The latest in a seeming plethora of, uh (don't say panic moves, do not panic moves) personnel changes in major junior, general manager-less Cape Breton hired Marc-André Dumont to replace Ron Choules on Monday. Dumont, you cannot make this up, was dismissed in Val-d'Or the same week that Cote canned GM Pierre Roux. Dumont's debut with the 16th-place Screaming Eagles will come on Tuesday at home against provincial rival and league-leading Halifax. No pressure there.
Before touching on the particulars of Choules' ouster, it's worth wondering if there is any large trend. Choules is the sixth coach in major junior — and fourth in the past eight days within the QMJHL and OHL — to be sacked. It's only natural to wonder if this is exceptional and if it's tied to franchises having an itchy trigger finger during a NHL lockout season, when there is more incentive to bring in fans.
Based on 45 minutes of research, give or take a half-hour, the short answers are (A) yes and (B) probably not. Six mid-season changes before the December holiday break is exceptional, based on the precedent across the CHL over the last decade. In fact, if one more CHL team makes a change this season, it would tie the mark for the most in any of the past 10 seasons. There were seven changes in 2010-11, all confined to the Ontario and Quebec leagues, but those did not involve someone being put out of work. For instance, Halifax majority owner Bobby Smith decided to coach and have Cam Russell become the full-time GM, which seems to have worked out well for them.
Is the lockout an attendant factor? Oddly, there were only two coaching changes in 2004-05 when the NHL shut down for an entire season. The Screaming Eagles' attendance is down thanks to their 7-17-2-4 record, which has them ahead of only expansion Sherbrooke and Shawinigan, whose roster is expansion team quality. That is pretty much where they were when Roux was turfed.
From T.J. Colello:
"The team hasn't been playing well and we just had to make a change, so we made the change," said Screaming Eagles president Andre Cote, who wouldn't say how long the team has been actively searching for Choules' replacement. "We decided the time was now to do it.
"There's never a good time to do these kind of things in my mind. A decision had to be made and we made it. We just move forward. The whole idea is to try and get the Screaming Eagles moving forward in the most positive direction we can. Sometimes, a coach takes a brunt for that, sometimes the GM does. That's just the nature of the game."
The team's attendance has seen a dip this year as well. Last season, the club averaged 2,600 fans per game, but after 15 home games in 2012-13, the team is down to 2,481 fans per game.
"I'd imagine there are fans out there who aren't happy with the performance," said Cote. "There are fans who go by wins and losses, there are others that do it by the performance of the team if they're working hard. What's in the fans mind and why they don't come, I don't know, but I imagine it would have some impact on them." (Cape Breton Post)
Cape Breton was creamed by Saint John in the first round of the past two QMJHL post-seasons. They could be headed toward a similar faint-hope first-round matchup with the regular-season champion again this season.
Choules, a junior hockey lifer, was let go by Acadie-Bathurst two seasons ago despite a 10-5 start. He should bounce back; this is probably just fallout from Roux's reign as GM. Dumont's spin is that even though he is no longer coaching Val-d'Or, he can claim to have helped young players shine.
"When we came in in 2009, I came in as a head coach and the team hadn't made the playoffs," he said. "The three seasons I was there, the team progressed every season and went from not making the playoffs to a better ranking the next year, to a better ranking the next year and a better ranking the next year.
"The team was really on a roll after Christmas last year. We played a (.576 win percentage) and we're proud of the development program in Val-d'Or. We were able to bring 15 out of 16 players that were 16-year-olds into the under-17 programs during that period of time."
The Screaming Eagles face the predicament being bad without being overly young. They have more 19-year-old and overage veterans (9) than youngsters who are 16 or 17 years old (8), putting them in a tough spot with whether to rebuild or try to scrape out wins. Making another change makes it look like they are not idling even if the team remains in neutral.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.