Ireland Gets the Axe
Wings Decide For A Change In Direction...
By Jason Kasiorek
Word it any way you want, but Griffins Head Coach Greg Ireland became the scapegoat for the team's dismal 06-07 campaign this morning. In a surprising move, the organization announced that Ireland would not be returning for the last season of his contract next year. Despite many encouraging statements from both the Detroit and Grand Rapids management, about the job he was doing developing players, the Wings made the call that they wanted to go in a different direction. Since they control the coaches starting this season, a change was made.
But make no mistake, GI may be the one going down, but the blame for this stinker of a season needs to be placed elsewhere. He was not responsible for putting together this collection of underachievers, individualists and dressing room problem-children. Fans in Grand Rapids watched all summer as the stars from 05-06 signed with other teams and were not replaced with like players. Basing the offense on players Scott Barney, Krys Kolanos, and Brendan Brooks proved disastrous, while the loss of Filppula and Jeff Hamilton to the NHL for the season just compounded things. The locker room was a foul place, and it was difficult to find any stability in the revolving door roster until late in the season. Ireland worked with what he had all year, and managed to back into the playoffs on the last day of the season, extending Manitoba to seven games before bowing out on the road.
Wings assistant Jim Nill and Griffins GM Bob McNamara will have their hands full rebuilding this team almost from scratch for next season, and have a lot to prove coming off the dreadful team they put together in 2006. That doesn't do much good for former coach Ireland who was shown the door, but with the track record he built in Grand Rapids (109-65-8-10), 61.5% winning percentage, he should land on his feet with another organization. Assistant coach Jim Paek was retained for next season.