Expect changes behind Knights' bench

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Take a good look at the London Knights' coaching staff, because by the beginning of next season, it likely won't be the same.

Speculation inevitably surrounds a team as successful as the Knights have been over the last three years. Organizations that have gone through difficult stretches like to hire people from successful organizations. There's no doubting the Knights' success. The argument could be made that the Knights are operating with three head coaches.

Dale Hunter is main guy, of course. He's made his mark in the Ontario Hockey League.

But Jeff Perry, one of his assistants, was a head coach with the Sarnia Sting in the OHL and the other assistant, Jacques Beaulieu, was a jubior B head coach. Neither would be out of place handling their own major junior team. And it's more than just knowledge of the game. It involves everything from talent evaluation, media management and work ethic.

With a number of coaching jobs open throughout the Canadian Hockey League, the odds are long this trio will stay together.

There was rampant speculation last year that once Hunter won the Memorial Cup, he was headed to the pros, either the NHL or the AHL. Speculation will be no less rampant this time around, especially if he's able to replicate an OHL title.

Hunter will eventually get a crack at the pros, but it will be when he feels the time is right. Son Dylan will be gone this year, but there are several other Hunters who will be eligible for the OHL draft in May. Dale's son Tucker will be drafted, as will general manager Mark Hunter's son Garrett. He may want to help them make the transition.

There is one other "son" in the mix. Philip McRae is former NHLer Basil McRae's son. Basil owns a piece of the Knights. His son was good enough to play on a national bantam championship team in St. Louis and to be part of the United States under-17 program. The Knights wouldn't mind getting their hands on him, as would several other teams.

With all of that in play and as part-owner of the team and the fact he gets along with brother Mark, who also owns part of the team, there's a lot to be said for Dale Hunter spending a least one more year here.

It doesn't take much imagination to figure out when Hunter goes, either Perry or Beaulieu will take over.

But Beaulieu has been an assistant coach for five years. He's learned his craft. With Perry's background as a former head coach and someone who's played pro hockey, when the Knights' job comes up, it might fall to Perry anyway. No one wants to get labelled as a lifetime assistant.

"It's a great situation, but anyone who coaches would like to be a head coach," said Beaulieu.

With the Knights and other teams still playing, it's difficult to discuss coaching moves, but the rumour mill never ceases to churn.

Beaulieu has a lot to offer and there are several teams who will be, or should be, giving him a close look.

The Erie Otters and Oshawa Generals are both without coaches. With new owners, the Windsor Spitfires will likely clean house and start fresh once their season is done. Oshawa and Windsor will take a good look at Beaulieu.

And Beaulieu is bilingual, so doors will open for him in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. There are rumblings that New Brunswick's Saint John Sea Dogs are interested. The Sea Dogs were an expansion team last year that went 15-55 and fired head coach Christian La Rue at the end of the season.

Winning teams are consistently successful because they have the parts to make the machine run. If you need to rebuild a machine, Beaulieu would be a good part to start with.


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