Skilled players like Tyler Sandhu will be key for the Silvertips moving forward (photo: Everett Silvertips)The Everett Silvertips are performing about as well as could reasonably be expected this season, but that didn't prevent GM Garry Davidson from pulling the plug on head coach Mark Ferner and assistant coach Chris Hartsburg yesterday in a move that appeared sudden, but has reportedly been brewing for a while.
The Silvertips are 16-24-0-2, and sit in eighth place in the WHL's Western Conference. As expected, they're looking up at U.S. powers Portland, Spokane and Tri-City and battling with Seattle to avoid last place in the division.
When Davidson was hired away from the Portland Winterhawks to replace Doug Soetaert in February, he promised that the Silvertips would play a style of hockey that emphasized speed and skill, much like his previous team.
Soetaert hired Ferner, and Davidson and Ferner have reportedly been on different wavelengths in terms of "hockey philosophy" since the start. Instead of waiting until the offseason to shake things up, Davidson decided to take charge and begin teaching his brand of hockey right away:
Davidson is a proponent of attacking, offensive hockey. Ferner is a proponent of hard-working, defensively-responsible hockey. These differences were known from the beginning, when Davidson was hired last February. Davidson gave it some time to see if the two could come to reach some sort of middle ground, but that never happened. Both Davidson and Ferner acknowledged the difference in philosophies. (Everett Herald)
Davidson replaced Ferner with himself, and says he'll coach the Silvertips for the rest of the season and then look for a new head coach to work alongside assistant Mitch Love, who was retained.
Davidson was the director of player personnel for the Winterhawks until being hired by the Silvertips. Davidson and exiled Portland coach/GM Mike Johnston are longtime friends and brought an uptempo, attacking philosophy to the Winterhawks when they joined the franchise together in 2008.
Now that Davidson is in control of his own team, it seems that he wants to emulate the style that has made the Winterhawks successful. The Silvertips are tied for last in the WHL in scoring with 103 goals in 42 games. Everett has some skilled young players in the pipeline, including promising talents like Kohl Bauml, Tyler Sandhu and Mitch Skapski. The latter two were drafted by Portland while Davidson was there, then traded to the Silvertips in the Seth Jones deal.
And much like what has been rumoured about Johnston, Davidson doesn't have a reputation for being particularly popular in WHL circles. After all, he spent nearly two decades actively recruiting against major junior teams while he was involved in the BCHL.
Here's what WHL reporter/blogger extraordinaire Gregg Drinnan had to say on Davidson's Everett hire in February:
It will be interesting to watch Davidson, who is an astute judge of young talent, operate as a general manager in WHL circles. After all, WHL folks don’t think very highly of him, thanks to his many seasons in the BCHL where he proved to be a consistent recruiter of talent against the WHL. In fact, there are a number of WHL people who shake their heads and wonder how it is that he is even working in their league. (Taking Note)
Though the Winterhawks are currently Enemy No. 1 in the WHL due to league sanctions, Davidson will likely use Portland's meteoric rise as a blueprint for success in Everett, given that he played a significant role in shaping the Winterhawks' philosophy for scouting, signing and developing players. That's news that probably doesn't sit well with other clubs in the league that aren't enamored with Portland's methods.
Finding the right coach will be a big part of getting the franchise on track. The guy who probably makes the most sense is Travis Green, the Portland assistant who has led the Winterhawks to a 14-1 record as interim head coach since Johnston was suspended for the rest of the season.
Green has said in the past that he'd like to be a head coach, and clearly he's showing he can handle the job. You'd have to think that Davidson would at least talk to Green about the job, and give him an opportunity to lead his own team rather than return to an assistant role when Johnston returns.
With two coaches now gone, and only nine of 24 roster players left from Soetaert's regime, Davidson is clearly wasting no time in renovating his new home.