Chris Byrne, the man who followed The Man in the nation's capital, appears to be making a clean break from the Ottawa 67's.
Perish the hypothesizing about how it might work with the new 67's coach answering to his predecessor as Byrne concentrated on being the OHL team's general manager, which was the initial announcement last month. Now it appears a long-standing connection between Byrne and Los Angeles Kings scout turned exec Mike Futa has paid off. Multiple sources — Chris Hofley of the Ottawa Sun and Steve Lloyd of TSN 1200 sports radio — are reporting that Byrne is set to leave the 67's to join the Los Angeles Kings as a scout. The Kings recently promoted Futa to vice-president, with presumably opened up a scouting job.
Have heard from two sources now that Ottawa #67s GM Chris Byrne is indeed leaving to become a scout with the LA Kings
— Chris Hofley (@chrishofley) June 9, 2014
Only response received re:Chris Byrne is frm spokesman Barre Cambell: "OSEG does not have anything to report about Chris Byrne at this time"
— Chris Hofley (@chrishofley) June 10, 2014
(Update, June 10: The Ottawa Citizen reports Byrne's move is a "done deal.")
(Once upon a time, Byrne scouted for the Owen Sound Attack while Futa was GM; Byrne tipped off the Attack about an undrafted gem named Wayne Simmonds. Byrne also coached young Kings standout Tyler Toffoli for three seasons.)
Meantime, Ottawa apparently now has both the coach and GM positions open. It also avoids an official firing, which might have looked cold after Byrne and his staff and players were behind the eight-ball during two 'lost years' spent playing at Canadian Tire Centre during the TD Place revitalization.
With so much in flux with so many teams at all strata of hockey, from the NHL down through minor pro and on to the major junior, it is hard to see how this affects Ottawa's search. But it doesn't over-gild the lily to suggest this might work in 67's owner Jeff Hunt's favour. He now has the option to offer the GM role to entice someone who was at the pro level and would want a large degree of autonomy before accepting a post in the OHL. Granted, Ottawa made a show of saying it would divide the job, but it can walk that back now that the GM's chair is open.
Most will say that following Hockey Hall of Famer Brian Kilrea, whom Byrne replaced as coach in 2009 and as GM two years later, was an impossible task. That's not untrue, but it omits some of outside forces that factored into Ottawa's fortunes during both its upswing and its down cycle. In both 2011 and '12, season-ending injuries to vital veterans, including a shoulder injury to January 2012 pickup John McFarland, kept Ottawa from hitting its peak at playoff time.
When it came time to rebuild after Toffoli and star goalie Petr Mrazek graduated, the 67's wound up shopping star defenceman Cody Ceci in a depressed trade market in 2012-13. This past season, franchise centre Sean Monahan stuck with Calgary Flames, costing Ottawa a chance to obtain a Rychel-esque windfall at the deadline. That being said, ultimately someone is always accountable when a team doesn't get to the summit and/or doesn't bounce back quickly after bottoming out.
Everything else these days with the Hunt-fronted Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group — the CFL RedBlacks football team, Fury FC soccer team, and the TD Place complex — has a sheen of newness about it. It might as well apply to the GM chair of the 67's, too.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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