Night Dismiss GM McCormick, Hire McKay

The New York Night have decided to clean house in their front office.  This week, the Night announced that they would not renew the contract of Royce McCormick, the only general manager the franchise has ever had.  McCormick will be replaced by former Seattle Sailors GM Jay McKay.

“We’ve come a long way in the last couple of seasons,” said Night owner Marvin Kingman.  “But we haven’t gotten to the level I expect.  We haven’t made the playoffs, much less won the Vandy.  And so, it’s time for a new direction.”

Royce McCormick

McCormick exits after five seasons with a record of 140-151-17.  The GM never hesitated to make bold moves or bring in big names, most notably his 2016 trade to acquire C Rod Remington.  But McCormick’s draft record was somewhat spotty, in part due to his penchant for trading away high draft picks.  The Night also struggled to find the additional pieces needed to get the team over the hump and into the postseason.  The top-heavy payroll made it difficult to add quality veteran depth, and McCormick balked at the idea of moving any of the team’s highly-paid stars.

“I felt like we were really close to breaking through here, as soon as next season,” said McCormick.  “But when you don’t deliver the results, you can’t count on unlimited chances.  I think Jay’s coming into a good place, and I wish him the best.”

According to team sources, coach Nick Foster has had an increased hand in personnel decisions over the last couple of seasons, a fact that irked McCormick.  There have been persistent rumors of a power struggle between the two, and this decision indicates that the owner has chosen to side with the coach.

For his part, Foster declined to comment on any role he may have played in McCormick’s dismissal.  “I think Mr. Kingman has made it clear that we have high standards around here, as it should be,” said Foster.  “I’m glad that I’m still around, and I think next season’s going to be huge for us.”

Jay McKay

In hiring McKay, New York adds a GM who is no stranger to big moves.  The 63-year-old calls himself a “hockey vagabond.”  He has spent nearly 30 years in various front-office roles at every level of the game, most recently as general manager of the Sailors.  During his tenure, he built the expansion club from scratch and never shied away from major moves.  Most notably, with the team on the brink of contention at the 2018 trading deadline, McKay made a couple of big deals designed to get the team over the hump.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out, as Seattle missed the postseason and McKay was fired.  This season, though, the Sailors made their first-ever playoff appearance, largely with the same roster he left behind.

“I can’t wait to get started over here,” said McKay.  “We play in the greatest city in the world, and we’ve got a loaded roster.  We’ve got a great coach in Nick Foster.  With a couple of the right moves here and there, I think we can be the champion Mr. Kingman wants to see.”

McKay declined to discuss any specific moves he might have in mind.  “I tell you here, and suddenly the price on the guys I want goes through the roof,” joked the incoming GM.  “But basically, I’m looking to build on our strengths, especially our high-scoring offense, while upgrading our depth and fortifying our D.”

The new boss has a number of big decisions to make right away.  New York has a number of pending free agents, including the entire top line (LW Chase Winchester, C Brock Manning, and RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson), top-pairing defender Tuomas Nurmi, and goaltenders Jesse Clarkson and Sherman Carter.

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Smooth Sailing for Seattle So Far

The Seattle Sailors came into the 2019 season in a very uncertain place.  Their 2018 was a huge disappointment.  The Sailors started the season with playoff aspirations and finished with a sub-.500 record.  GM Jay McKay made a couple shoot-for-the-moon trades that wound up backfiring, a gamble that cost him his job.  Star winger Vince Mango seemingly couldn’t decide whether he’d rather be a hockey player or a reality television star.  And hanging over everything was the specter of the NHL’s planned expansion to Seattle, and the likelihood that the Sailors would need to find a new home.

When new GM Taylor Teichman arrived and largely left the roster as-is, observers around the league were puzzled.  Surely Teichman didn’t think this strange and underachieving bunch was the nucleus of a contender, did he?  Our season preview evinced skepticism, decrying Seattle’s “weird state of stasis” and predicting a fourth-place finish.

