If you thought the winds of chance had already reached gale force levels with the Red Deer Rebels this season... today's events turned things up a couple more notches.
Gone are Jesse Wallin and Charles Inglis. In comes Jeff Truitt.
The reaction since the news came down at lunch time today has been both large and varied. I'm not much of a gambler, but I'd be quite confident in wagering that today's events set a new Twitter record for use of the #Rebelshockey hashtag.
Here the "coles notes" version of how the Rebels coaching situation has played itself out...
- After a tough 2-3 road trip (capped off with an embarassing 8-1 loss in Kelowna) Sutter and Wallin sat down to figure out just what the heck was going on with their hockey club
- Through a series of trades in September and October, Sutter noticeably increased the talent level of this hockey club. But something was still missing. The desired results simply weren't there.
- Sutter and Wallin came to the same realization that the message regarding the need for consistent effort each and every game was not coming across. The players had tuned out the coach.
Hence, a change was needed. It's obviously not a scenario that either man wanted to see played out. But, both men reluctantly agreed that it had to.
"He is a very, very good coach," Sutter told the local media this afternoon at Rebels head office. "But, for whatever reason, the message wasn't getting through to the players. I don't really have the reason why that has been the case but Jesse recognized it too and the right thing is to make a change... we both understand that it always has to be in the best interest of the hockey team first and foremost."
Given the longstanding relationship between these two men, it's no stretch to say that Sutter, a man well known for his hard-nosed demeanor, had a tough time overcoming the emotions involved in making this move.
"Sometimes in life it's never easy to do the right thing. But today this is the right thing to do moving forward. Change needs to be done and we're making it, moving forward. It's not a day that I'm sitting here feeling good about it at all, it's just not, but it's something that has to be done."
As tough as the decision was to make, Sutter says he couldn't afford to wait any longer.
"You start 0-6 in exhibition and lose your first three regular season games, it kinda put us behind the eight ball. We just haven't been able to really get any traction going. In another game we'll be a third of the way through the season. I just didn't want it to go on any longer."
Even though the outgoing coach's message for his players somehow got lost in translation, the new coach's message reads much the same.
"We've been inconsistent. We've had a good game, bad game, good game, bad game type of thing and that's the way it's been," Sutter lamented. "There's areas that we certainly need to get better at and we need our players all on board, all in. There can't be any grey areas, it's pretty black and white. We need to get going here."
Specifically, Sutter says it's the Rebels core veteran players in particular who need to step their play up and lead this team in the right direction.
"Outside of probably our captain, our older players, our 18, 19, and 20 year old's have been up and down. They need to get some consistency in their game and get going... if you're gonna have success at this level your older players gotta step up to the plate. That message, for whatever reason, wasn't getting there and now it's gonna come from another person."
Sutter gave no timetable for finding a new permanent head coach.
But, there is an early candidate... Jeff Truitt. The Rebels new Associate Coach brings with him an impressive resume that includes time with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Kelowna Rockets [won Ed Cheynoweth Cup in 2003, 2005], Camrose Kodiaks [AJHL] and Hockey Canada [World Juniors, U18]. Truitt also spent time in the AHL with San Antonio and Texas and was most recently the Moose Jaw Warriors Director of Hockey Operations in 2009-10. Sutter is excited to be bringing Truitt into the Rebels fold.
"To bring him, a guy that's very knowledgeable and has a real good understanding of the game, in that capacity is a huge plus for us," Sutter commented. "Bryce [Thoma] will stay on as an assistant coach and be part of our coaching staff."
While he refused to make any predictions regarding how successful he thinks his Rebels club can be, Sutter made very clear what needs to happen in order for any success to take place.
"I do know we need to be a harder working team. A more disciplined hockey team in how we play. I know those are areas that Jesse was really focusing in on and wanting them to be and they [players] weren't getting it. So they're gonna get it from a different voice.... It's competing every night and doing it the right way... with a lot of passion."
Final thoughts on Wallin... he will definitely be heard from again. While his career with the Rebels is now over, his coaching career is far from over. Hockey Canada has already come calling on more than one occasion and it's not out of the realm of possibility that they will do so again at some point. He's a well-respected bright mind who shouldn't be unemployed for too long.
The second rather large move made today by Sutter involved his team's current scoring leader. Charles Inglis has been sent home from the club to await a trade.
Sutter gave no official reason for his decision to send Inglis packing. Given his history, there is plenty of "social media speculation" [to put it politely] as to why Sutter made the move.
I don't claim to have any inside information regarding the move, but I will say this. Anytime Charles Inglis was called upon to represent the Rebels by attending public events and speaking to the media (he will definitely be missed around the Big 105 and 106.7 The Drive studios) he did so. And he did it extremely well. Charles earned rave reviews for his work in the Red Deer community. Regardless of what preconceived notions may be out there, and being sent packing by three clubs will create a fair share of those, Inglis was a good citizen in Red Deer. He endeared himself as a fan favorite in this market and there's a large number of tweets out there to back that up.
What I can say for sure... Charles was glaring example of the inconsistent play Sutter has been seeing from his veteran players. Yes, Inglis is/was the Rebels leading scorer... but with a mere 14 points in 21 games (one point more than Tyson Ness and Mathew Dumba). It simply wasn't good enough. And to say that Charles was a streaky scorer would be about right. His 11 goals scored came in 5 games meaning he was goalless in the other 16 games. Perhaps with some more consistency in his game, Inglis would still be in the Rebels fold. Unfortunately, his time in Red Deer, and likely the WHL altogether, has come to an end.
It's days like today that make for the best headlines, the best quotes, the best tweets, etc. But it's also days like today that remind you how tough the business of hockey can be.
UPDATE - According to @GregMeachem of the Red Deer Advocate, Sutter will offer Wallin another position within the Rebels organization. In Greg's article...
“ I told Jesse to go home for now and be a dad and a husband and spend time with your family, and then we’ll sit down in a couple of weeks,” said Sutter. “Jesse is a really good person and a good hockey man, but his time here (as a coach) ran its course. That happens in coaching and it’s not his fault, or anyone’s fault."