Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

Lorne Molleken relinquishes Saskatoon Blades coaching duty to Dave Struch

Since getting out while the getting is good is always advisable, it's not unusual for a team coming off a turn as the Memorial Cup host team to switch it up behind the bench. Lorne Molleken and the Saskatoon Blades have affirmed what was pretty much assumed toward the later stages of the season, that the 24-year veteran coach is relinquishing the Blades' coaching reins to assistant coach Dave Struch. It makes it five times in six seasons that the host team made a coaching change immediately following the season. In this case, the legacy is difficult to assess since Molleken's last team happened to record its only post-season win over the eventual MasterCard Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads, which was an all-time anomaly.

That above tweet from Global Saskatoon's Kevin Jesus should form the crux. It is completely understandable if Blades fans who have been steadfast through the Blades' seemingly endless loop of 45- to 50-win regular seasons and early post-season ousters see this shuffle as a half-measure. That is probably the short view. The long one is that Molleken is one of only four men to have coached 1,000 WHL games. Such a milestone is unattainable without the ability to influence young hockey players.

In the wider view, this does stand apart from the other post-Cup coaching exits. Éric Veilleux steered the Shawinigan Cataractes to the Memorial Cup in 2012 and was able to leverage that into taking over an emerging Baie-Comeau Drakkar side. The last two OHL host team coach-GMs, Dave Cameron (2011 with Mississauga) and Peter Deboer (2008 with Kitchener), were both in demand at the NHL level. In 2010, Kelly McCrimmon, who's also the GM and owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings, had an opportunity to bring in former NHL bench boss Cory Clouston, albeit only for one season. Overseeing the host club apparently requires someone to get a mental refresher.

Getting back to Molleken and the question of legacy, the playoff goose egg and being the first team ousted from the Memorial Cup — which happened to have an exceptional calibre of league champions — form one big matzo ball. That should not diminish the long-term impact, though, since the vast majority of junior players have to go out to face the real world instead of livin' the NHL dream. The coaching change is arguably overdue, but at least it's well-timed up with the post-host team rebuild the Blades face after anteing up several high bantam draft picks for failed runs in 2011 and '13.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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