So far, though, it appears that the skeptics were dead wrong.  The Sailors are off to a red-hot start, winning 12 of their first 16 games and remaining hot on Michigan’s heels for the Western Division lead.

“A lot of folks had already thrown us in the trash before the season even started,” said Seattle coach Harold Engellund.  “But we decided to just focus on our game, and it looks like we’re not so bad after all.”

Vince Mango

The Sailors’ success so far starts with their top line – and specifically, with Mango.  The high-scoring star was privately stung by the blame he received for the Sailors’ failures and the allegations that he wasn’t passionate about the sport.  “Everyone has this idea that just because I have interests and projects off the ice, that I don’t really care about hockey,” Mango said.  “I try to ignore the haters, but it seemed like my teammates and coaches felt the same way, and that hurt.”

Mango also looked in the mirror and took a hard look at his playing style.  “I realized that no matter how much you score, you can’t make it as a one-way player in this game,” he said.  “Scoring is always going to be my strength, but I didn’t want to be dead weight on the other end.”

During the offseason, Mango sought out the coaching staff to work on defensive and passing fundmentals.  The coaches were shocked but pleased that the notoriously practice-averse Mango wanted extra offseason work.  “I think [assistant coach] Manny [Obronski] just about fainted when Vince said he wanted to do defensive drills,” Engellund quipped.  “At first, he thought he was getting punked for Vince’s TV show.”

Mango remains an offense-first player, but he’s shown a much more balanced game this season.  He’s also clicking well with his linemates.  LW Rod “Money” Argent had clashed with Mango in the past over scoring opportunities and the latter’s indifferent defense, but now they coexist peacefully.  A lot of that has to do with their new center, Napoleon Beasley.

Napoleon Beasley

Beasley signed with the team as a free agent from Saskatchewan, and his easygoing personality and low-ego playing style has meshed perfectly with Mango and Argent.  “The first thing I said to them was, ‘Whatever you need me to do, tell me and I’ll do it.  I just want to fit in here.’”  They’ve combined to form one of the league’s best lines, with a cumulative 56 points and a +6 rating.

On the other end, netminder Rocky Goldmire is putting together a career year.  The 27-year-old Goldmire was once Dirk Lundquist’s protégé in Michigan, but he never seemed to live up to his potential; the barrage of shots in Seattle left him overwhelmed, and his penchant for partying seemed to dull his skills.  Now, in his contract year, Goldmire is finally living up to the hype, going 8-2-0 with a 2.38 GAA and a .927 save percentage, all top-five figures in the league.

“Goldy’s had some bumps in the road, but he’s really put it together this year,” Engellund said.  “It’s really great to see.”

And if the Sailors do wind up leaving town after the season?  That’s next year’s problem.  “We’re just focusing on what we can control,” Mango said.  “If we leave [at the end of the year], at least we can leave a nice going-away present for the people here.”

The Sailors haven’t won anything yet.  Saskatchewan and Anchorage will certainly fight hard to knock Seattle out of the playoffs.  But it’s a sweet life so far for a team that’s happily proving the doubters wrong, one game at a time.

Sailors Name Hamilton’s Teichman as New GM

Last season, Seattle Sailors GM Jay McKay shot the moon at the trading deadline, moving several prized prospects to acquire C Lars Karlsson and D Hans Mortensen in a long-shot bid for a playoff spot.  When Seattle wound up missing the postseason by 22 points, McKay wound up losing his job.

Taylor Teichman

This week, the Sailors tapped Hamilton Pistols assistant GM Taylor Teichman as McKay’s replacement.  Teichman had been chiefly responsible for the Pistols’ drafts and minor-league development, and was widely regarded as the chief architect of the up-and-coming Hamilton team that made its first trip to the playoffs season.

“We identified Taylor as our #1 pick early on, and we didn’t stop until we got him,” said Sailors owner Gary Blum.  “We couldn’t be happier to have him on board to help us shape the future of our club.”

