For the first time in their ten-year history, the Toronto Rock will not make the playoffs this year. They had yet another mediocre season (though actually better than last year when they did make the playoffs), and have not had a season above .500 since 2005 when they won it all. Something’s gotta change, and I think it should be Mike Kloepfer, the “Director of Lacrosse Operations” (why they don’t just call him the General Manager like every other sports team, I don’t know). He’s the guy that made the Doyle for Benesch deal which I wasn’t sure about at the time, but has since shown itself to be the downfall of the franchise. That may be stretching things just a bit, but not that much. This is nothing against Benesch, who I like — he is a skilled player and has scored his share of very nice goals. But Colin Doyle he ain’t, and his sophomore slump this year isn’t helping his case any. Maybe they thought that Kevin Fines would turn into a Doyle-type player, but before he showed whether he could or not, they traded him away as well.
Kloepfer brought Peter Lough to Toronto as a free agent, and that was a good move. Getting Cam Woods and Kasey Biernes sounded good, but neither has played as well as I had hoped (though Woods is kicking ass in the penalty minutes department). Clark didn’t play Ian Rubel and then Kloepfer traded him away for nothing, and I don’t understand that move at all. Rubel was no candidate for Defenseman of the Year, but he was capable and tough, and I don’t understand why they didn’t want to play him. He traded Rusty Kruger away for nothing. He traded All-Star defender Phil Sanderson away for nothing. The Josh Sanderson for Ratcliff trade is too recent to really consider, though it is a touch ironic that Sanderson assisted on the overtime goal that knocked the Rock out of the playoffs.
Then there’s Glenn Clark behind the bench. In his two years as head coach the Rock are 11-16 with him behind the bench with one game left to play (that doesn’t include the 2-2 record while he was suspended). He’s not in a Paul Maurice-type situation, i.e. a good coach with crappy players, he’s had some excellent players in front of him including future Hall-of-Famers Veltman and Watson, a bunch of skilled offensive players like Manning, Sanderson, Ratcliff, Benesch, Wilson, Biernes, and Shearer, and top defensemen like Phil Sanderson, Chris Driscoll (one of the most underrated players in the league), Lough, Woods, Daryl Gibson (another guy traded away for nothing), Biesel, Merrill and Rubel. Clark has also shown a tendency to fly off the handle, though he’s shown a lot of restraint since that incident. The Rock’s failure this year is at least partially his fault as well, but Kloepfer is the guy who made the big trade that killed the offence. I don’t think Kloepfer is as bad as this guy does — he think that it’s Kloepfer’s fault if it rains — but the team needs a major change in the off season. Jim Veltman is retiring after this Sunday’s game and losing him will hurt, so some lacrosse-savvy person needs to be brought in to do something, and probably something significant.
The Rock have a track record of not waiting long to make this kind of move. Ed Comeau took over for the legendary Les Bartley and so had some pretty big shoes to fill, but they fired him after only six games. Terry Sanderson took over and brought that 2-4 team to the playoffs, then brought them to 12-4 and the Championship the next year, but when the Rock finished 8-8 the year after that, Terry was given the hook. I guess the thinking there was “Sure, we won the Championship last year, but what have you done for me lately?”
If they don’t fire Kloepfer and/or Clark after missing the playoffs for the first time ever, I will be very surprised.