The big-building clubs that have dominated the Western Hockey League of late, the Edmonton Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks, have done so while guided by coaches who came from the pro game. Now the Saskatoon Blades, who certainly have the potential to operate on a similary grand scale but were never able to reach it under their previous ownership, are going in a similar direction. Blades owner Mike Priestner and managing partner Colin Priestner have landed a highly regarded coach, convincing Bob Woods to trade southern California for the Prairies, as the former Calder Cup-winning coach will become the Blades' coach-GM.
From Daniel Nugent-Bowman (@DNBSports):
Since purchasing the Blades from the Brodsky family last September, the Priestners have expressed a desire to see the team play an up-tempo, offensive brand of hockey.
The Ducks scored 266 goals in the regular season in 2013-14, one fewer than Chicago for most in the NHL. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix)
(The style the Blades' bosses want seems philosophically aligned with that of the Regina Pats, whose coach Malcolm Cameron cheerfully calls his team "entertainment." Picture a lot of football scores between Regina and Saskatoon?)
Woods comes highly regarded, although there is always an adjustment with coming from working in the NHL or AHL to coaching teenagers. I doubt anyone was in denial that the Blades faced a long road back after former coach-GM Lorne Molleken mortgaged a lot of the future on the 2011 Brayden Schenn trade and for the team's ill-fated turn as the '13 Memorial Cup host. There's some big question marks after a 16-win season, but that also means a blanker canvas for Woods to leave a mark.
There's no guarantee whether Woods, who won a Calder Cup in 2009 with the Hershey Bears, will have the success Mike Johnston has had in Portland or Derek Laxdal (as coach only) has had with the Oil Kings. He comes highly regarded, though. The big picture, though, is the Blades are setting the bar high by getting someone with a NHL pedigree. That's what a team that plays in a big building such as Credit Union Centre ought to do to win over the skeptical portion of the market.
— Saskatoon Blades (@bladeshockey) June 1, 2014
The Vancouver Giants, another big-market team, may be going in a similar direction with their coach search. Former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach Tim Hunter interviewed with the Giants late last week.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.