Merciful Oblivion: The End Of The Marc Lefebvre Era Comes In Coventry

And it’s not like I signed up for this.
I’m sorry, but I just got to be honest,
You’re not my type, No hard feelings,
Thank you and goodnight.”

Tonight Alive: “Thank You And Goodnight”

Marc Lefebvre’s short, inglorious reign as Coventry Blaze coach was brought to an end yesterday, not a moment too soon for the Coventry Blaze and their season.

The Canadian was a slightly controversial appointment this season anyway, after being parachuted into the job last February when the ownership effectively threw Matty Soderstrom under the bus in a desperate attempt to salvage something out of the 2013/14 season. Lefebvre went 8-7 over the remaining games, but was given the job full time in the summer ahead of far more experienced coaches like Sylvain Cloutier and Doug Christiansen, both of whom had extensive experience in the EIHL.

The Kanata, Ontario native certainly “talked the talk” over the off season, promising to bring back “proper Blaze hockey” with a hard-working, blue-collar style of the kind the Blaze fans claim to love above all else. Any questions of his experience, or fans pointing out that he hadn’t really improved the team in any way shape or form after his arrival, were waved away by it being “the players’ fault”. Apparently, Soderstrom simply wasn’t that good a coach, he’d lost the room, and Lefebvre was the man to take the team forward.

Just three months into the season, with his own team, that was proven to be a truly tremendously bad decision by the Blaze ownership, as he was relieved of his position amid rumours of strife within the camp, having lost the dressing room To see just how little changed under the “brave new world” of Marc Lefebvre even after he got himself a team he recruited himself, here’s a comparison of Lefebvre and Soderstrom’s total records as Blaze coach in competitive games.

SODERSTROM AS BLAZE COACH: League and CC win/loss record…17-23-1. GF 151, GA 161. Win percentage in league, CC and POs: 41%, GD -10

LEFEBVRE AS BLAZE COACH: 18-21  GF 98, GA 119. Win percentage in league, CC and PO’s- 46%. Goal difference…-31

However, this takes into account the 15 games Lefebvre effectively coached Soderstrom’s team…the team that was supposedly the big problem for him and the factor that was holding him back from showing Blaze fans what he could “really do” due to their lack of attitude. So let’s take them out of the equation by removing their 8-7 record under Lefebvre and 37 goals scored, 42 conceded at the end of last season from the equation. Here’s Marc Lefebvre’s record with “his own” team:

League & CC W/L record: 10-16. Win percentage: 38%. Goals For: 56. Goals against: 70. GD -14.

So, without the influence of the supposedly “awful” team assembled by Mathias Soderstrom to hold him back, with his own players, a free reign to recruit and his own systems…Lefebvre is actually demonstrably worse than the much-maligned Swede was in Coventry. Far from being “held back” by having to coach a team assembled by someone else last time out, Lefebvre was actually massively helped by his team last year in his total record…they elevated his win percentage by nearly 10%.

So essentially, what the Blaze did was hire a coach who was massively boosted by someone else’s squad, with the promise that he’d be far better with his own squad the following year.

Whoops.

What’s perhaps more worrying for Blaze fans is that this has happened under a regime where supposedly “mistakes would no longer be tolerated”. In their statement after sacking Lefebvre, the Blaze have said “we’re no longer satisfied with “OK”. That’s not good enough”.

Fine words, but they’re kind of blown out of the water by the fact that a win percentage of 38% is being referred to as “OK” in the first place.

Take the aforegoing figures while bearing in mind that the Blaze ownership seemingly thought Lefebvre was more likely to be the man to turn the team around than the likes of Sylvain Cloutier (a bona-fide Blaze legend who’s made Hull a team to be competed with on a budget nowhere near that the Blaze are rumoured to be running)…and all the promises of a “culture change” in Coventry look to be just that…empty promises.

After all, it takes some work to fire a coach for supposedly being unacceptably bad, then replace him with someone full time while stating that it’s still the previous coach’s effect that is holding him back from an immediate impact, and publicly dismiss anyone expressing reservations about the appointment as “negative, bitter naysayers” then find out he actually turns out to be worse at the job when given the chance to do his own thing.

That’s spectacular mismanagement. In many sports, it would have the fanbase calling for the managements’ head-or at least asking serious questions.

And so, once again, for the third time in less than twelve months, the Coventry Blaze ownership find themselves with an opportunity to make some real change…an opportunity they’ve already thrown away twice before.

Where do the Blaze go from here? With a fanbase disillusioned by the ownership’s consistent making of the same mistakes, a seeming predilection for fine words not backed up by any action, and the organisation increasingly looking like a rudderless ship, no-one would envy incoming player-coach Steve Goertzen as he tries to turn the ship around.

However, what the Blaze ownership do next is crucial. There are coaches out there who can come in and turn things around…Sylvain Cloutier, for example, would come in with the fans behind him as a genuine Blaze hero whose no-nonsense style has paid off well for Hull…and he would relish the job. Paul Adey is still in the country and could probably be persuaded to take the reins if the budget were there.

But the decision lies in the hands of the Blaze ownership…and both Cloutier and Adey are coming in slightly outside the comfortable bubble the Blaze have built around themselves over the past few years…as would any other “new” coach unconnected to the directors. Would they really be given free reign to make the changes and culture-are the directors really ready to have their comfortable little world shaken?

For the sake of hockey in Coventry, they have to be.

Sacking Lefebvre is the first genuine step made in Coventry towards real change. But it’s who the Blaze appoint next that will show how truly committed they are to “learning from the past few years” and breaking out of the self-imposed mediocrity they’ve been sleepwalking through the past few years.

Like they say…to make one mistake is careless. To make the same mistake again is stupidity.

To make the same mistake a third time would, frankly, be unforgivable.

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