There are times where a passionate fan base can be its own worst enemy.
That tends to happen here in New England, where we’ve been blessed with a professional football team that considers anything less than making it to a Super Bowl a failure of a season, along with the Patriots, Celtics and Bruins all producing duck boat parades.
In the aftermath of the University of Maine hockey team’s season ending in the Hockey East quarterfinals, the keyboard head coaches came out of hibernation, begging for Red Gendron’s head on a hockey stick.
Some were begging for him to lose his job. Others are worried the University will give Gendron, who is going into the final year of his contract, another extension.
Let me give you a dose of reality. The Black Bears improved vastly this season. They were picked to finish last in Hockey East, and finished sixth in the conference, earning a home playoff series.
If a few more bounces went Maine’s way, it could’ve been a top four team.
Gendron deserves a contract extension. Albeit a small one. Two years at the most. And this is something the University needs to get done this spring.
A lame-duck head coach is not appealing to recruits. And Maine has some great ones coming in, including forwards Jake Schmidt-Svejstrup and Adam Dawe, who are tearing up the USHL, the top junior league in the nation. Both players have 22 goals. They will be expected to contribute immediately
Gendron finally has talent in Orono and more talent in the pipeline, and doing something foolish along the coaching lines will set Maine back to Square One, and that’s the last thing the Black Bear faithful want.
Gendron is not Shawn Walsh, but Maine fans need to accept the fact that Paul Kariya and Garth Snow are not walking through that door. As is the case in all of college sports, there is parity in college hockey now. Teams will contend for a few years and then face rebuilds.
Maine is one of those teams who will likely contend next year. If the Black Bears don’t finish in the top four in Hockey East and get to TD Garden, it’ll be a disappointment.
The next step is learning how to win, and learning how to beat the top teams in the league. Maine went 0-7 against Boston College, Northeastern and Providence this season, but were competitive against all of them. It’s an encouraging sign. Remember the great Chicago Bulls dynasty? It took them four tries to get past the Detroit Pistons in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The Black Bears will find a way to get it done.
Elite goaltending helps, and Jeremy Swayman is just that. Toward the end of the season, he showed the typical inconsistency you see from a freshman, but he has the tools to be a special player. And with the Bruins’ goaltending situation shored up for the next few years, expect Swayman to be in Orono a while.
Written By Sports Chowdah Blogger Ryan McLaughlin