The Dakota Jackalopes have had a tough season in every respect. An early injury to star winger “Flyin’ Ryan” Airston undermined any hope that the Jackalopes had of producing a respectable season; at the same time, the flailing performance of the Kansas City Smoke kept Dakota from earning the top draft pick. The team continued to bleed payroll and talent, trading their two top defensemen and even dealing their recently-acquired free agent goalie just weeks after signing him. In the wake of the latter deal, starting netminder Christien Andersson slammed the organization as “cheap.”
This week, a surprising and discouraging rumor made the rounds: after only two seasons on the job, head coach Flim Dahlgren allegedly had to be talked out of resigning. According to the rumor, Dahlgren was deeply concerned that the team’s alleged rebuilding effort had no end in sight, further fueling speculation that the team is in serious financial trouble.
With Dakota, Dahlgren has compiled a record of 43-76-9. Coaching the Jackalopes, a young team whose roster has been in constant flux the last several seasons, is no easy task. However, Dahlgren has generally earned positive reviews during his tenure. He is regarded as a good teacher for young players, and has maintained a generally positive clubhouse atmosphere despite the losing records and salary-saving trades.
“If Flim can’t make things work over there, I don’t know who can,” said one SHL coach.
Given that, it would be a deeply distressing sign if Dahlgren were to walk away, especially without another job in mind. (He is not reported to be in the running for the Boston Badgers’ newly vacant coaching position.) Team sources say that the coach only agreed to stay after several lengthy conversations with GM Paul Mindegaard, during which they talked about the team’s payroll, its commitment to re-signing its own young players, and whether Dakota plans to trade away more high-salary players (of whom there is really only one left: Airston).
Dahlgren has often been eloquent in his postgame interviews – at the end of last season, he turned a state-of-the-team press conference into a philosophical musing on winning and losing – and he spoke thoughtfully in response to questions about his rumored resignation.
Asked whether he had planned to resign, the coach replied, “I can tell you that I intend to honor my contract [which runs through next season], and that I plan to return next season.” Responding to a question about the Jackalopes’ finances, Dahlgren said, “There’s a lot of talk about that, and a lot of foolish rumors. Certainly, I’ve gotten all my paychecks on time, and so have our players. This is a small market, so we cannot expect to run New York-size payrolls. But that does not mean we’re out panhandling for bus fare.”
He went on to discuss the team’s future. “When I signed up for this job, I was aware the team was moving into a rebuilding phase and that there might not be a lot of wins in the near future,” Dahlgren said. “There is a difference between rebuilding and perpetual destruction, to be sure. The last couple of years have been challenging for the fans and the players both, but it’s a worthwhile pain as long as we are building to something. I have spoken with Paul and the front office about their vision for the future, and I am confident that we have a core from which we can build.”
Mindegaard, who also declined to confirm or deny the rumors, praised Dahlgren to reporters. “Speaking on behalf of the organization, we’ve been more than satisfied with Flim’s performance,” the GM said. “I’ve talked with him, and we’re on the same page about where we’re headed. I’m grateful for what he’s done the last couple of seasons, and I think the future will be even better.”