The Dakota Jackalopes are likely in for an offseason of change. After the league assumed control of the team in midseason, they will have a new owner next year. They will almost certainly be playing in a new city under a new name. Many of the team’s players might be headed elsewhere. It’s hard to know exactly what the Jackalopes look like when they take the ice in 2021. But on Saturday, the organization took their first steps toward a fresh start, parting ways with GM Paul Mindegaard and coach Flim Dahlgren. Both GM and coach were at the end of their contracts, and the organization put out a press release calling the departures a “mutual decison.”
Mindegaard, a South Dakota native, has been in charge of the Dakota franchise since the SHL’s beginning. He won some plaudits in the early years for constructing a competitive team that, while not quite as strong as the reigning powers in Anchorage and Michigan, played entertaining hockey. According to team sources, however, those years were marred by a power struggle between Mindegaard and then-coach Harold Engellund. Mindegaard prevailed when Engellund was fired after the 2017 season. In the long run, however, the winner may have been Engellund; the coach was hired by the Seattle Sailors (now the Portland Bluebacks), and is about to make his second straight postseason trip.
The Jackalopes, meanwhile, slowly disintegrated as then-owner Roger Scott grew tired of the team’s mounting losses and directed a reduction in payroll. Mindegaard wound up presiding over a series of trades that sent virtually all of the team’s high-salaried players packing, and Dakota sank from a promising would-be contender to a rebuilding basket case. According to team sources, the primary reasons that Mindegaard kept his job were his close relationship with Scott and his willingness to avoid speaking publicly about the team’s financial issues.
“It’s been an honor to be GM here for as long as I have,” Mindegaard said. “I’m sorry that we were never able to bring a Vandy here, but this has been a great experience.”
Dahlgren became coach of the Jackalopes in 2018, succeeding Engellund. In three seasons with the team, he compiled an 63-110-19 record. In spite of Dakota’s undistinguished performance, Dahlgren earned praise for mentoring his young players, insulating the team from the off-ice distractions regarding financial woes, and for his philosophical musings in post-game press conferences. He managed to keep the team competitive even after the craziness around this year’s trading deadline, when the Jackalopes attempted to trade stars Ryan Airston and Arkady Golynin and saw the league veto the deals.
At the end of last season, there was a wave of rumors that Dahlgren was considering resignation due to the team’s seemingly endless salary-slashing trades. But both team and coach vehemently denied those rumors, and he stayed with the team.
“With all the craziness going on around the team and all the changes on the roster, things could have really gone south in the locker room,” said Airston. “But that didn’t happen, and Coach Dahlgren really deserves the credit for that.”
It is considered likely that Dahlgren will be considered for most or all of the coaching openings this offseason. Other teams that will be seeking new bench bosses include the Michigan Gray Wolves (after Ron Wright resigned in the middle of the season) and the New York Night (who fired Nick Foster last month). The Washington Galaxy are reportedly considering whether to dismiss Peter James; for now, the team says that it is “in the evaluation process.”
At this time, the Jackalopes are the only team with an opening in the GM’s office.