So much for the quiet off-season. The Daily Gleaner's Nick Murray reports (pay-walled) that St. Thomas Tommies men's hockey head coach Troy Ryan submitted his resignation yesterday.
After two years of trying to rebuild the program, Ryan informed STU athletic director Mike Eagles last Friday he was done and gave his official two weeks' notice on Thursday, forfeiting the final year of his three-year contract.
Though neither Ryan or Eagles would comment on what exactly went wrong between Ryan and the Tommies' organization, Ryan said it just wasn't a good fit anymore.
"You're always optimistic that, and it's not placing blame, but that things would get better or things would change, or I would get better at dealing with certain situations," Ryan said in an interview Thursday.
"It just got to the point where I didn't think it was the best fit. Whether I wasn't the best fit or they weren't the best fit for me, it's time to leave."
There were rumours all season that Ryan was butting heads with the STU administration over both funding for the hockey program and its losing record, especially since AD Eagles was the previous hockey coach. Whenever Ryan was asked about the issue by media, he'd say there were no real money problems and point to their impressive new hockey facilities as example of the fact, and express confidence that the rebuild would work over time. If you read between the lines of some of his quotes to the Gleaner, he hints that everything wasn't as rosy as he pretended.
"The ideal thing in the AUS is you build a strong foundation. You try to build the hockey schools and the culture around your team, build the community involvement and build the alumni relations. One of the big mistakes that we made, or that I made, is you need to bring people in from the outside into your program."
"It's OK to disagree, and ultimately I'm an employee of the're never going to agree on everything. That's just the nature of the beast and that's part of coaching hockey," Ryan said. "Some things were obviously too difficult to overcome. There was no one thing; it was assessing the situation.
"It's trying to decide whether I could have enough of an impact on everything to make this successful. When you decide yourself that you're not going to have enough of an impact to accomplish what you want to accomplish, why are you doing it?"
Ryan was a proven builder in Junior 'A' hockey, which is probably why he won the competition for the STU job. He's also a former AUS player, a scrappy forward with both UNB and his hometown Saint Mary's Huskies. At the time I, like many, didn't think STU could have picked a better man for the job.

The Gleaner's Bill Hunt devotes his weekly column today to reactions from the Tommies players.
"It's not like I was totally blindsided by it, but it was definitely a bit of a surprise," said goaltender Jon Groenheyde, who made the AUS all-rookie team with the Tommies last season. "It's obviously a decision he had to make," he said. "He has to do what he has to do. It's none of my business. My business is still the same ... it's still to come into camp ready to go and to win games next season and stop the puck." Groenheyde said Ryan was "a great guy. He was always good to me. It doesn't really effect my mindset. I'm interested to see what's going to happen."
"The thing is, he's a real passionate guy," said [Stephen] Sanza. "It's tough for him. It's a weird league to coach. It's not like the OHL. You can't make trades. It's hard to make decisions. I hope he does well wherever he's going to coach. Hopefully we get someone soon, someone who has a good background in coaching and can hopefully start recruiting some guys for next year."
Team captain Felix Poulin said he "didn't see that one coming. I'm sure Troy was heading us in the right direction. Even if we had tough years, we had the good mentality. I can't really explain why. Sorry, I'm just really surprised. I don't have any words yet. I just hope he's comfortable with his decision."
St. Thomas has posted a release on their website stating that they are beginning their search for a new coach, and indicate that they'll be taking another look at previous candidates (which I believe could include a current Halifax Mooseheads assistant coach who is a former star AUS player?).

Selfishly, I'm going to miss Coach Ryan if for no other reason than he always gave long, frank, insightful answers to our sometimes dumb questions.

