Regina Pats brought new coaches in during the off-season in hopes of making the playoffs
After yet another lengthy off-season, the WHL’s Regina Pats are at it again. With a new coaching staff and a new head scout, the Pats have a new look, but the result could ultimately be the same that it has been for the past three seasons.
The Pats finished 10th out of 12 teams in the Eastern Conference last season, thus leaving them without a playoff spot once again for the third consecutive year. With stats like that, something drastic needed to be done in the dressing room for the Pats to avoid being a bottom-basement team for years to come.
As a result of terrible finishes, the Pats decided to part ways with head coach Curtis Hunt, as well as long time head scout Todd Ripplinger. Both men had been a part of the organization for many years and in a lot of ways it was tough to see them go. Fans will have fond memories of Hunt leading the team to a playoff birth in 2007-08, while Ripplinger is responsible for picking up franchise players such as Colton Teubert, Jordan Weal and late-round pick Jordan Eberle.
However, with seasons ending so early for Regina’s home team, change was inevitable. In place of Hunt, the Pats announced on July 26 that former-NHLer Pat Conacher would be taking over as head coach. Conacher has quite an impressive resume, as a player he was a part of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty, winning a Stanley Cup with the team in the 1984-85 season. Conacher can also call Wayne Gretzky a former teammate.
Joining Conacher behind the Pats bench are assistant coaches Josh Dixon and Malcolm Cameron. Although the new coaching staff may seem impressive on paper, one has to wonder if the fate of the Pats will be missing the playoffs once again this year.
In all actuality, the Pats have the talent to make it to the playoffs. However, this has been the situation for the past few years. With returning players such as skilled-forward Jordan Weal, defenceman Brandon Davidson, goalie Damian Ketlo and captain Garrett Mitchell, the Pats have a solid foundation to build a team off of.
After a highly competitive training camp, the Pats opened the pre-season schedule to see just how much work it might take this year in order to turn things around. Surprisingly, the Pats opened the pre-season up last Friday with a 5-2 win at the Brandt Centre against highway rivals the Moose Jaw Warriors. However, the Pats lost 6-3 on the road to the same team the very next day. Although pre-season can be a tempting way to judge a team, the Pats squad will look a lot different in a few weeks as six members are to head off to NHL camps, hoping to make an impression.
Mitchell will make his way to the Washington Capitals camp after spending some time with the Hershey Bears, their AHL farm team. Weal will head to Los Angeles to spend some time with the Kings. Davidson will be in Edmonton with the Oilers, while young guns Ricard Blidstrand and Campbell Elynuik will be traveling to Philadelphia together to attend Flyers camp, leaving Artem Bidlevskii to travel to New York to visit the Islanders. However, it is likely that all six of the players will be back for yet another season with the Blue and White.
Fans can only hope that off-season changes will be enough to turn the Pats into winners this year. Who knows, they may even finish over .500 this year. Maybe.