For the second time in three summers, Hamilton Bulldogs president and general manager Steve Staios is conducting a search for a new head coach for the Ontario Hockey League team.
Staios is doing his homework on multiple candidates as he looks to replace John Gruden, who coached the Bulldogs to the 2018 OHL championship and who recently moved up to the National Hockey League as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders.
Gruden was hired as Hamilton’s head coach in June of 2016 after Staios fired George Burnett, who had held the dual role of coach and general manager.
Burnett was let go after the Bulldogs missed the playoffs in 2015-2016, which was their first season in Hamilton after the franchise relocated from Belleville. Staios, as president, also took over as general manager of the Bulldogs and hired Gruden as coach.
Forward to now, it is thought, with good reason, that Bulldogs associate coach David Matsos is the leading candidate to replace Gruden as Hamilton’s headmaster.
After all, it was Staios himself who brought Matsos to Hamilton a year ago after the latter opted to depart the Sudbury Wolves after two and a half seasons as their head coach.
But let us not forget that when it came time to hire a head coach in 2016, it was widely thought that Staios would promote Bulldogs assistant Troy Smith. Instead, Staios passed on Smith and hired Gruden, who had twice been fired by the Flint Firebirds during a bizarre 2015-2016 season.
So while Matsos may indeed end up getting promoted from associate to head coach in Hamilton, Staios showed when he hired Gruden over Smith in 2016 that he will perform due diligence before deciding on the new Bulldogs bench boss.
To be sure, the 44-year old Matsos — who won a Memorial Cup as a player with the Soo Greyhounds in 1993 — has serious experience as an OHL coach in addition to the championship season that he spent in Hamilton.
Besides four full seasons in Sudbury — two and a half as head coach and a season and a half as associate — Matsos was an assistant with the Windsor Spitfires for three years.
And before, Matsos was a head coach at the professional level for four years in Sheffield, England.
Matsos also has a clean reputation as a respected, respectful individual who relates well to players.
PHOTO: David Matsos (left) after being hired by Steve Staios (right) as Hamilton’s associate coach last year.