Two days after the surprising termination of Mike Kelly has led us to a new head coach and GM, but still a lot of questions emanating out of the port city.
Ross Yates, an assistant to Kelly since last season, has been named the team’s head coach, effective immediately. No interim tag.
"We are very pleased to have Ross Yates as our coach," said Sea Dogs president Wayne Long in the team’s press release. "He has an impressive coaching background in Europe and the American League, and he was brought here because of his extensive experience."
The team has said that they wanted to split Kelly’s role into two.
They didn’t have to look far for the general manager either, as they named Yates and head scout Christian Vermette co-GMs, the only such duo in the QMJHL. Vermette was an assistant coach with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies before joining the Sea Dogs scouting staff in 2005. He also coached in Quebec Midget AAA.
It’s unclear how the dual-GM setup will run. A day after the fact, it’s clear that Kelly’s dismissal had more to do with Kelly and less to do with the team itself, who have lost eight in a row coming into Friday’s game against the Moncton Wildcats.
Promoting from within is usually an out in the middle of a season, but with an interim tag, and re-evaluated after the season. Promoting an assistant coach to head coach usually means there won’t be a difference in philosophy or strategy on the ice, at least. The Sea Dogs made a point to mention there is no interim tag with either Yates or Vermette, leading some to speculate that disagreements between Kelly and team management was at least partly the cause.
Long said to CBC that Kelly’s dismissal had more to do with the team wanting to make a change for the good of the organization.
"It was just a combination of things that we felt that for us to get where need to go for 2017, which is obviously, knock on wood, hoisting the Memorial Cup and hoisting the Memorial Cup in Saint John, that we needed a change in direction," he said.
"These things are never fun. These things are very difficult for us to do, especially when you're dealing with somebody with the integrity of a Mike Kelly, but sometimes it's a cold, cool reality in sports that a change is needed."
Long also cited the attendance at Harbour Station, sitting at about 3,100 fans per game this season, was a concern. However, most know that attendance in junior hockey across the board usually increases after Christmas.
Long continued in a radio interview on Tuesday by saying: “We know we’re developing, we know we’re rebuilding but sometimes you need to make change for the sake of making [a] change.”
Kelly was named coach and director of hockey operations after former coach Gerard Gallant left in 2012 to become an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens. Kelly led the team to a trying 23-44-1-0 season in a hangover from their two Memorial Cup tournament appearances the two previous years, including a Memorial Cup title in 2011. It was enough to sneak into the playoffs, however.
Kelly led the Sea Dogs to 5-10-0-2 record and a 17th place in the 18-team league.