Widely viewed as a serious championship contender before the start of the 2017-2018 Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League season, Elliot Lake Wildcats have instead been a big disappointment to date.
The Wildcats are headed the wrong way, having lost five straight games to dip below the .500 mark with a record of 8-10-1.
This marks a continued decline in the fortunes of the Elliot Lake franchise under second-year coach and general manager Corey Bricknell.
When Elliot Lake was granted an expansion franchise in 2014, the Wildcats had immediate success with Nathan Hewitt as coach and Todd Stencill as general manager. The Wildcats placed second in the NOJHL’s West Division with a resounding record of 38-11-3 and went through two playoffs rounds.
The 2015-2016 season was another good one for Elliot Lake under the watch of Hewitt and Stencill. The Wildcats again placed second in the NOJHL West with a tidy record of 35-12-7 and again made it through two rounds of the playoffs.
Since then, it has been downhill in Elliot Lake under Bricknell, who has been unable to match the standard that was set for him.
With Bricknell at the helm in 2016-2017, Elliot Lake stumbled to fifth place in the NOJHL West with a sub-par record of 23-26-7 and then lost in the preliminary round of the playoffs.
The 2016-2017 campaign marked Bricknell’s second straight losing season as an NOJHL coach. As coach of the erstwhile Iroquois Falls Eskis in 2015-2016, Bricknell oversaw a team that won only 15 of 54 regular season games before losing in the preliminary round of the playoffs.
The numbers tell the story of Brickell as an NOJHL coach.
In two full seasons prior to this one, between Iroquois Falls and Elliot Lake, Brickell’s coaching record stands at 38-65-7. Add in a playoff record of 1-4-0 and the math does not compute to a passing grade.
On to this season, Elliot Lake may only be 19 games in but five straight losses for a Wildcats team that was projected by many to finish atop the West Division is not a good sign.
Perhaps Bricknell, as one of the higher-paid coaches in the NOJHL, will be able to turn things around in Elliot Lake and get the Wildcats back to the high standards that were initially set by the aforementioned Hewitt and Stencill.
Then again, not only has he been unable to come close to matching the coaching record of Hewitt but average attendance at Wildcats home games has sharply declined since Bricknell swaggered into Elliot Lake.
The numbers are there, on the ice and at the gate.
And the numbers don’t lie — they have Bricknell coming up short.