One should come not to bury Paul Fixter, but to praise him.
The Sudbury Wolves, inevitably figuring there's no reason to put off till the end of the season what can be done while the world junior is commanding attention, fired their coach on Saturday after exactly 1½ seasons, which has included just seven wins in 34 tries during this Ontario Hockey League campaign.
The Sudbury Wolves have fired head coach Paul Fixter.
— Gene Pereira (@GenePereira1) January 3, 2015
David Matsos, the associate coach, will take one step over and preside over the final 34 games for a 7-25-1-1 team that will have the first overall choice in the OHL priority selection draft.
There is no absolving Fixter from being one of the hands in the freefall.
To blow the dust off a familar refrain, the authorship is hardly his alone. Over the past 365 days, the Wolves have downward-spiralled to the tune of losing 50 of 71 games despite the fact they were a buyer at the 2014 trade deadline. The timeline has included having the skepticism that greeted the team trying to load up for the 2014 playoffs and a desultory five-game exit in the first round against Barrie. This season included Fixter drawing negative publicity to the team (and a whopping fine) after a profane outburst toward Sault Star writer Peter Ruicci.
Concomitantly, it's a pile-on to rehash that without reiterating Fixter, albeit willingly, walked into a situation that would try anyone's patience and fry anyone's nerves when he became the Wolves coach in the summer of 2013 after Trent Cull went back to the AHL. The Wolves' issues, as their insistence on making a young Connor Burgess a flashpoint for fan resentment indicated (what a thing to do to an 18-year-old in a league that purports to be for the kids), appear to be systemic. The changes the team needs if it's going to emulate the relative success that northern Ontario counterparts North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie are enjoying of late start elsewhere than the behind the bench. It also happens on a level above GM Blaine Smith, too.
Fixter did enliven many a news day with his candour about the Wolves' ups and downs. There isn't enough of that in the hockey world, at least on the record, and that will be missed.
Sudbury is 11 points clear of the closest also-ran in the OHL. Just as in 2008, the last time the Wolves had the No. 1 overall pick in the priority selection, there doesn't appear to be a surefire franchise-transforming player in the incoming minor midget player pool. Sudbury will have some work to do on recruiting the best player available. Making this move creates a chance to revisit that '08 draft and how Sudbury got the consensus best player, John McFarland, rather than Erik Gudbranson, Tyler Seguin, Jeff Skinner, Devante Smith-Pelly or Tyler Toffoli.
Smith at least managed to move McFarland after 2½ seasons in return for Michael Sgarbossa, who turned out to have a better OHL career than McFarland. That saga bound to be revisited as the Wolves, well-supported through thick and thin (withdrawal's not apathy, people), ready to pick No. 1 again.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.