A pair of coaching changes in the Ontario Hockey League has put two new men behind the benches – one for the Erie Otters, and one for the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds.The Otters announced last Thursday that former head coach Robbie Ftorek was relieved of his coaching duties, and that Kris Knoblauch will replace him.
Knoblauch joined the Otters for his first game on Friday, against the Greyhounds. That game resulted in a 6-4 loss, with another loss coming against Sudbury on Sunday.
Prior to Knoblauch’s hiring, the team hasn’t won since November 17, a five-game losing streak. The Otters sit at last place in the Midwest Division and third-worst in the league, with a 7-17-2-3 record and 19 points in 29 games.
Knoblauch, a former seventh-round selection of the New York Islanders (1997), has playing history in the WHL, UHL, CWUAA and CHL. He played with Red Deer, Edmonton, Kootenay and Lethbridge between 1995 and 1998, but never reached the NHL.
After holding an assistant coaching position with Prince Albert and Kootenay, he took over coaching duties of the Ice in 2010-11, leading the team to a 46-21-0-5 record and the WHL championship. Last year, Kootenay went 36-26-0-10 and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
Then, just Monday morning, the Soo Grehounds announced that Mike Stapleton was relieved of his coaching duties. Sheldon Keefe has been named his replacement.
The Greyhounds are third in the West Division with a 13-14-2-0 record and 28 points in 29 games. The team is 4-5-1-0 in their last ten.
Keefe, who now becomes the 18th coach in Soo history, has playing experience in the OHL, AHL and NHL. He played with Toronto and Barrie before being selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning 47th overall in 1999. He played 125 NHL games between 2000 and 2003 and spent his last bits of playing time with Hershey and Utah (both AHL).
He’s spent the past six seasons as general manager and head coach of the CCHL’s Pembroke Lumber Kings, leading the team to five consecutive championships from 2007 until 2011.
The 32-year-old will join the Greyhounds on Tuesday in preparation for the team’s upcoming three-game roadstand, which begins Thursday in Windsor.