SIJHL seeing changes galore

Since the Wisconsin Wilderness hoisted the Bill Salonen Cup for the second-straight year back in early April, things have been relatively quiet on the SIJHL front for the most part.
However, with preparations starting for the 2012-13 campaign among the seven teams in the league, there already have been a few changes local Junior ‘A’ hockey fans will notice when play resumes in September.
The most noticeable one is with the newest franchise in the SIJHL. The Iron Range Ironheads have changed their name to the Minnesota Iron Rangers for the upcoming campaign, with their new logo being a dead ringer for the NHL’s N.Y. Rangers.
The team also announced that Steve Chelios no longer will be part of the organization, and won’t return as coach and general manager.
Chelios, the brother of former NHL blueliner Chris Chelios, had a league-worst record of 9-45-2 during his one season with the former Ironheads.
The Iron Rangers now are searching for a new head coach and general manager, which they hope to announce prior to their tryout camp in Duluth, Mn. on Aug. 10-12.
Elsewhere around the SIJHL, three other teams will have new bench bosses come this fall as the Dryden Ice Dogs, Duluth Clydesdales, and Sioux Lookout Flyers all elected to make changes.
Dryden parted ways with first-year head coach Joe West shortly after his team was eliminated by the Fort Frances Lakers in the SIJHL semi-finals, replacing him with Oakville, Ont. native Paul MacLean, who is the director and head instructor of the Central Ontario Junior ‘A’ Development Camp.
In Sioux Lookout, Brad Zangs has left the team after only one season. He has been replaced behind the bench, and in the general manager’s role, by Derek Levanen, who coached previously in the league a few years ago with the now defunct Thunder Bay Bulldogs.
As for the Clydesdales, they’ve yet to announce who will be their head coach for the 2012-13 campaign after Chris Locker resigned in late March.
With the Thunder Bay North Stars yet to have removed the interim tag from Lonny Bohonis, there’s a distinct possibility only two coaches will be back in the league from last season—Wayne Strachan of the Lakers and Wisconsin’s Rod Aldoff.
While it’s obviously going to be interesting to see what the new coaches will bring to their respective teams, part me of wonders if those changes behind the bench will mean anything in the final standings.
Last season, four of the six returning teams (excluding the expansion Ironheads) either had a new coach at the start of the year or, in the case of the North Stars, made a change during the season.
But when all was said and done, it was the Lakers and Wilderness who were atop the heap, with the same coaches running the ship.
The top programs in any sport have an air of stability around them, and right now in the SIJHL, that is the case with both the Wilderness and the Lakers, which could make it hard for the other teams to catch up.
However, perhaps a team with a new bench boss could catch lightning in a bottle, just like the L.A. Kings have done during year’s Stanley Cup playoff run.
No matter how you look at it, next season in the SIJHL should be interesting, especially with a summer of further changes and moves on the horizon.

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