Lake State coaching change?

Randy Russon
March 12, 2017

Let us begin by providing the definition of the word rumour, which is aptly defined as “often being a mixture of truth and untruth, passed around verbally.”

Well, rumours are rampant in the Michigan Soo that Lake Superior State Lakers of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association are contemplating a coaching change that would result in the dismissal of third-year bench boss Damon Whitten.

While there is nothing to substantiate what is being said, the calls for a coaching change to be made at Lake State are coming through loud and clear.

For starters, another season recently ended in disappointment for the Lakers, who were swept by the Michigan Tech Huskies in convincing fashion in the opening round of the playoffs, losing by 6-4 and 8-0 scores.

This is the third straight season that the Lakers have finished with a sub-par record under Whitten, who was brought in to replace the fired Jim Roque three years ago. But with Whitten at the helm, the Lakers have shown little improvement in the standings or in the win-loss column.

Under Whitten, the Lakers have finished ninth, seventh and seventh in the 10-team WCHA. The Lakers overall records in the three seasons with Whitten as head coach are all below the .500 mark — 8-28-2, 14-22-5 and 11-18-7.

Thus, the Lakers three-year record under Whitten stands at 33-68-14.

This season, the Lakers started out with five straight wins only to finish with just six more victories the rest of the way.

And not only have the Lakers been unable to win a single playoff series under Whitten, they have a 1-6 record.

But while Whitten has his detractors, there are those who have stepped up to defend him, including former Lake State championship goalie Darrin Madeley, who went on to play in the National Hockey League.

Whitten was not an overly-popular choice to replace the fired Roque three years. Many fans in the Michigan Soo wanted the job to go to one of two local products with extensive coaching backgrounds — Joe Shawhan and Rich Metro.

Both were bypassed for the Laker head coaching job in favour of Whitten.

Shawhan moved up a pay grade in leaving his assistant coach position with the Northern Michigan Wildcats for a similar post at Michigan Tech. Metro, meanwhile, was hired as Whitten’s assistant.

All has not been rosy regarding Laker hockey since the 5-0 start to the 2016-2017 season.

Plum sophomore defenseman Owen Headrick left the Lakers in January to sign with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. And a few others with WCHA eligibility remaining have served notice that they will not be returning to play for the Lakers in 2017-2018.

I happen to like Whitten. He’s easy to talk to and seems like a good guy.

I also like LSSU athletic director Kristin Dunbar. Dunbar has a clean reputation and simply put, is a good person.

What I am saying is that if any change is being contemplated, I doubt that Dunbar will be rushed or pushed into making a decision based on outside influences.

For now, let’s just call rumours of Whitten being fired exactly what they are.


What you think about “Lake State coaching change?”

  1. If these rumors are being spread simply based upon unhappiness with the rate of progress of the Lakers rebuilding program, then the people spreading these rumors have little or no clue how recruiting works in NCAA Div 1 hockey these days. When Damon Whitten took over as coach, all three of the Lakers goalies had graduated, half the defense had either graduated or turned pro, and there was very little offense returning. He’s now had two recruiting classes and most of the team are either sophomores or juniors. He also wants the Lakers to play up tempo hockey but he took over a team that wasn’t built upon speed . Like it or not, rebuilding a Div 1 team takes time.

    1. he is by far the worst coach I have ever had and you guys are all fooled. He is a politician and a terrible human being inside that dressing room. His record is indicative of his personality and coaching style. He is a lying individual who kisses ass inside the community. 18 players have left or gotten cut in his three years, he is lucky to still be coaching at LSSU and hopefully for the kid’s sake he gets fired

  2. Being over on the Michigan side, I haven’t heard any rumors at all about a coaching change. The only place I’ve seen it is here in this post & on some forums, with maybe 1 user stating they think there should be a coaching change.

  3. Three years to build some depth and establish an identity. What are they? Who are they?
    If these rumours are true, might I suggest they find a coach who’s been a successful head coach somewhere else, any league. Forget chasing somebody’s assistant and hoping some of the magic rubs off on him.
    Look across the border at your OHL and NOJHL counterparts and see what can be accomplished when you put the right people in place.

  4. Deman – if you really do live over here and if you have not heard the rumors then you is deaf .. or you do not live over here.

    1. Other than people calling for his head since day 1, since he isn’t their buddy Jim Roque, I really haven’t talked to anyone who has expressed it publicly.

      I’m not saying people are upset, they deserve to be, but let’s look at the facts:

      The previous coach only had 3 winning seasons in 9 years of being a head coach. One of those was a single game over .500.

      Give the guy some time. Besides, I think he had a year left I his contract. No way the school buys him out. It’s the off season, and some people need to complain about something.

  5. Dreaming, the Hounds should be looking at recruiting Metro for an assistant, and grooming him for the eventual take-over when Bannister moves up. Rich Metro has the perfect temperament and character to work with junior aged players; plus he is a local guy. He would fit nicely taking the Hounds bench helm and could easily make the jump-up to the OHL.

  6. I was starting to wonder if this was going to pop up – especially with Dunbar leaving to be Commissioner for the GLIAC. A new athletic director may want to make their mark on the one of the bigger programs at LSSU. I agree that Damon is a great guy (based on the one 10-15 minute conversation I had with him in his first year at the helm). I had some hope for this season with the strong start; hopefully incoming recruits buy into the program that Damon is working toward and things start moving upward rather than stagnant. I’d say let Whitten steer the ship at least one more year, and if the overall record or postseason performance doesn’t get better than talk about a new face; but changing coaches every three years isn’t going to be a good long term solution.

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