The Surrey Eagles have another new head coach, after Peter Schaefer was “relieved of his duties” earlier this week, the team announced Tuesday.
In Schaefer’s absence, assistant coach Linden Saip has been promoted to interim head coach. Fellow assistant coach Brad Tobin also remains with the team, and the Eagles have added Cloverdale native Lee Stone to the staff from the junior ‘B’ Campbell River Storm, where he served as head coach and general manager.
Schaefer – who served as the Eagles’ head coach for one season in 2013/14, and was an assistant coach before that – was only in his first season back behind the team’s bench, having returned to the organization in the summer as an assistant, and then boosted into the top job in late August when former head coach Brandon West abruptly quit one week before the start of the season.
After making it to the second round of the playoffs last season, the Eagles had struggled this season. The team currently sits at the bottom of the BC Hockey League standings with a record of 7-23-0-1 (win-loss-overtime loss-shootout loss).
“The results just kind of speak for themselves,” Eagles general manager Blaine Neufeld told Peace Arch News Tuesday afternoon. “Changing the culture was important to us, too, and I think making this change is the way we can best execute that.”
Schaefer did not respond to a request for comment.
Neufeld said the idea of making a coaching change had been considered for a while before team brass finally make the move.
“What you try to do in these types of situations is to give everybody enough time and enough opportunity, and I think we were fair in how we did that. But we were in need of an adjustment and this was the right time to do it,” he said.
Though the team struggled under the command of Schaefer – a longtime National Hockey League player – Neufeld admitted that the coach was not put in the best position to succeed this season, after being thrust last-second into the head coaching role.
“Any coach is going to want months to prepare for a season, and is going to want to recruit the players that you want at an earlier stage than Day 1 of camp, and Peter wasn’t given that opportunity,” Neufeld said.
“We tried to adjust (the roster) on the fly and that’s not an easy thing to do in junior hockey.
“We just said ‘where is this team headed and who are the people that you believe should be part of that moving forward?’”
In a news release, the 27-year-old Saip – a former Surrey Eagles defenceman who also had a long Western Hockey League career – said “we’re all very excited,” about opportunity to take a larger role with the team.
“The task is going to be large, but we have the right guys surrounding this group. There’s a lot of experience here, both coaching and player. For the players, it’s nice to know there’s a committed group in the coach’s office.”
Saip, like Neufeld, make reference to overhauling the team’s “culture” with regard to getting the team back on the right track.
“We need to re-establish what this organization is all about. What our team is about, how we want to play. The staff, ownership, management – we’re all on the same page on how we want this organization to be run now. I think it’s already starting to show.”
In the news release, Cody Shiavon, one of the Eagles’ alternate captains, said, “I think the team needed a boost.”
“It’s always tough to see someone go, but that’s a part of the sport,” he continued. “Hopefully we can take it as a bit of a wake-up call and are able to take the next step because of it.”
The Eagles are next on the ice Friday, at home against the Chilliwack Chiefs.
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