In the wake of the dismissal of UNO Hockey assistant coaches Troy Jutting and Alex Todd, Dean Blais will be on the hunt for two new individuals to help guide the faltering Mavericks.
Trying to read the "tea leaves" of how this might play out is likely a fool's errand. During Blais's seven-year tenure, the top assistants serving behind the bench have included: Mike Hastings, Mike Guentzel, Brian Renfrew, Steve Johnson, Troy Jutting and Alex Todd.
There really isn't a rhyme or reason to who Coach Blais might hire.
Having followed college hockey since 1997 (and having followed the small fraternity who coach in its ranks), I'll look at six possibilities in this post:
Rob Facca -- Scout, Chicago Blackhawks
Facca would bring a wealth of experience to the UNO Hockey program. The former Maverick currently serves as an amateur scout for the Chicago Blackhawks organization (a position he has held since June 2014).
Prior to his NHL stint, he was an assistant at Western Michigan University from 2010 to 2014, serving as the team's recruiting coordinator, assistant coach and associate head coach.
During his tenure at the school, WMU went 78-54-29 (a reversal from the 30-75-18 record in the three seasons leading up to his arrival). Five of Facca's recruits were named to conference all-rookie teams. He coached the team's power play (averaging 20% conversion).
WMU also made three trips to the conference semifinals, two trips to the conference finals and two trips to the NCAA tournament, and won a CCHA tournament championship during his coaching stint.
From 2007-10, Facca served as assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at Northern Michigan University. He managed a comprehensive international recruiting program, and secured numerous high-profile players to the school. In this role, he coached forwards, defensemen, and goalies, with particular emphasis on forwards.
The Wildcats made their first NCAA tournament appearance in more than a decade (2009-10 season), and the team made the CCHA finals all three seasons Facca was on the staff. He coached two-time All-American defenseman Erik Gustafsson from 2007-10 and All-American and First-Team All-CCHA member Mark Olver.
Having been a player and volunteer assistant for the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Facca understands the unique place the school holds in the world of collegiate hockey. He also has connections to the local community.
Facca discusses Western Michigan's power play (March 12, 2016):
Pros: Young. Wealth of Recruiting and Coaching Experience at the Collegiate Level. Brought Postseason Success to "Non-Powerhouse" Programs. Ties to UNO.
Cons: Might be Reluctant to Leave Job With Top NHL Club.
Cary Eades -- GM/Head Coach, Fargo Force
Because of his ties to North Dakota and the Fargo Force, Cary Eades gets a nod in our list -- but also because of his extensive experience in amateur hockey.
He played collegiately for the University of North Dakota (1978-82) then played professionally for the St. Louis Blues for two seasons.
Eades served two separate stints as an assistant at North Dakota. He worked under Gino Gasparini (alongside Dean Blais) from 1984-91. His most recent employment at UND was under Dave Hakstol from 2004-12.
In addition to his collegiate experience, Eades has coached high school hockey in Minnesota, and served two stints in the USHL.
In 1991, Eades began a two-year run with the Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) where he compiled an 86-46-7 record. Eades won the 1993 National Junior Championship with Dubuque.
Eades spent 11 seasons as the head coach of boy's hockey at Warroad (MN) High School. He posted an overall record of 237-62-6 and led the team to three State Class "A" championships and seven Section 8A championships. In 1996, he was named Minnesota State High School Coach of the Year.
In 2012, Eades joined the Sioux Fall Stampede as Head Coach and General Manager, inheriting a team that had finished in last place overall in the USHL. In his first season, he led the team to a first-place Western Conference regular season title. Eades was named USHL Coach of the year that season.
In 2015, Sioux Falls won the Clark Cup Championship under Eades. He compiled a 125-70-14 record with the organization.
Eades is currently the head coach and general manager of the Fargo Force. The team currently sits in fourth-place in the Western Conference standings.
Eades discusses winning the 2015 USHL Clark Cup:
Pros: Killer Mustache. Extensive Head Coaching Experience at the High School, Junior and Collegiate Levels. Successful at Each of His Coaching Stops.
Cons: Might Not Want to Leave the Red River Valley for an Assistant Position.
