The Hamilton Pistols’ season is falling apart, and tensions are reportedly rising in the locker room and the front office. The Pistols have dropped 8 of their last 9 games, falling solidly into last place in the East. According to sources with the team, the team’s swoon has created rifts between coach Ron Wright and GM Marcel LaClaire, and between Wright and his players.
“Ron’s kind of tired of the team, and they’re kind of tired of him,” said the source. “It’ll be real interesting to see if he’s back next year.”
Wright is known as a demanding coach, and three weeks ago he called out his team for a lack of defensive effort. The players largely acknowledged Wright’s criticism at that time as fair. But in the time since, the situation seems to have deterioriated.
At the trading deadline, the Pistols made a minor deal with the Dakota Rapids in which they gave up a 3rd round pick. Wright made no public comment on the deal, but behind the scenes, he was reportedly very dissatisfied with the deal.
“He felt like it was a cop-out,” said a source close to Wright. “He felt the only way the team was going to have a shot was if they made a big swing-for-the-fences deal. If they weren’t going to do that, might as well stand pat. Why waste an asset in that pick making a tit-for-tat trade?”
Shortly thereafter, the team hit its current skid, and Wright’s frustration level mounted. After the team was blown out by Hershey 7-3 on Saturday, Wright held a closed-door meeting in which he reportedly castigated for the players for rolling over and giving up. The next night, the Pistols lost by the same score to Dakota. After that game, Wright went public with his criticisms.
“Apparently, a number of our players have decided that the season is over already,” said Wright. “They’ve decided that they don’t feel like playing any more. If that’s the case, then they can have a seat. I’m not going to put up with a total lack of effort.”
After that game, he benched D Joey “Pig Iron” Morris, who has not played since. After Thursday’s 6-2 win over Saskatchewan, Wright benched RW Andrei Volodin, even though he scored a goal in that game. On Friday, the Pistols came unraveled in the third period, blowing a 3-0 lead in a loss to Anchorage. During the game, Wright was seen engaged in a heated argument with D Dmitri Kalashnikov, who had let his man get by him to set up the Igloos’ winning goal.
In his postgame press conference, Wright minced no words in excoriating his players. “That game was a complete embarrassment,” the coach said. “We had a chance to make a statement win over a very good team and make a stand for our pride, but we decided that we didn’t care. Apparently, the only thing we care about is getting the season over with as soon as possible so we can get a head start on our summer vacations. It’s a disgrace.”
The players are reportedly tired of being yelled at by Wright, especially at the tail end of a lost season. And LaClaire is said to be mulling whether Wright’s hard-nosed style is well-suited to getting the most out of the team. The coach declined to address rumors about his job status, saying, “I’m sure there will be discussions at the end of the season, but that’s not your concern. Based on the way we’ve done this year, I don’t think that any of us deserve to feel secure in our position. There’s going to be a lot of change around here next year.”