You know it was an easy decision to insert Dale Hunter back behind the London Knights bench when his brother and co-owner of the team, Mark Hunter, interrupts a reporter asking a standard question.
“You know what, it just makes sense,” Mark said, bluntly, at a press conference held on the roof top of the Richmond Street Jack Astor’s restaurant Tuesday. “This is very good for the organization, trust me.”
And just like that, the 2012 Ontario Hockey League champions put an off-season question mark to rest.
Dale, 51, posted a fine 20-5-1 record as head coach of the 2011-12 Knights before getting a crack with the NHL’s Washington Capitals in late November 2011. Less than 48 hours after the Capitals were bounced from the playoffs in May, Dale announced his resignation from the enviable post so he could return to London.
“We talked about it even before I left,” said Dale, one of the winningest coaches in OHL history. “Mark did a great job, but we expected it to go back to this way.”
When Mark, 49, was the man in charge behind the bench, the Knights won 72.3 per cent of their games, including a 16-3 record en route to the franchise’s second OHL title.
As it stands now, assistant coaches Misha Donskov, Rob Ramage and Dylan Hunter — Dale’s son — are scheduled to be back in the fold for next season.
Since purchasing the organization back in 2000, the Hunter brothers have won a Memorial Cup (2005), two OHL championships (2005, 2012), and finished first in the Midwest Division seven times.
Houser’s success leaves Knights with import draft predicament
The London Knights are in search of a replacement for Michael Houser — there’s no denying that.
The reigning CHL Goaltender of the Year has nothing left to prove at the major junior level. However, he’s currently undrafted and unsigned.
“The problem is, we don’t know what Houser is doing,” general manager Mark Hunter said when asked if the team plans on selecting a goaltender during June 27’s CHL import player draft.
One player who will not be suiting up for London next season is Russian centreman Vlad Namestnikov, Mark says. The Tampa Bay Lightning first-rounder will likely start the year in Norfolk, Va., playing for Tampa’s farm team.
Namestnikov’s absence leaves one of two import roster spots wide open.
“You don’t move up that high (in the draft order) unless you have something in mind,” said head coach Dale Hunter, referring to a trade with the Peterborough Petes last week in which they nabbed the ninth overall pick.
On Tuesday, the club announced the signing of three 2012 OHL draft picks, including netminder Liam Herbst. Despite the coaching staff having high expectations for the 22nd overall selection, the chances of Herbst stepping into the starting role are highly unlikely.
Is Broadhurst coming?
Along with Herbst, London inked forward Owen MacDonald (second round) and defenceman Santino Centorame (fourth round), both from their 2012 OHL draft class.
The Knights did not announce they have reached a contract agreement with Alex Broadhurst, but Dale Hunter said the 19-year-old Chicago Blackhawks draft pick — selected by London 29th overall in the 2012 OHL draft — will be a part of the 2012-13 Knights.