Mike Gabinet -- Head Coach, NAIT
Gabinet is a former standout Maverick defenseman who has been working his way up the coaching ranks in the ACAC. He is currently the head coach for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Ooks in Edmonton, Alberta (a position he was elevated to in the summer of 2015). He had been a full-time associate coach with the team for three seasons prior to his promotion.
Under Gabinet's leadership this season, NAIT went undefeated in their regular season (32-0) and recently won the ACAC hockey championship.
Gabinet played professionally for nine years in various stints around the world -- including the Edmonton Oilers's AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons.
His grandfather (Clare Drake) is one of the most successful CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) coaches of all time.
Gabinet is a smart, knowledgable and likable individual.
Profile of Mike Gabinet (March 24, 2016):
Pros: Up-and-Coming Head Coach in the Canandian College Ranks. Young. Ties to UNO.
Cons: Born in Edmonton. Might Prefer to Stay in Canada.
George Gwozdecky -- Head Coach, Valor Christian
George Gwozdecky is a familiar face to UNO Hockey fans. The long-tenured head coach at Denver University posted 19 very successful seasons (1994-2013) with the Pioneers (including back-to-back national championships in 2004 and 2005).
Some would question including Gwozdecky in our list because he is in 60s, and might not be interested in serving in an assistant's capacity, or dealing with the grind of the college hockey season.
Gwozdecky was fired from Denver in 2013 after 12 consecutive seasons where the Pioneers won 20 or more games. The team made the NCAA tournament for six straight seasons leading up to his termination, and made 12 appearances during his tenure at the school. He compiled a 443-267-64 record.
His coaching pedigree is long and distinguished, and he won multiple coaching honors during his career. Prior to Denver, Gwozdecky was the head coach at Miami University (1989-94) and Wisconsin-River Falls (1981-84).
He is the only man to win national hockey titles as a player, assistant and head coach.
In 2013, Gwozdecky joined the staff of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He served in an assistant capacity for two seasons with the organization (coaching the team's power play unit). It's been reported that he missed working with amateur players, and returned to Colorado after his two-year contract with Tampa Bay was complete.
Last year, Gwozdecky took over the hockey program at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, Colo. He had initially inquired about aiding in the school's coaching search before ultimately taking the job himself.
His reputation for coaching sound, disciplined hockey has helped turn the program around in his first season, and Gwozdecky has suggested he is there for the long haul.
Pros: Elite Success at the Collegiate Level. Coaches Sound, Fundamental Hockey.
Cons: Might Be Unwilling to Take Assistant Role. In the Latter Stages of His Career.
Steve Miller -- Director of Hockey, Air Force
Miller was the associate head coach in 2014-15 for the Providence Friars -- playing an integral role in the team's 2015 NCAA Championship. According to USCHO.com, Miller designed the faceoff play that allowed Brandon Tanev to score the go-ahead goal against Boston University in the championship game.
Prior to his brief stint at Providence, he served as an assistant for 20 seasons with the Denver Pioneers. He was also the first general manager and head coach for the Madison Capitols (USHL expansion team).
At Denver, Miller coached and recruited 41 NHL draft picks, 55 All-WCHA selections, 15 All-Americans and a Hobey Baker Memorial Award Winner.
Miller has a young family, and it sounds as if he left Providence to be closer to his family.
(And after having visited Rhode Island twice, I can understand why he wanted to return to Colorado.)
He brings considerable recruiting and coaching experience, and has worked with successful programs in an assistant's capacity.
Pros: Long-Tenured Assistant. Coached For Two National Championship Programs.
Cons: Might Be Reluctant to Leave Colorado.
John Faulkner -- Assistant Coach, Omaha Lancers
While Faulkner might not have the longest résumé, the former UNO goaltender has strong ties to the program (and is the winningest goalie in the program's history).
Faulkner has spent the past three seasons as an assistant on the Omaha Lancers (USHL) coaching staff -- he joined the Lancers after graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a degree in business administration.
He has worked with goalies in his capacity as a Lancers assistant.
Pros: Ties to the UNO Program. Lots of Potential. Understands Goaltending.
Cons: Limited Coaching Experience. Early in His Career.