The Boston Badgers have never finished out of the Eastern Division cellar, but they have grand ambitions for the 2020 season. After spending a lot of money on free agents – led by G Roger Orion and LW Pascal Royal – last season and planning to pursue the market’s top names again this year, the Badgers intend to contend for the playoffs. With that goal in mind, Boston hired the most sought-after assistant, the Anchorage Igloos‘ Kyle Barrow, to be their new head coach.
“We looked hard to find the right guy,” said Badgers GM Jody Melchiorre. “And the more we talked to Kyle, the more we knew he was the right guy.”
The 42-year-old Barrow definitely has the championship experience that the Badgers want. Working alongside Sam Castor on the Igloos bench, Barrow has been to four SHL Finals and won two. Although Anchorage is best known for its high-powered and fast-paced offense, he traditionally focused on the team’s defense, which has traditionally been very good. During his introductory press conference, the coach expressed his desire to make Boston strong on both ends of the ice, using the Igloos as an example.
“What’s made the Igloos such a strong team over the years is that we can play any style of hockey, so there’s no one way to beat us,” Barrow told reporters. “This team has been built around defense and a grinding mentality, but there’s plenty of offensive talent here – Lix [Darnholm], Alain [Beauchesne], Pascal – and there’s no reason we can’t become a two-way threat.”
Barrow has long been talked about as a head-coaching candidate, but until this point, he had a reputation for turning down opportunities. He had withdrawn himself from consideration in previous coaching searches in Dakota, Washington, and Saskatchewan. This led to speculation that he was being groomed as Castor’s successor in Anchorage.
So why did he choose to pursue this job? “There’s so much to learn from Sam; he’s one of the best in the business,” said Barrow. “I wanted to soak up as much wisdom as I could. But after this past season, we talked about my future, and he agreed that I was ready, and it was time for me to take the leap.”
Barrow replaces Cam Prince, the Badgers’ inaugural coach, who was fired after two seasons at the helm. In addition to the Badgers’ poor results on the ice, Prince seemed overwhelmed as he oversaw a locker-room culture that deteriorated badly over the course of last season, culminating in a fight between two of the team’s defensemen.
Barrow believes that winning is the best cure for the team’s chemistry problems, but he also stressed the need to instill a culture of professionalism. “When you’re on my team, your first focus needs to be on winning and improving your game,” he said. “We’re all adults here, but first and foremost, if you’re not here to play hard and win, you’re out. It’s not about being a taskmaster or running day-long practices, it’s about making the basic commitment to win. I’m confident that our guys will get on board.”
Can Barrow’s winning experience be the missing ingredient for a team that finished 33 games out of a playoff spot last season? That remains to be seen, but Melchiorre remains confident. “I think we’re going to shock a lot of people out there,” the GM said. “mark my words: this team is getting ready to take off.”