|:||April 05, 2013|
|4/5/2013 12:08:00 AM|
Sundogs open offseason with many questions
Who will be the coach? In which pro league will they play? Those, and others.
The Daily Courier
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Less than 24 hours after being swept by the Wichita Thunder in the opening round of the 2013 CHL playoffs on Wednesday, the Arizona Sundogs embarked on the off-season with a couple of unanswered questions.
First, will coach Scott Muscutt, who replaced the departed David Lohrei midway through the campaign and guided the Sundogs to their fourth postseason appearance in seven seasons, return in 2013-14?
And, second, will the Arizona franchise remain in the CHL, like it has since the team's inception in 2006, or leave to join another minor league?
Muscutt, who has lived in Bossier, La., with his family for the past 15 years, said he's unsure whether he will come back to the Sundogs, who ended the 2012-13 regular season with a 32-27-7 record. He left coaching when the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, the CHL team he mentored for 11 seasons, folded following its Presidents' Cup championship in 2011.
Muscutt coached Bossier-Shreveport from 2000-11, where he won two Cups and compiled more than 400 victories as the second-winningest coach in CHL/Western Professional Hockey League history. He's now the president/founder of Impact 864, a hands-on consulting and leadership training company based in Bossier.
"I really enjoyed my time here, and it's a good organization," Muscutt said late Wednesday night. "The guys and the ladies that are a part of the (Sundogs') ownership group and staff are just fantastic, from top to bottom. I definitely want to try to help out wherever I can. There's a lot of things that have to be ironed out - the four biggest of them being my wife and my three kids that I miss a lot."
Sundogs general manager Chris Presson praised Muscutt for the job he did in returning Arizona to the playoffs. Presson said Muscutt will be a part of the franchise whether or not he's the coach.
"He's one of the most competitive and prepared coaches I've ever seen," Presson said. "I absolutely love him to death, and I can't thank him enough for what he did coming in here.
"My heart tells me that his heart completely wants to continue to coach, but I'm sure it will be a family decision."
As for the Sundogs staying in the CHL, Presson said he needs more time to make that decision.
"I'm dealing with players and trying to get hockey players home, and get them out of their apartments, and that type of stuff," he said. "So, I haven't even had a chance to ponder it or had any discussion about it."
The Thunder Rolls
Wichita, which lost in the Presidents' Cup finals last year, exhibited its postseason experience against the Sundogs, winning three of the four games in overtime en route to the sweep.
Muscutt said the Thunder came into the 2012-13 season with an expectation of winning a title, whereas the Sundogs had not won the Cup since 2008 and last made the playoffs in 2011.
"They learned how to win games three months ago that we're just now getting to the point that we have to learn how to win," he said. "Winning is a process. There's no silver bullet. There's no one missing ingredient. That team knew how to win, and we didn't. That's not a knock against us and it's not an excuse. It's a feather in the cap of Wichita."
Muscutt added that the Sundogs franchise must demand excellence from all of its players and continue to develop the organization in order to be a championship contender again.
"Even if you don't always get excellence, you're growing that much closer," he said. "That's where that team (Wichita) is, and that's where we have to get."
Nevertheless, Thunder defenseman Kevin Young credited the Sundogs for their effort in the series.
"They played us really tough. They played us well. They played physical," Young said. "They were as disciplined as we were. We got those breaks when we needed (them)."
The CHL referee that erased Sundogs defenseman Matt McCready's power-play goal in the first period of Game 4 may have done so because he thought Arizona forward Sebastian Geoffrion either interfered with Thunder goalie Torrie Jung or was in the crease.
However, both Muscutt and Presson said they've watched the video of that play multiple times and did not see interference or anyone in the crease in the Sundogs' eventual 4-3 OT loss.
If McCready's goal had counted, the game would've been tied at 1-1 with 9:35 left in the first. Instead, Arizona's Cody Purves scored the equalizer less than two minutes later, with 7:56 remaining.
"That changes the game and changes the series, and that's the disappointing thing," Presson said Thursday. "We all want the players to be able to decide it, and not the referee. Unfortunately, last night (Wednesday) was one of those cases where it wasn't decided by the players on the ice."
Presson added that he will not file a complaint about the officiating with the CHL office in Glendale, even though he believes other miscues were made.
"Obviously we felt there were several errors in judgment, and that's what we as humans have to overcome," he said. "I certainly felt like there were a number of mistakes in the game to both teams, most predominately the goal that was disallowed."
Wichita's Young said poor calls will inevitably occur, and the wise thing to do is to ignore them and move on.
"With the officiating, it always seems to balance out," he said. "Calls go both ways. Things happen. It's the game of hockey. You never predict what's gonna happen. You just have to overcome. That's really all you can do. You can't play against the refs.
"We had trouble all year. We were really undisciplined. We came into the playoffs and said we have to bear down. We can't talk to them (officials), we can't do that extra stuff after the whistle. You have to play your own game."