The hiring of Teichman seems to signal a shift in Seattle’s team-building strategy.  As mentioned above, McKay favored big-money acquisitions and major trades.  Given Teichman’s record in Hamilton, it seems likely that the Sailors will now look to cultivate homegrown talent.  This strategy may be complicated by the fact that Seattle has no picks in the upcoming draft and has shipped out several of its top prospects in recent deals.

“I can’t wait to get started,” Teichman told reporters.  “When I was considering this opportunity, I saw an organization with a strong base of talent, a great owner in Gary Blum, a strong coach in Harry Engellund.  This team is a lot like the Pistols from a season or two ago; we just need a few tweaks here and there to take it to the next level.”

It’s rumored Seattle’s courtship of Teichman wasn’t without controversy.  According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Hamilton initially denied the Sailors permission to speak with their assistant GM about the position.  Teichman then threatened to resign his job with the Pistols if he wasn’t either promoted to GM with the Pistols or allowed to interview for the Sailors position.  According to the same sources, SHL Commissioner Perry Mitchell ultimately had to intervene and clarify that Hamilton couldn’t prevent Teichman from interviewing unless it was stated in his contract.

Teichman declined to comment on the behind-the-scenes drama around his hiring.  “I had a great time in Hamilton, and I appreciate everyone there.  But my focus is on the future.”

The Pistols issued a brief statement that read: “We thank Taylor Teichman for his four seasons of service to the organization and his help in building a contending team for many seasons to come.  We wish him the best of luck as he takes on his new challenge with the Sailors.”

Teichman said that his top priorities would be to resolve the open questions at center (Karlsson is a free agent) and in net (Rocky Goldmire and “Jersey Mike” Ross are both signed through next season, but prospect Sonny Kashiuk looks ready for the majors).  Beyond that, he said he would look for “opportunities to replenish our minor league club and build through the draft.”

Interview of the Week: Jay McKay

This week’s interview is with Jay McKay, who was fired as GM of the Seattle Sailors this week.

SHL Digest: In our final regular-season interview of 2018, we’re here with Jay McKay, who was recently relieved of his duties as the Seattle Sailors GM.  Jay, thanks for speaking with us.

Jay McKay

Jay McKay: Well, hey, I’ve got plenty of time on my hands now.  So I’m happy to do it.

SHLD: In some ways, your dismissal was a surprise.  The Sailors have made significant improvements year-over-year in your tenure, thanks in no small part to the bold moves you’ve made to acquire talent.  But for better or worse, your season has been judged on your decision to go all in at the trading deadline, giving up several top prospects to acquire C Lars Karlsson and D Hans Mortensen, a decision that didn’t work out.  Do you think that’s a fair way to judge your tenure?

JM: Yeah, I think it’s fair.  I mean, it was my call to go for those deals.  I pushed for them, I made them happen.  And I said at the time that I thought I might get canned if the trades didn’t work, which they didn’t.  I’m a big boy; I’ve been fired before.

SHLD: At the time you made the deal, most observers felt that the Sailors were a long shot to catch Anchorage.  What led to the decision to make those trades?

JM: Exactly what you said.  We were a longshot to catch Anchorage, and I knew that we weren’t going to get there with the horses we had on hand.  I’m a gambling man and a big-time poker player, and I know that the way to win is to either go in hard or fold.  I didn’t feel like folding, so I went in hard.

SHLD: Do you think other GMs in your position would have made the same trades?

JM: Definitely not.  Most GMs are super-conservative; they don’t want to make a move that they’ll get blamed for if it goes wrong.  I figure most GMs in my position would have made a minor trade or two so they look like they’re trying, or maybe they’d have stood pat and waited for some of the young guys to develop.

SHLD: But that’s not your style.

JM: No, it isn’t.  I believe that if you’ve got a shot to win, you’ve got to take it.  You only get so many bites at the apple in life; why waste one because you’re scared?

SHLD: Looking back and knowing what you know now, would you still make those trades if you had to do it over?

JM: Hell yes.  Making those trades got everybody fired up: the players, the fans, everybody.  It’s me saying ‘I believe in you.’  Turns out that the Igloos got things figured out and shut us out of a playoff spot, but we went down swinging.  I feel good about that.

