Photo by Carrie A. Kirkpatrick
For the 2015-16 season, the Fayetteville FireAntz will be on their six coach in as many seasons with the dismissal of Emery Olauson as their head coach. Despite having the best record from December onwards, as well as dealing with call-ups from the ECHL and many injuries– the FireAntz’s brass did not feel it was good enough for Olauson to continue for a next season. Despite team GM Kevin McNaught saying he wasn’t disappointed in the coaching or recruiting, but for a team who has missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons; they apparently need more out of their coaching.
While coaching in any sport is a cut-throat business, there’s always a wonder if there’s just an over panic for some teams when it comes to their coaching situation. Granted, the SPHL is a league where you have to be really bad when it comes to not making the playoffs when 3/4th’s of the teams make it in. That said, it’s also the league with the most level for disparity when you have to deal with the pick of the litter being moved up to the ECHL and then there’s a scramble to find someone as good to fill that spot; which is something that is even rougher to do. Especially when you look at ten guys on the final roster (20 on the team as a whole) had under 20 points on the year– the talent is hard to find. One great pick-up was Matt Robertson, who was picked up from Huntsville early in the year and contributed to the bulk of the offense that the FireAntz created.
For the FireAntz, losing their goaltenders; especially down the stretch like they did– it was their undoing…but you can’t really hold that on Olauson when trying to get a goalie to North Carolina from Canada (while also getting visa paper work in order for him to play) or someone from a local North Carolina rink to fill the void that an all-league goalie would bring to the team. As much as the FireAntz relied on Kevin Murdock later in the season and Sean Bonar at the start– it’d be hard to make up for that talent in goal.
While they have 13 player protected for the 2015-16 season, it will be interesting to see how much it changes without Olauson. Both Murdock and Bonar are protected despite maybe not coming back, as Robertson and youngster Austin Daae were protected in hopes of building a core off of it. Should they be able to get Zach Carriveau back healthy, the team will be completely different. One of the big things is that the FireAntz lost 200 man-games, which for a league that only plays 56 games in the year– is mindboggling. While many think it’s a bad move, and rightfully so, but should the FireAntz turn it around– then revisionist history will be the subject of the day.