The Red Deer Rebels were still awaiting word Thursday on star defenceman Mathew Dumba and his hopefully impending return from the Minnesota Wild.
The question is, why?
Why did the Wild keep Dumba through their first three NHL regular-season games only to plant the 18-year-old in the press box? Dumba was the club’s spare defenceman, apparently just an injury away from getting into the Minnesota lineup, but could the Wild not have summoned a player from their AHL farm team in Houston to fill the role of designated sitter?
Then again, Dumba is a signed player and thus is basically Wild property. Minnesota management has the final say on his immediate future.
“That’s their decision,” said Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt, who on Thursday hadn’t received any word on Dumba’s prospective return. “You can’t speculate, you can’t think, you can’t hope. Whatever they (Wild) decide is up to them.”
The Wild were so impressed with Dumba during training camp that he was placed on the regular-season roster as insurance while the team waited for defencemen Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella to return from injury. Brodin, in fact, is expected to make his NHL debut tonight in Detroit after starting the season in the AHL.
The likelihood, then, is that Dumba will eventually be returned to the Rebels. But when?
“If there comes a time where we don’t feel we need him around or if we feel it’s not helping his development, then we’ll make that decision,” Wild head coach Mike Yeo told Michael Russo of the Minnesota Star Tribune.
“With his ability to skate, to shoot, to jump in the offense, to play physical, he’s got all the physical tools to be a dynamic player,” added assistant GM Brent Flahr said. “We’ve got to be patient in our expectations though.”
Flahr insisted Dumba’s stay in Minnesota, no matter how long or whether he actually plays, will be good for his confidence.
“You go from being cut from (Canada’s) world junior team — whether that was right or wrong — and maybe second-guessing certain things to coming here and playing with NHL players, all of a sudden you realize you’re not far away,” Flahr said. “This is a great experience for him.”
H H H
Mark Holick arrived in Prince George during the first intermission Wednesday and then watched his new team — the host Cougars — drop a 3-2 decision to the Prince Albert Raiders.
The club is hoping that Holick’s view of the Cougars will be more favourable as the new head coach. Holick, who coached the Kootenay Ice for three seasons and was the bench boss of the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL the past two years, was hired earlier Wednesday to replace Dean Clark, who was relieved of his duties after three and a half years with the Cougars.
While Prince George is a long-suffering WHL franchise and fan interest in the city is at an all-time low, Holick insisted that he’s downright pleased to be back in the league.
“There are only 22 (head coaching) jobs in the league and they’re all pretty prestigious positions,” Holick, who made the drive north from his home in Penticton, told Sheri Lamb of the Prince George Citizen. “If you get an opportunity to work in the league I think you should certainly look at it, so I’m real happy to be here.”
Holick first talked with Cougars general manager Dallas Thompson two weeks ago in regards to taking over the coaching reins. The two men then met face to face last weekend in the Okanagan.
“Talks got a little bit more serious and we managed to work something out,” said Holick.
The new coach realizes the challenge he faces. The Cougars sit ninth in the 10-team Western Conference.
“Coming in, it’s a little bit of a challenge but at the end of the day we just want to try and instill some good habits and try to be the hardest-working team on the ice,” he said. “If we can do that, the rest takes care of itself.”
Thompson is confident he’s found the right man.
“I was just very comfortable with him and the approach he wants to take with the players,” Thompson told Jason Peters of the Citizen. “I think he’s more of a players’ coach. Certainly there will be a little more of a different attitude in the dressing room. I think he’ll communicate with the players a little bit different.”
Meanwhile, Clark told Lamb that the firing caught him off guard.
“Dallas just came down at 11:30 (Tuesday) morning and let me go,” said Clark. “You’re never expecting that news but at the same time that’s part of the game. It’s a results-based business and when you look at my record there’s not a lot of results there. That’s just the way it goes.”
Clark had an 83-163-5-11 record during his time with the Cougars, who made the playoffs just once during his tenure — in 2011 when they were swept by the Kelowna Rockets in the first round.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to get back into the league,” said Clark, who previously enjoyed coaching success with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Calgary Hitmen and also coached the Kamloops Blazers. “I don’t think I would change anything that I’ve done. I’ve got a lot of pride with the work that I put in here. I worked very hard at this.”
Just notes: Former Rebels forward Willie Coetzee scored once and collected an assist while representing the Toledo Walleyes in Wednesday’s ECHL all-star game in Loveland, Colo. Sundre product Austin Fyten, representing the Idaho Steelheads, was held pointless in the 7-3 win over the Colorado Eagles.