SHLD: So, what do you think of the team you’re leaving behind?

JM: I think it’s a helluva squad.  Getting past Michigan and Anchorage is going to be a heavy lift, don’t get me wrong.  But this is a talented, hard-working young bunch.  We shed some prospects at the deadline, but the cupboard isn’t bare there either.  Whoever the next GM is, if he plays his cards right, he’s going to look like a genius.

SHLD: Sounds good!  Thanks for an open and honest interview, Jay.  Good luck landing your next job!

JM: Thanks.  That’s the great thing about jobs: there’s always another one just around the corner.  I’ll be fine.

Sailors Go All In at Deadline

The Seattle Sailors are in a tenuous position in the Western playoff race.  The Anchorage Igloos, widely expected to be a slam-dunk playoff team, have struggled to get much above the .500 mark.  In theory, the second Western playoff spot should be up for grabs.  However, hampered by a dreadful defense, the Sailors have been unable to take advantage, and have been hovering 5 to 7 points behind Anchorage for the last month.

Jay McKay

Given the situation, Seattle essentially had two options: concede the race, or go all in.  “The race has been static for a while now,” said Sailors GM Jay McKay.  “If we stuck with the roster we had, we were going to die fast and quiet.”

Instead, McKay elected to go all in.  The Sailors made a pair of major deals to acquire a couple of big names, at a significant cost in prospects.   “We’re pushing our chips to the middle of the table,” said McKay.  “We think we’ve got the chance to do something special here.”

Lars Karlsson

Seattle’s largest acquisition was the deadline’s top prize.  C Lars Karlsson was the biggest name rumored to be on the block.  The 30-year-old center is a proven star and is having a fantastic year, having scored 19 goals and 25 assists.  But his previous team, the Dakota Jackalopes, are in the midst of a payroll purge, and Karlsson’s contract is up at the end of the season.

The Sailors had a clear need at the center position, and they targeted Karlsson from the start.  But they’d already dealt their first-round pick to Dakota before the season.  In order to rent Karlsson for the stretch run, Seattle had to part with a pair of top prospects – C Dale Wilcox and D Duncan DeShantz – as well as their second-round pick.

“Lars definitely didn’t come cheap,” said McKay.  “But he’s the kind of talent that can really move the needle.  He plugs right into our top line – which was already doing great – and the effect ripples through our entire offense.  He’s a game-changer.”

Hans Mortensen

Of course, Seattle’s offense hasn’t been the issue; it’s their leaky defense that has doomed them.  To address that, the Sailors picked up veteran D Hans Mortensen, 30, from the Kansas City Smoke.  The defender has provided airtight defense in KC and put up 17 assists in 40 games.  To land him, Seattle surrendered another prospect blueliner, T.K. O’Neill.  The 20-year-old O’Neill struggled in his SHL debut, failing to record a point in 22 games before being sent down, but he is regarded as an elite defensive prospect.

“Hans is one of those lockdown D-men that you love to have,” said McKay. “He’s a solid veteran with championship experience, and he can contribute on both ends.  He’s going to really help our playoff push.”

These two moves make Seattle a more formidable opponent, but will it be enough?  And if the Sailors miss the playoffs and Karlsson walks at the end of the season, will they regret their deadline splurge?

“I won’t regret it a bit,” said McKay.  “If you’re not going for it, really going for it, what’s the point?  Maybe this all blows up in my face and I get fired.  That’s okay.  We’d rather take a chance and miss than muddle along and do nothing.”

Sailors coach Harold Engellund, who used to coach Dakota, agrees with that assessment: “It’s really nice to be with an organization that goes all out to win, that’s not afraid to spend money and take a shot.  I’m not used to it, but I love it.”

Sailors Hire Ex-Dakota Coach Engellund

When the Dakota Jackalopes fired coach Harold Engellund at the end of the 2017 season after a three-season tenure, it seemed likely that he would land a job elsewhere in fairly short order.  That happened today, as the Seattle Sailors announced that they had hired Engellund as head coach, replacing Stewart Corrigan.

