Bulldogs To Hire Gruden?
Speculation flying around the interwebs today is that Hamilton Bulldogs GM Steve Staios will be hiring John Gruden, the former head coach of the Flint Firebirds, to fill the vacant head coach role.
I’m hearing John Gruden will be hired as coach of OHL Hamilton – previously had been with Flint
— Ryan Kennedy (@THNRyanKennedy) June 2, 2016
Bulldogs will hold a news conference tomorrow at 10am to announce the head coach for the 2016-2017 season #blackandgoldunite
— Hamilton Bulldogs (@BulldogsOHL) June 2, 2016
— Scott Radley (@radleyatthespec) June 2, 2016
— Teri Pecoskie (@TeriatTheSpec) June 2, 2016
John Gruden only waded into the OHL waters a little over a year ago, coming over from an assistant coach role with the US National Development program, where he helped coach the Americans to a Gold medal in the 2014 IIHF World Juniors. Gruden understands the level of commitment it takes to remain a professional hockey player. He played 92 NHL games with the Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators and the Washington Capitals, as well as some time in the AHL, IHL and Germany’s DEL.
There has been plenty written about the tumultuous roller coaster that Gruden has suffered over the past eight months at the hands of Flint Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen. There are two sides to this hiring that we’re inevitably going to hear about over the next few days from reporters close to the situation (and probably an article or two in major outlets such as TSN/Sportsnet).
The first side will be a series of questions about what Gruden learned through his experiences with the Firebirds. I don’t anticipate a lot of candid responses. Don’t be shocked if we hear from Staios that he was impressed with Gruden’s professionalism and perseverance. There are already a list of quotes that will be brought forward about how he is very well liked by scouts, parents and most importantly by players. Firebird draft eligible forward William Bitten’s father was certainly candid regarding the multiple firings, and says lays out exactly what fans would want to hear:
“I defy you to find anybody who will say a bad word about John Gruden or Dave Karpa. I told David Branch that these are the types of coaches the OHL should want.” Michael Bitten, OHL Parent (Source)
The second aspect of the story, should Gruden be the new head coach, is that Steve Staios passed on Troy Smith for the role. With Smith being a local product, and seemingly being hired to be groomed for the position a year ago, it is a bit surprising that it wasn’t simply announced that Staios was looking in another direction back in March when Burnett was relieved of his duties. Smith seems to have taken everything well in stride and clearly understands Staios’ mission to find the right person for the position. Smith was very visible and available to media during the OHL Priority Selection, Orientation Camp and over the past two months to local media (Scott Radley and Teri Pecoskie both have been looking to him for quotes lately).
Personally I hope that Smith remains with the organization, but I assume that might be a hard pill to swallow for a man who is looking to develop his own personal coaching resume. We’ll find out tomorrow at the 10 a.m. press conference what the new coaching staff will look like. This is an organization and a fan base looking forward to winning seasons, hopefully tomorrow’s announcement is a precursor for future success.