  • The Tommies most public long-suffering superfan/promoter has had enough:
  • The voice of TommiesTV is calling it quits: " I have decided not to return as play-by-play announcer for Tommies TV next season. I want to thank coaches and players for their support. Especially thanks to fans who faithfully watched/listened the past 6 seasons, and mostly to Harold DeCourcey, great friend and sidekick."
  • In today's Gleaner, Bruce Hallihan devotes his weekly column to a Q&A with Troy Ryan. In part: Q: Why now, in the heart of recruiting season? A: I wish I was staying, to be honest, but it didn't make sense any longer. I hope the right people understand. I don't think it's for the reasons a lot of people think either. Some people think it's because they weren't giving (the program) financial support. I would never use that as an excuse, because I came in knowing that situation. It would be like me complaining it's a liberal arts school. Q: I repeatedly hear 'It's all Troy Ryan vs. Mike Eagles or Mike Eagles vs. Troy Ryan. Is that a fair statement? A: No. It's not that simple. I don't think it's any big secret that we didn't get along great, but that's life. I don't necessarily think it's all Mike. I know my own personality, I know that I can be trouble. I can be too blunt. I wish I would have learned earlier how to work within an institution. When I disagree with Mike, I disagree with him. After reading some of the online things that were being said about Mike, I went on Facebook and said, 'I don't think he deserves some of the stuff that's being thrown at him.' I don't think the same way he does and I don't see the direction of the program the same way he does, but ultimately it was my job probably to bend more towards them because they're in charge, they're my bosses. I couldn't do it.
A few weeks ago, we ran a CFL mock draft by Tyler Honeywood. There were several other mock drafts published out there (see full list at bottom), and today we'll look at some of the more interesting and unexpected picks.


Steven Lumbala (RB, Calgary)
Drafted 1-5 by Montreal

Identified as one of three reaches by our Andrew Bucholtz, Lumbala wasn't predicted to go in anyone's first round, and only showed up in the mocks of those who did three or more rounds. As Andrew says, the Als may be looking for a Canadian backup running back, and Lumbala could be the best one out there.

Lumbala was an excellent CIS player, although a lot of his success came against some lesser Canada West teams; against McMaster in last year's Mitchell Bowl, he ran for just 39 yards on 14 carries in "a 45-6 demolition.

Apparently, CFL teams were concerned with his size, injury history, and "lack of lickety-split." If you know what that last phrase could possibly mean, you are the only person in the world who can claim that.

Kris Robertson (DB, Concordia)
Drafted 2-11 by Winnipeg

"Regardless of how you approach it, Robertson sure seems like a compelling CFL prospect. A defensive back with that kind of speed, that kind of vertical and proven ball-hawking ability? Oh, and he can also return kicks? It's hard to see how he was passed over for a combine invite initially, unless everyone just decided to ignore the Stingers this year."

That's Andrew again, writing about Robertson following the combine. Ten years after Moneyball, and we're still seeing players ranked lower by scouts because of their height (or reading nonsense like this).

Our Jared Book saw Robertson play while at Concordia, though Robertson's role increased after he graduated, and he remembers a September 2010 game against McGill as his coming-out party. Says Jared, "I'm not sure he can start defensively but a Canadian return specialist makes him a very interesting prospect. That's usually a spot that goes to Americans."

Robertson's speed was notable as far back as four years ago, when he ran the fastest 40 time on the Concordia team as a rookie. But it wasn't just speed: this year he won the 40, the broad jump, the vertical jump, and in my view should win the Least Quotable award too. This paragraph contains more words than he answered to six questions in this video. But maybe I'm wordy.

He was mocked at 26th, 28th, and 30th by those who included him in their drafts. 11th is quite the difference.



Matt Vonk (OL, Waterloo/Laurier)
Drafted 5-38 by Saskatchewan

Vonk's a casualty of the Waterloo PED hysteria, transferring to Laurier and playing his first year there in 2010. Then, he had to sit out 2011 when CIS ruled that "I forgot to check if my Laurier courses would count at Waterloo" was not a valid compassionate appeal. (Vonk's listed major on the Waterloo site is kinesiology, which probably isn't the best program to take at Laurier if you want to use those credits for a Waterloo degree.) So he has just two years under his belt, and will likely come back to Waterloo for another year.

