It’s been a swift decline for the Washington Galaxy. After going to back-to-back SHL Finals and narrowly missing a third straight trip, the Galaxy have fallen apart over the last couple of seasons. In 2018, Washington lost 19 of their final 27 games to finish below the .500 mark for the first time; that collapse cost coach Rodney Reagle his job. Last season, under new bench boss Peter James, the bottom fell out and the Galaxy finished only four points out of last in the East. That fiasco led to the firing of GM Ace Adams at season’s end.
Now, the Galaxy are facing an overhaul of their aging roster and, likely, a multi-season rebuilding effort. To oversee the rebuild, the franchise is turning to Wilson Shuster, the assistant GM of the Michigan Gray Wolves.
“This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” said Shuster. “I can’t wait to get started.”
The Galaxy’s new GM has experience building a winning organization. Working alongside GM Tim Carrier, Shuster helped shape the Wolves squad that won the Vandy in 2016. He specialized on the draft and the minor-league roster. Shuster’s resume is similar to that of Taylor Teichman, who assembled the core of the Hamilton Pistols team that won last year’s championship before becoming GM of the Seattle Sailors, who made the playoffs for the first time last season.
Unlike Teichman, who took over a team that seemed poised to vault into contention, Shuster is facing the difficult task of disassembling a once-strong team. One of his first decisions will be whether or not to attempt re-signing franchise cornerstone RW Jefferson McNeely, who is a free agent. Shuster will likely seek to trade several veteran hold-overs, such as Ds Kevin Buchanan and Leonard Wright and LW Charlie Brooks, and perhaps C Harvey Bellmore or even LW Casey Thurman.
Shuster declined to discuss the future of specific players, but seemed to indicate that a full-scale rebuild was in the works. “One of the things [owner Perry] Dodge made clear to me when I was hired is that he wants a championship,” Shuster told reporters. “This is the District of Champions now, after all. The Caps did it, the Nats did it, and the Mystics did it. We should too. So I have to ask myself: which players are going to be on our championship roster? Those are the guys I’m building around. We’ll go from there.”
The famously reclusive Dodge, who issued a release rather than holding a press conference when he fired Adams, appeared at this announcement and introduced Shuster to the media. True to form, though, he refused to answer questions.
Michigan has a reputation around the SHL as a hard-hitting defense-oriented club. Shuster himself was known as a pugnacious, bulldog defenseman during his playing days in college and the minor leagues. Will he attempt to build the Galaxy in the Wolves’ – and his – image? “Ideally, I’d like to find players who are much more talented than I was,” the GM quipped. “I do think that defense is the bread and butter of championship hockey, and I’ll build with that in mind. In Michigan, though, we had The Bear [G Dirk Lundquist], and it’s a lot easier to try to win every game 1-0 when you’ve got a guy like him in net. This team will have its own identity.”