A lot of draft goodness over the weekend in the world of Minnesota hockey (no 1st rounders from the state of Minnesota, Mario Lucia drafted by the home town team, but will he play at the home town school? Kyle Rau a 3rd rounder, and Seth Ambroz tumbles all the way to the 5th round?) but the big news for Gopher hockey is a change on the coaching staff. No, it's not head coach Don Lucia, but much maligned assistant coach in charge of the defense John Hill has been fired.
His replacement? As was first reported by GPL and all over The Twitter last week, it's expected to actually be the man HE replaced in 2008, former Gopher captain, defenseman, and longtime assistant Mike Guentzel. Guentzel isn't a done deal just yet, but there's no way Lucia fires an assistant coach in Hill who might be his best friend in the whole wide world this late in the game (it's almost July, people) without having his replacement in the bag, right? Right?
Guentzel was an assistant at The U from 1994-2008, when he was either fired or resigned, depending who you want to believe. It was rumored Guentzel wanted to be either a head coach or the clear #2 in command, but since he was getting promised neither at Minnesota, he and the program went their separate ways.
Per Roman's post with questions about Hill's departure and Guentzel's suspected arrival:
According to a source close to one of the parties involved, university officials are talking to ex-Gophers coach Mike Guentzel about returning...
...Guentzel has wandered far and wide in the three years he has been gone. There was one season as a Colorado College assistant, his son Gabe is a Tigers defenseman, one season as head coach and general manager of the Des Moines Bucs of the USHL and one season as a Nebraska Omaha assistant.
But his wife and youngest son never left the Twin Cities. Jake was a sophomore forward this past season for Hill-Murray.
You can't pin all of the Gophers problems on Hill, but since AD Joel Maturi has no interest in firing Lucia right now (you know, the coach with the worst 4 year stretch of any coach in Gopher history) Hill became the scapegoat. The fans will certainly applaud this move as not only was Hill (rightly or wrongly) unpopular in the eyes of Gopher hockey fans, but Guentzel as a former player and captain will be welcomed back with open arms.
The one question Roman doesn't ask in that piece we linked to is this: could Guentzel be the head-coach in waiting? He's giving up a spot as an assistant with up-and-coming UNO with Dean Blais to come back to a school he left/was ousted from. As Roman notes he'll be getting a pay raise and likely be told he's the second in command. Guentzel, like everyone else in hockey except Maturi, has to see the writing on the wall for Lucia too. The expectations this season HAS to be making the NCAA tournament or Lucia is toast, and for Guentzel to already be here with a year of coaching what's going to be a very young team would only increase his chances of getting the big job if/when Lucia gets canned by a new AD, right?
We shall see. If anything the season just got more interesting, and with Guentzel back, at least the defense should be better.