Acadie-Bathurst Titan right wing Zach O'BrienOne of our favourite Québec hockey fans called Leo-Guy Morissette a cross between Al Davis and Jeffrey Loria, which isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for the owner-slash-general manager of the QMJHL's Acadie-Bathurst Titan. The team is still coach-less after firing Éric Dubois Sunday, and were apparently without a plan for succession. Here's where it gets weird:
As it turns out, according to TVA Sports' Mikaël Lalancette, six assistant coaches from around the league have refused the opening. At least two coaches from outside the Q have also turned down the gig: Paulin Bordeleau, a midget-AAA coach for Esther-Blondin, reportedly turned down the gig despite being with the Titan when they were in Laval.
A second, Claude Bouchard, who is taking a season off from hockey after three years coaching a Jonquière-area team, was reportedly offered the position on Thursday, and didn't turn down the gig until after the Titan had cut ties with Dubois. So, perhaps there was a plan of succession, and that was "hope one of our candidates says yes" before cutting ties with Dubois.
It's not that Dubois is a bad coach or the Titan are a bad team. He took over with two games to go in the 2010-2011 season and spent last year in decent position, going 32-31-2-3. The Titan are 14th in the 'Q' at 10-15-4-0 this season.
"Our results made me do this. They always say it's easier to fire the coach than 25 players, and unfortunately it's true. There was something that just wasn't working. Eric had the same players this year as last but they were producing half as much." [La Presse]
(I'm going to slightly quibble with Morissette's math here, and suggest he's overshot his estimate. The team is winning 23 games per 68 outings, which isn't half of last season's pace. If you correct for the fact that Bathurst is shooting a couple of percentage points worse this season and that they've lost a disproportionate amount of close games, they ought to be on pace of 27 per 68 games. Not totally re-assuring, but the Titan struggles seem to be caused somewhat by bad luck halfway through the season. A new coach would be inheriting a better team than the team's win-loss record suggests. They were also 20th in the CHL in strength of schedule through November 18.)
Of course, despite Dubois' record as a coach only slightly below .500 in one of the Q's small markets, Morissette admitted he was "patient" with him because he was formerly a Titan and a hard worker. Coincidentally, Bordeleau coached Dubois back in the early 1990s. The results weren't coming, perhaps because the GM didn't exactly add to a group that had just three 20-goal scorers last season, which is murderous in the offensive Quebec league.
Morissette took the easy way out and fired a coach with no obvious plan for the next week. No interim head coach was named in the team's press release, and an announcement is expected in the coming days. The Titan play the Victoriaville Tigres on Wednesday before having a few days off, not playing against until hosting Chicoutimi on Sunday. Next Friday and Saturday, the team will face Québec and Halifax on back-to-back nights, which is presumably a pretty tough way to begin any coaching gig, and one that will likely come to pass.