The head coach who led the Victoria Royals to 199 regular season wins and another 21 in the playoffs will be behind the bench for the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings for the 2017-2018 season. He joins new Kings head coach John Steven’s new staff but leaves a big hole in Victoria for General Manager Cameron Hope to fill. Will he look in-house for his replacement, or is there a better option out there somewhere else?
Let’s take a look at possible candidates.
The former Victoria assistant coach moved upstairs for the 2016-2017 season when he was named the Director of Player Development for the Royals, which also gave him time to join the Croatian National Team as the team’s head coach for the 2017 World Hockey Championship Division 1 tournament (Croatia went 1-4 and were not promoted nor relegated. Sacilotto has spent time as the acting coach for the Royals before, mostly when Dave Lowry was away at the World Junior Championships, so he knows the system and may be the closest guy to Dave Lowry if the Royals aren’t looking for a drastic change.
Enio Sacilotto has been coaching for over 30 years, so he has plenty of experience, but does he even want the job or is he happy enough in his current role?
The newest Victoria Royals assistant coach has had plenty of hockey experience but runs a little light on controlling a bench. The Chemainus native has been an assistant coach in a few places, but never at a higher level than the Western Hockey League. This could be a great first gig for Bodger, but the odds are that he will remain as an assistant coach for a little longer before getting a head coaching job.
The former head coach of the Vancouver Canucks wouldn’t have to go far if GM Cameron Hope came calling. Fans of the Canucks may think this would be a curious move, considering how terrible those Vancouver teams were under Desjardins, but the head coach did the best he could with what he was given.
Desjardins has an extensive WHL resume, starting in 2002 with the Medicine Hat Tigers, where he won two championships in eight seasons before moving to the Dallas Stars organization where he won another championship as head coach in the American Hockey League. He has won before in this league and above, and perhaps staying in British Columbia would be attractive to him. Willie has also been linked to the vacant Calgary Hitmen job, and considering how successful he has been in Alberta, it may be a better fit for him at this time.
Another guy who has had championship success in the WHL but struggled last season in the professional ranks. After spending three seasons as an assistant in Kelowna, he was named the head coach for the 2014-2015 season, leading the Rockets to the WHL Championship and to overtime in the Memorial Cup final. Lambert moved to the Buffalo Sabres organization and was the head coach for the AHL’s Rochester Americans for a season before being fired by new Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill.
The 47-year-old Lambert could be a perfect fit for the Royals, but he does have limited coaching experience. The one season as head coach in the WHL was with a super Rocket’s team, led by Leon Draisaitl but did not have much success with a team like the Americans who needed a little more help. Would Lambert even want to return to the Major Junior ranks or wait for another professional opportunity? Hopefully, it is a phone call that Cameron Hope makes to find out.
The former Everett Silvertips coach was behind the other bench for Dave Lowry’s last game as the Victoria Royals head coach, and he only lasted 4 more games before being fired himself. Constantine has a vast head coaching resume, starting in the United States Hockey League in 1985 and going through the now-defunct International Hockey League, the American Hockey League, National Hockey League, the Swiss League and the Western Hockey League, where he’s only known one organization through eight seasons. After winning the IHL’s championship (the Turner Cup) with the Kansas City Blades (Sandis Ozolinsh and Arturs Irbe were big parts of that team, while current Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan played 10 games that season), Constantine could never regain that playoff success, no matter what league he was in. His teams have only gotten past the second round of the playoffs once since then, the 2008-2009 Houston Aeros of the AHL (who lost in the third round).
Constantine and Lowry both have had great success in the regular season but it never seems to translate well to the post-season. Is that someone that the Royals want to bring in, or is it time to find someone with a few more championships under their belt?