Cam Russell has “the hammer” now, and it’s up to him — and only him — how he wants to use it.
Russell, who last week added general manager to his title as head coach of the Halifax Mooseheads, has preached for more than two years his desire to ice a hard-working, blue-collar team that the Metro Centre crowd will appreciate.
While those traits escaped his teams in his first two seasons behind the bench, he hopes that changes for good now that he’s taken over the GM duties from Marcel Patenaude.
“I’d like to think that if players know there’s one guy that has the hammer, they’ve got to perform,” Russell said. “If they don’t, there will be consequences. It makes it easier when there’s one guy applying those consequences.”
The Mooseheads, who host the Quebec Remparts Friday at 7 p.m. and visit the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles on Sunday at 4 p.m., are a hard-working team Russell has been proud of this season, despite a woeful 13-29-2-2 record.
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But Russell is under pressure to deliver results for owner Bobby Smith, who fired Patenaude in part because the Herd did not win more games in the first half of the season. Smith puts an emphasis on results, even in rebuilding years.
While some would argue that is a conflict of interest that leads a coach to play older players over younger players, Russell says he doesn’t plan to attach age to ice time.
“Our philosophy is, we want to play the players who are willing to compete and work hard every shift,” Russell said.
“At the same time, we want to grow our young players. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to give them the job.
“The young players have to earn their ice time.”
He said that approach will allow the organization to develop the players “who want to become players.”
How does he want the Cam Russell era to be remembered?
“As a successful one,” said the Cole Harbour native. “You want to win, you want to create and develop a hockey team that everybody in the city wants to see — just an honest group of guys who come and give an honest day’s work.”