) Hiring the right general manager: Easily the biggest decision moving forward. They need someone knowledgeable and experienced. Now is not the time for someone with no junior background, or more precisely, understanding of the junior hockey world and culture.
That decision will and should likely come in the early summer, when the talent pool available should be deeper. Don't rush the biggest decision to be made and don't make it with emotion.
This is not pro hockey. These are not professional players. It takes a different mentality at this level. Make sure you hire someone that gets that.
(3) The coach: It should be the job of the new general manager to decide who his coach is next season.
I don't blame Jarrod Skalde for this season, because I'm not sure this team makes the playoffs no matter who was behind the bench. Maybe he should be back, maybe not. But that should be the new GM's call.
(4) The draft:
This year the team needs to address its biggest on-ice need since Jason Dickinson left town: a true playmaking centre. One that will be in uniform come opening day.
Thankfully, there are several very good ones at the top of this year's draft that takes place April 8.
That 2014 championship team was anchored by a great draft two years in a row, including the one that got them Matt Finn, Scott Kosmachuk and Brock McGinn. The next year it was Tyler Bertuzzi, Jason Dickinson and Ben Harpur.
You can tinker, you can trade, you can uncover the odd hidden gem. But at the end of the day in junior hockey you win through good drafting.
(5) The players: The new general manager and whoever is coaching this team next year need to take a long hard look at the current roster. Only two of them will technically be gone due to age next season, but there needs to be more turnover than that. Difficult choices need to be made.
See, it was easy. You're welcome.