“We’ve been looking for the coach who can take our team to the next level,” said Sailors GM Jay McKay.  “Harold checks all the boxes for us.  We’re really glad to have him.”

Harold Engellund

After dismissing Corrigan, whose frequent temperamental outbursts were legendary, the Sailors were looking for a calmer hand on the tiller. In addition, with a fairly young roster, Seattle wanted to find an experienced bench boss.  The 59-year-old Engellund has over 25 seasons of coaching experience, and his even-keeled demeanor couldn’t be more different from the volatile Corrigan.

“Harold is everything we’re looking for in a coach,” said McKay.  “He’s an experienced teacher, the perfect man to mold a young roster and help us grow.  And he’s also a stable, calming personality, which is definitely a good change of pace for us.”

Engellund was well-liked by both players and fans in Dakota; he compiled an 84-85-11 record during his time there.  But he frequently clashed with the front office over roster decisions and the direction of the team.  After compiling a 22-35-3 record in 2016, a season when the Jackalopes were expected to contend, Engellund was dismissed.

“It was a shame the way things ended for Dakota, but it worked out for the best,” said Engellund.  “They obviously wanted to go in a different direction, and I wasn’t going to fight about it.  Now I’m here in Seattle, which is a great city, and I’ve got the chance to work with a great young team.  I’ll miss the players in Dakota, but I can’t wait to get started here.”

Engellund said that he had also interviewed with the expansion Kansas City Smoke, but that he was drawn to the Sailors “because they’re a little further along.  With an expansion team, it’s a pig in a poke.  You have no idea what you’re getting.  Here in Seattle, we’ve got some fast, young players and good scorers.  It reminds me a lot of the situation in Dakota, actually.”

The coach said that he’d like to see the Sailors get to a .500 record in his first year, and go to the playoffs in “two or three years.  I know it’s a tough division – Anchorage and Michigan are both tough teams – but I think we can take a run at them.”

 

 

Corrigan Fired As Coach of Sailors

After two seasons full of memorable outbursts and eruptions, the Seattle Sailors have fired coach Stewart “Popeye” Corrigan.  The move brings the tenure of the SHL’s most volatile, explosive bench boss to an end.

Stewart Corrigan

In two seasons with Seattle, Corrigan compiled a record of 30-84-6.  But it wasn’t the Sailors’ on-ice performance that triggered Corrigan’s dismissal; rather, it was the coach’s track record of over-the-top meltdowns when things didn’t go Seattle’s way.  Reportedly, the team felt that the coach’s lack of self-control was embarrassing and unprofessional.

“We didn’t have any complaints with the job Stewart was doing, to be honest,” said Sailors GM Jay McKay.  “He’s a perfectly fine coach.  But we’ve thought a lot about the sort of person we want representing the public face of the Sailors.  And as much as I like Stewart, we made the call that he wasn’t the right guy for us going forward.”

Corrigan’s list of temper-fueled incidents is legendary around the league.  He threw a roll of athletic tape and shouted an ethnic slur at a referee.  He threw punches at an opposing player who had been attacking his team.  He threw his bench on the ice to protest a call.  He attempted to assault Wolves D Vladimir Beruschko after the player crushed Sailors RW Vince Mango to protest his celebratory on-ice selfie.  He swung a hockey stick at Michigan coach Ron Wright during an argument.

“I understand that I did this to myself,” said Corrigan.  “I’m a passionate guy, sometimes too much.  I’ve always had a temper, and I’ve let it get the better of me on a number of occasions.  I can’t say that I agree with this decision, but I do understand it.  I wish this team the best of luck. Whoever winds up coaching this team next is going to be a lucky guy.  This is going to be a great team.”

McKay said that he intends to “cast a wide net” in searching for Corrigan’s successor.  He indicated that both assistant coach Mark Morganhurst and minor-league coach Randy Bergner would be on the list of candidates.