Weber Of Intrigue: Coventry Finally Break The EIHL Coaching Mould.

Discard the old regimes…failed ideologies…draw the lines and start again”

VNV Nation: “Streamline”

From great necessity comes great change. After the firing of Marc Lefebvre and several years of making the wrong decision, the Coventry Blaze finally appear to have grasped the nettle and backed up all their big words about a “change of culture”.

In their hiring of a new coach who’s come from outside the EIHL goldfish bowl completely, the Blaze owners have not just gone for something that’s a new approach for their squad, but arguably a new approach for the EIHL as a whole.

In hiring Kelly Cup-winning coach Chuck Weber, most recently of the KHL’s Medvescak Zagreb, the Blaze have done that rare thing in EIHL hockey and looked to bring in someone completely new to the UK…in a move that, frankly, should have happened way before now.

Weber is the first coach to be hired from “outside” the EIHL since Braehead hired Paul Gardner in 2012, and only the second coach in the EIHL’s history to be hired for a role without previous experience either playing or coaching in the UK leagues (Ben Simon for Sheffield in 2010/11 being the other). He’s arguably the one with the most impressive pedigree, too. An excellent full summary of Weber’s path through a coaching career can be found written by Craig Summerton here.

Weber is, without doubt, exactly the type of hire that the Blaze had to make. The owners of the club pretty much admitted a few weeks ago that the club needed a fresh perspective, new demands and fresh eyes, and in Weber they have been lucky enough to find a coach that couldn’t be more taylor-made for such a role. Described by every source that can be found about him as a “thinking coach”. He’s also a man who’s worked on the off-ice side of things…a man who seemingly has no problem whatsoever ruffling feathers if it’s what’s needed.

And by god, do the Blaze need shaking up, both on and off the ice. Just how much they need doing, and just how big the task Weber faces, was made even more clear in the aftermath of his signing announcement. Andy Buxton, speaking for the Blaze ownership on CWR’s Faceoff programme on Monday night, basically admitted that the team had pretty much nothing to back up the team off-ice.

He (Weber) can come in and make a real difference. He’s excited about helping the organisation put foundations in place that can take the club forward. We wanted to look totally outside the box and not recycle the same ideas, which what’s been happening the past few years”

That’s something that fans have been saying for many, many years…so it’s interesting that only after four or five years making the same mistakes have the team admitted that things needed to change.

Lefebvre didn’t put enough structure in place-and the fans haven’t seen the best of Blaze players because they haven’t been given any guidance by him.”

Again-this is something that was seemingly obvious to everyone since April…except the people actually in charge. But the real curious thing is the admission that the Blaze effectively haven’t been doing the basic things that you’d expect “professional” sports teams to do-things like monitoring nutrition, having team meals and actually making sure the team are trained properly.

“I don’t think that the sports science thing has been possibly embraced before” said Buxton…which was incredibly shocking to hear, and practically flew in the face of everything the ownership have said before. Comments about Jereme Tendler playing better recently while having more of a system to work to since Lefebvre left also seem to back up the fact that, very simply, this team has been held back by the man at the helm and indeed some of the problems behind the scenes…something that, to their credit, the Blaze now seem to be attempting to address.

Weber coming into the team will be very interesting indeed…as a coach who’s worked at a far higher level than the EIHL he’ll doubtless be coming in with certain expectations…and the real test of the Blaze’s will will be how they respond to those. After all…anyone can make promises.

However, this is truly a golden chance for Coventry’s long-term future and a hire that shows some real ambition for change…with Weber only committed until April, Blaze fans will hope that he’ll come in with no fear of speaking his mind and sharing home truths…and, if necessary, burning down the way things are done from the inside.

Simply put, it has to happen, and someone like Weber with his CV thus far is the kind of person who can turn promises into action given the chance.

The Blaze have finally, FINALLY done what’s been needed to be done for many years in Coventry. The winds of change are blowing.

For the sake of the Blaze’s long-term future, they’ll have to blow hard. Weber, if necessary, needs to be allowed to destroy as well as create this season. If he is given a completely free rein as the owners have promised, then this is one heck of an exciting period for the Blaze coming up. All the positive reaction to the news so far is fully justified-even this cynical young hack is excited by the prospect of what’s to come, just because this is genuinely something that’s very rarely been tried before in the EIHL, never mind in Coventry.

Mr Weber, you’re coming in with a big reputation. The very best of luck to you. After the past few years in Coventry, you may well need all of it.

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