McTavish back as PLK head coach
Dale McTavish is once more behind the bench of the Pembroke Lumber Kings.
The junior 'A' hockey club's owner and general manager resumed the post he vacated a year ago after current head coach Sean Crozier was asked to step down from the position. The Kings posted a disappointing 22 wins, 38 losses and two overtime losses for 46 points missing the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Crozier, who had just completed his first season as head coach, was offered an alternate position within the organization, which he declined. He was a former Lumber Kings forward, assistant coach and assistant general manager before succeeding McTavish in May 2016. Thanking Crozier for his years of service to the club, McTavish acknowledged it was a difficult decision to make.
“I have a ton of respect for Sean,” McTavish told the Daily Observer Thursday. “I think he's a great person and a good friend of mine. We had a good talk but it was tough. He's a really good coach but I felt I needed to make a change to the organization.”
Assistant coaches Keith Roach and Ben Reinhardt will be back in support of the head coach, however, the line-up on the ice is not certain. McTavish said that while there is a core of veterans and sophmore players they will need to prove themselves during a series of training camps that resume next week in Michigan. Another selection camp is slated for Arnprior in June with the usual training camps commencing in August.
“We are looking to get better in every position,” he said. “Nobody is safe as far as coming off a season like that. “They are going to have to prove they are better than what we have recruited.”
While he was embarrassed by the team's performance finishing last in the CCHL standings, McTavish said he had to take responsibility for the product on the ice and making the necessary changes to the organization in advance of the 2017-18 campaign. He certainly didn't believe Crozier should shoulder all the blame for the squad's failings.
“I wasn't putting it all on him,” said McTavish. “Going through a year like that the players will hopefully learn from that and come back with a hunger to be a lot better.”
Justin Felhaber and D'Andre John will be leaving team after reaching the maximum playing age. McTavish added that those returning players will have to step up their game, especially under the scrutiny of selection camp.
“We have some good pieces that are coming back but we have to get better,” he said.
A native of Renfrew, Crozier played minor hockey for the Renfrew Timberwolves before moving over to the Ottawa Valley Titans. Drafted by the Pembroke Lumber Kings, he skated as an assistant captain for four seasons from 2005 to 2010 playing a role securing three league championships and one Eastern Canadian Championship for the home squad. He later played NCAA level hockey for Pennsylvania’s Neumann Knights.