Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dean Blais Extension a Good Thing For UNO

Last week, UNO extended the contract of hockey coach Dean Blais for an additional three years, through the end of the 2017-18 season. To my surprise, a few UNO fans actually grumbled about the extension.

Not sure I completely understand it.  Sure, UNO hasn't made the semifinals of the conference tournament in Blais' five seasons in Omaha. Didn't in Mike Kemp's last four seasons either, though. If Dean Blais isn't the answer in Omaha, who would be?

And that's the reason I think UNO should stick with Blais. If Blais isn't good enough, then what's the alternative? Guess on a hot assistant out there? Might work.  Probably won't, though.

I don't believe that coaching is the problem.  I think there have been some personnel issues the last couple of years that got this program out of whack. Dismiss a captain just as the fall semester starts? That's a problem. And Blais has had to do that two out of the last three seasons.

One thing that has changed in college sports over the last few years is the increasing lead time in recruiting. Players are now scouted and recruited as they enter high school, rather than during their senior year. Compounding that lead time is that many hockey players play junior hockey between high school and enrolling in college. So if you want top-tier talent, coaches have to invest years of effort to get those players.

And I think that's something Blais has been doing all along, but is just now beginning to produce. Minneapolis television station WCCO noted how Blais snagged four of Minnesota's top ten high school prospects this season. Assuming that Blais started recruiting those players three or four years ago, he's just now beginning to reap the benefits of his efforts.

So from my perspective, I see no reason not to extend Blais' contract. He doesn't sound ready to quit just yet; in fact, he told the World-Herald that he might want to coach another seven years or so .

If that's the case, why the heck would you not keep a coach like Dean Blais around?

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