- BC Games
Changes continue as Generals add new coach
It’s been busy couple weeks for the Save-On-Foods Oceanside Generals, and with the changing of the guard complete, the attention now shifts back to the ice.
At the rink Tuesday night for his first practice with the Generals was newly- inked head coach Dan Lemmon.
Lemmon, 27 and a former General and BCHL standout, takes over a team mired in an eight-game losing streak and sitting last in the VIJHL, a team that is near the bottom of the stats in special teams and is 0-9-1-1 on the season when trailing after 40 minutes, a position they’ve been in in 11 of their last 14 games.
Lemmon anchored the Generals defensive corps for three seasons (2002-2005) playing 126 games before two seasons with the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The Generals’ captain and top D-man in 2004/05, Lemmon was also top defenseman for the Capitals in back-to-back seasons (‘05/’06, ‘06-’07), playing 126 games.
Lemmon received a scholarship to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in ‘06/’07, but chose instead to stay close to home and to be with his ailing father.
Raised in Winnipeg, he moved to Nanaimo with his family at 16 and was an all-star at pretty much every age level.
Lemmon is coming off his first season as a head coach with the North Island Silvertips AAA Major Midget team that went 18-18-4 , and spent two seasons prior with the team as an assistant coach.
“It happened pretty quickly,” Lemmon, who was a fan favourite back in his playing days here, said of the process. “I got the call, they expressed interest. I wasn’t going to do any coaching this year, I kind of decided against it early on in the year (but) the opportunity arose, so as an alumni and former captain I thought it would be a good opportunity to jump in.”
He came out last Saturday to watch the Generals for the first time this season.
“Obviously there’s some skill here. They’re not a 1-12-1 team skill-wise I don’t think. I think the team just needs a bit of structure; they’re making some plays in their own zone, making things hard on themselves like going up through the middle instead of using the walls. Just from what I saw during that game I think they need to work on some forechecking and they need to work on their defensive zone stuff. There’s a lot of things that just implementing a bit of structure and some systems could really help this team, and I think you’ll start to see some different results in the next couple weeks, hopefully tighter games against better competition.”
The Generals lost 6-2 to the Storm in Campbell River last Friday, and followed that up with a 6-3 loss to the Westshore Wolves at Oceanside Place Saturday night before an announced crowd of 185.
Bright spots on the weekend included the play of Gens’ starter Liam Giroux who faced 66 shots in Campbell River and was the game’s second star in front of a crowd of 750 fans, and forward Domenic Kolbeins, who had a goal and a helper and earned third star for his efforts Saturday.
Asked if he feels any pressure coming back to his old team in the situation it’s in, Lemmon said “I don’t feel any extra pressure at all. I want to come in, I want to do a good job and I put pressure on myself to do a good job.
“What they’re doing hasn’t been working for them,” he said, “so there needs to be some changes. I think there will be a few players coming in the next little while, and a couple players going out, but I think overall, from what I saw on Saturday, they just need to know what they’re doing, where they’re making mistakes. It’s a good team, they’ve got good goaltending, and obviously they have some firepower up front.
“I would say my strong point will be on the defensive side of the puck, that will be my focus, especially right away with the amount of goals that this team is giving up, teaching the D-men defensive positioning, our forwards offensive and defensive positioning.”
Given his coaching experience is in Major Midget, coaching 15-17 year olds, Lemmon said he likes the fact the team he’s taking over is on the younger side.
“I think those kids are more open minded, they want to work their way up to Jr. A, to the WHL, and further their careers. There’s a place for the 19 and 20 year olds in Jr. B, but yeah, I’m excited to be working with a younger team.
“Discipline’s a big thing in hockey, especially when you have the worst PK in the league so you can’t be taking penalties after the whistle. That’s something I’ll be talking to them about, and everything’s going to be whistle to whistle. We’re going to be a team that finishes our checks during the play and then when the whistle blows it’s just hands down, we’ll take those punches, get on the power play and hopefully hurt teams that way.”
It is, he agreed, a long season.
“I think the season’s starting right now for this team. I think there’s a couple guys coming in that could change the course of this team and I’m going to stress to the kids that right now this is a new beginning.”
Rob Gaudreault will stay on as an assistant coach and will be a valuable asset.
“I’m excited to work with him,” said Lemmon. “He’s been here for two years now so he can show me the ropes, so I’ll be leaning on him for a lot of information early.”
Lemmon has also brought in Braeden Lattanzi, his assistant coach with the Silvertips and good friend of his, familiar with his coaching style, just to serve as an extra set of eyes for a month before he heads off traveling.
Working with the Generals’ new GM, Lou Gravel, he said, is also “a huge plus.”
“He’s got a lot of experience and a good eye for talent, I’m really looking forward to working with him.”
Gravel was in great spirits Tuesday night as the coaching staff prepared to meet the team.
“I love challenges like this,” said the longtime BCHL scout, who remains head scout for the Cowichan Capitals.
“I think it can help both organizations,” he said of the two hats he’ll be wearing. “I think it can help the ‘Caps as far as our evaluation of Jr. B players, and it can help (the Gens) as far as bringing players to this organization, so it helps both clubs.
“Our priority is to bring back the competitiveness,” he said. “I’ve seen this team four or five times this year and there’s some good young players here, but too much is put on their shoulders. Some of the top players are the youngest players on the team. Jr. B is not just for guys that are not making Jr. A, it’s for prospects.”
“I love this, and with a guy like Dan who’s coached at the Major Midget level, that’s the kind of guy we want to bring on board, the kind of guy that sees it the same way.”
Generals’ president/governor Sylvain Giroux said while they had a few people that expressed interest in the head coaching job, it was Gravel’s recommendation of Lemmon that was the deciding factor.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said of signing an alumni as head coach. “I think it’s actually good to have a little bit of a younger coach. To me, I just look at it like we’re starting to get going back in the right direction.”
ICE CHIPS: Full details were unavailable at press time, but Giroux said he has four or five new players due to arrive this week including a D-man from Orlando, Florida and a forward from Michigan along with another goalie from the KIJHL.
In the meantime the Generals are looking for billets. Anyone interested in helping give a player a place to call home can go to the Generals web site — generals.vijhl.com
GAME ON: The new-look Gens are at home for two big North Division games this weekend. Saturday night they host the Campbell River Storm (7:30 p.m. start) and Sunday they take on the Comox Valley Glacier Kings (2:30 p.m. start).