Quebec Tigres coach Martin Delorme thought that he was making a harmless joke. In his press conference after Quebec’s 7-3 loss to Seattle on Saturday, Delorme ticked off the reasons for his team’s tough season: a stagnant offense, a wobbly penalty-kill unit, and the inability of starting goalie Riki Tiktuunen to stay healthy. Finally, as a throwaway line, Delorme added a poke at RW Stephane Mirac. “I think maybe also I need to go to the police and file a missing person report on Stephane,” said the Quebec coach. “I have not seen him this year, and I miss him very much.”
The remark poked at a sore spot for Mirac. A native of nearby Laval, Mirac was drafted by the Tigres last year to provide a scoring threat and a local face for the fans to love. The rookie wound up exceeding expectations with a strong season, scoring 28 goals and 24 assists. On a Quebec squad that was largely starved for offense, Mirac became a hero within the province. The fans took to calling him “Stephane Miracle,” and chanting his name whenever he scored.
This season, however, has been a different story. Not for the Tigres’ offense – it remains terrible – but for Mirac. The winger appears to be in the grip of a sophomore slump, as opposing defenses have focused on containing him. He has produced only 8 goals and 7 assists so far this season. As Mirac’s slump has continued, the fans’ former admiration has become mixed with disappointment. Mirac’s frustration level has mounted; he has been seen slamming his equipment and yelling at himself on the bench in recent games. Delorme’s joke seems to have pushed him over the edge.
“I am not a missing person,” Mirac fumed to reporters after being told of Delorme’s remark. “I am right here, and I have been working my [expletive] to death all season. This is not a just remark.”
Mirac went on to add that, “I cannot be an offense all by myself. There need to be more of us. Everyone knew that we needed more scoring. So what did the team do [in the offseason] to make the scoring better? Nothing.” The Tigres had targeted top scoring prospect Rod “Money” Argent in the draft, but after he was unexpectedly chosen by Seattle, Quebec traded down in exchange for defensive help and drafted lower-impact winger Rupert MacDiarmid instead.
“Our offense is too slow and predictable,” said Mirac. “I cannot change anything about that. Every other team focuses to stop me, because they know they will pay no penalty.”
Mirac said that if Delorme has a problem with his production or effort, the coach should talk to him personally instead of “attacking me to reporters.”
The Tigres coach seemed a bit taken aback by Mirac’s furious response to his gibe. “Oh, here I have signed my own death warrant,” said Delorme. “I should know better than to speak of Stephane in this way. He is a very proud man, much like myself, and he resents the suggestion that he is not working hard. I know he is. It was a stupid joke after a bad game.”
Delorme and Mirac spoke later in the week, and both men said they had resolved their differences. “In the end, we both want very much to win,” said Delorme. “We are not there yet, but we will get there together.”