Over the weekend, it seemed like an announcement naming Craig MacTavish the head-coach of the Canucks new AHL affiliate the Chicago Wolves was imminent. Two well respected, and generally trust-worthy hockey reporters in Kypreos and Strickland tweeted that the deal was "likely" and "real close". I figured that the press-release, and the official announcement were mere formalities.
The most current reports, however, particularly Iain Macintyre’s piece in the Vancouver Sun, have cast aspersions on the status of the MacTavish agreement. Canucks assistant GM Laurence Gillman told Macintyre that MacTavish "is one of several candidates" whom the Canucks have interviewed. Gillman also told Macintyre that the Canucks “want to make sure we bring the right individual into our group and we’ll take whatever time is necessary to make the right decision.” Well jeez, if Gillman is to be believed, (and the Canucks tend not to be the most scrupulously honest and open of NHL franchises) that makes MacTavish’s hiring seem considerably less "likely" – and certainly not "real close."
So what’s the hold up?
This is purely speculation, but the Chicago Wolves are a pretty unique AHL franchise – and the team has a notorious independent streak. Ask any Thrashers fan – and you’ll hear the same refrain – "the Wolves want to win an AHL championship", "they don’t develop our players" etc.. There is some truth to this sentiment, the Wolves outspend nearly every other AHL franchise, are the only AHL team that has their own television deal, and recently brought in a 47 year old Chris Chelios – allowing the oldster to play major minutes.
The standard AHL-NHL affiliation agreement requires the Canucks to send at least twelve players to the Wolves, and Vancouver is responsible for hiring the coaching-staff; but is it possible that the Wolves want MacTavish, and are leaking the information to try and force the Canucks hand? It doesn’t seem all that farfetched, and Gillman’s emphasis on taking "whatever time is necessary" sounds calculated to me.
If the Canucks want to take "whatever time is necessary" to complete their coaching search, then who is feeding this MacTavish information to well-respected, major reporters? It has to be someone reasonably high-profile or these guys wouldn’t run with it. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if there’s any actual organizational dissonance at play – but if there isn’t a fire, then how does one explain all the smoke?
UPDATE: I got at Chicago Wolves blogger Ted Gruber of the Chicago Now affiliated Instigator blog and asked him for a comment on the situation. I figured getting the viewpoint of an avid Wolves fan, and close observer would add helpful context to my post. Here’s what Gruber had to say:
Let me first say the Wolves and Atlanta relationship was terrible and many Thrashers fans didn’t care for the Wolves but in reality the management really screwed them over not drafting correctly and trading away pieces. There was very little talk from Thrashers fans caring about their prospects. I originally found out about MacTavish a week and half ago, and I think the Assistant GM is doing some damage control since the word got about him becoming the head coach. Like I said it’s almost a done deal, the team just needs to sign him to a contract which I’m not sure he has done yet. The Vancouver Sun article headline is misleading due to the fact that it perceives MacT have a falling out with the organization, which right now is totally untrue. I still put all my money on Mac T and if he doesn’t sign you and I both are lost on who will be the next head coach.