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.