In May, Halifax Mooseheads owner Bobby Smith told Metro Halifax that Cam Russell and Marcel Patenaude are “the type of people I want running my hockey team.”
“I’m hopeful they’ll be doing it for a long time,” he said, after a stacked Mooseheads team was knocked out in embarrassing fashion in the QMJHL semifinals.
Eight months later, Smith has had a partial change of heart. Russell, his head coach, is the guy he wants running his hockey team, while Patenaude, his general manager, is gone.
Smith fired Patenaude after nine seasons yesterday. Then he added full-time GM to Russell’s responsibilities.
“I believe you should give somebody a chance to work their way out of their problems,” Smith said, of why he has a different outlook now than he did in May.
Smith stressed that his decision was based on the past six years, but said he wanted to see Patenaude guide the Mooseheads to a better record than this season’s 12-27-2-2.
He wanted to see the results that he’s seeing from last year’s league finalists, the Olympiques (21-20-2-2) and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (22-17-4-2).
“I may have looked upon this differently had we been in the middle of the pack and moving up at this juncture,” Smith said. “But we’re not. We’re 16th, 17th, 18th place right now. It’s not a good place to be when you don’t have your first-round pick and you didn’t win a championship.”
The Mooseheads, who traded their first-round pick for star Brad Marchand, were an absolute powerhouse on paper last season but never came together as a team.
“Our personnel was very good, but we paid a massive price to put that personnel in place. And we didn’t win,” Smith said.
Smith said Russell in a dual role gives the team “inherent advantages” because the “person who is bringing (the players) onto the team is coaching them on a nightly basis.”
“I would have been quite happy to continue with the coach/GM separate model if we had the success to justify that, but I don’t think we did,” Smith said.
Russell, whose background is exclusively as a coach, said he’s “looking forward to the challenge” and will sit down with Smith over the next week to develop a plan.