Holick as big a winner as Clark - so far
“I got a lot of respect for Dean. He’s a friend of mine. We talk quite often actually.”
Those words were spoken by the Prince George Cougars’ newest staff member, Mark Holick, just seconds after I started a phone interview with him a week ago. Of course, he was referring to the man who held the coaching position he replaced.
The Cougars dismissed Dean Clark on Jan. 22. The next day, they named Holick their head coach.
In the newsroom, we occasionally talk about how small the media world is. Moving up in the newspaper world often involves relocating to a different centre. Reporters aren’t only in constant communication with sources, but other reporters as well. Technology has also narrowed the gap in communication.
Like in media, the coaching world is small. Therefore it’s not that surprising that Holick knows Clark, especially when you consider the fact he joined the organization Clark previously worked for. This isn’t Holick’s first Western Hockey League head coaching gig, while Clark coached in the league for more than 15 seasons. Their families even live fairly close, in the Okanagan.
Does any of this really matter to Cougars fans? Previous connections to Cougars general manager Dallas Thompson may have helped Holick and Clark land the jobs, but ultimately the organization gets judged for its on-ice results.
Is Holick an upgrade over Clark? Look at results over the past decade, and the easy answer is yes. In his latest coaching campaign, Holick guided the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch to a record of 37 wins, 29 losses, five overtime setbacks and five shootout defeats (37-29-5-5). His first season with the Crunch wasn’t as successful, the team finishing 35-38-3-4.
In the WHL, Holick coached the Kootenay Ice to an overall record of 120-75-0-21 from 2007 to 2010, good for a .604 winning percentage. He was named WHL Coach of the Year in 2009-10.
Holick has a respectable resume. With a stint in the AHL, he’s coached at a higher level than Clark.
The Cougars hope history doesn’t repeat itself, or Holick’s winning percentage will go on a sharp decline in Prince George. While Holick was already familiar with Thompson when he took the job, he hadn’t faced the challenge of working under the Rick Brodsky management group.
In the eight years following Thompson’s move to full general manager duties in May 2004, the Cougars compiled a regular-season record of 208-332-12-24. In four of those seasons, they missed the playoffs. In three of them, they were eliminated in the first round.
Other coaches over the past decade include Ed Dempsey, Lane Lambert, Mike Vandecamp, Drew Schoneck and Wade Klippenstein (interim). Klippenstein remains with the team as its assistant general manager and director of player personnel.
Clark was an experienced coach with 12 seasons under his belt when he signed a five-year contract with the Cougars in April 2009. His experience included guiding the Calgary Hitmen to the 1999 Memorial Cup national final, which they lost 7-6 in overtime to the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s.
Clark carried a 382-253-61 coaching record with Calgary (1996-2001), the Brandon Wheat Kings (2001-2003) and Kamloops Blazers (2003-2007). His three-and-a-half year stint with the Cougars ended with a 83-163-5-11 mark.
Holick’s WHL winning percentage is similar to that of Clark’s prior to joining the Cougars. Will there be a similar decline? Time will tell. His contract runs through the 2015-16 season.