Some mock drafts had him going in the first round (or early second), perhaps relying too much on prospect lists. Vonk represents a lower-risk player, with no real NFL interest in him, but also lower-reward. "Swinging for a double" is a good phrase here.

Elie Ngoyi (DE, Bishop's)
Drafted 6-51 by Edmonton

Another of Andrew's identified steals, except this time the player went at the end of the sixth round, not the beginning of the second. Ngoyi was mocked anywhere from 8th to 21st and fell to 51st in part because of the strong DL class this year. Most teams had already picked one, and B.C. (who had multiple shots at him) had more pressing needs at other positions. Teams presumably thought they could wait on him since basically everyone else needed him less as the draft went on.

Ngoyi also may have NFL interest. There isn't a report saying such, as far as I can tell, but NFL teams love their combine stars and if CFL teams were aware of any interest, it could further explain his slide down to the 50s. (He was predicted to go no later than 21st.)


Mock drafts used:

From the release:
Sportsnet today announced it has reached a six-year agreement with Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), the national governing body of university sport in Canada, for the multiplatform rights to an all-encompassing portfolio of sports across television, online, and mobile.

The agreement, which begins this season and runs through the 2018/19 school year, features expanded coverage of men’s and women’s CIS sports, headlined by the Vanier Cup and including the following marquee events: Football (Mitchell Bowl and Uteck Bowl), Men’s and Women’s Hockey Championships; Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, and more to be announced at a later date.
More details are to come, for example if there will be any regular-season games in football or basketball, two practices that should be continued and should start happening, respectively. Another suggestion is to show some of the preseason exhibitions between CIS men's basketball programs and NCAA Division 1 teams; there were 32 of those to choose from last year.

Over at Eh Game, our Andrew Bucholtz has more on what this means on the football side. I agree with much of what he says. One of the reasons the Vanier-Grey pairing, however, worked so well in 2011 is the mere fact that the Vanier Cup was an outstanding game. The rematch, which McMaster lost by 23 points, probably didn't do much for the many CFL fans in attendance, not to mention the Toronto-based media who either didn't travel to Vancouver for the previous year's game or went to bed before it ended. The negative effect of decoupling the two football championships may be overstated, or at least not as directly related to ratings and perception as much as the quality of the competition itself and of the surrounding broadcast. It's certainly better having TSN in one city and Sportsnet in the other than trying to split TSN people between two events, at any rate.

A key next step for Sportsnet, now that they basically have all the rights to all the events, is to give those broadcasts to people who have an idea about the league. Without naming names, I'll say if this is supposed to be a next step in CIS coverage, it's probably time to stop acting like basketball players outside of Ontario don't exist, to stop being surprised to learn how strong and talented a player of the year is, to learn how to pronounce names, to know which questions are grossly inappropriate to ask, and to treat the games in a non-superficial way — all, at one time or another, fouls committed by TSN or The Score. I also believe there was a time when Sportsnet's CIS hockey broadcasts only showed CHL stats for the players, and it would be nice for things like that to get the "dustbin of history" treatment.

Having said that: this is excellent news. We have criticized the various networks for their aggressively disinterested coverage of CIS championships, and by various networks I mean TSN (see here, and here), and I'm sure I speak for more than a few CIS followers when I say we're looking forward to Sportsnet's treatment of the events. We are by no means the only authority on CIS around here — aw, heck, we're hardly an authority — but as far as I know, only one network has gone to the effort to ask us for help in gathering background info for a tournament, and it was indeed Sportsnet. That's a good sign that they'll take this seriously.

(We at The CIS Blog also welcome Sportsnet to the very short list of media outlets who in recent years have sent reporters to all five championship tournaments in football and men's and women's basketball and hockey.)
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