Dick White, University of Regina athletic director, introduced Todd Johnson as the new skipper on Monday.
The past two seasons Johnson spent as an assistant coach of the Kootenay Ice of the WHL.About 40 coaches from junior A, the WHL and pro hockey applied for the job. White looked for a coach with experience coaching at an elite level and the ability to be able to handle a position that is more than just coaching.
“They have to have an undergraduate degree, and some ability that shows that they can handle the program management that is required in university hockey. There isn’t a separate general manager--there aren’t necessarily all the elements that there would be at another level of hockey,” White said.
Johnson replaces Blaine Sautner, who was behind the Cougars bench for the last seven seasons, the last two of which the team finished dead last in the Canada-West standings. After the Cougars early exit, Sautner resigned and now runs his family farm near Eatonia, Sask.
Cougars captain Russ Nielsen said Sautner shouldn’t be the scapegoat for the teams struggles. Rather, Neilsen said the problem was that players weren’t buying into Sautner’s coaching style.
“I won’t say that Blaine was a bad coach, but I think going forward we need a coach that will hold the players more accountable,” Nielsen said.
White said he has had tons of respect for Sautner and the previous coach, Bruce Thompson. “They have worked very hard at it. There is no question that for the most part that our talent on the ice hasn’t matched up.”
Nielsen said the problem has been with recruitment.
“We haven’t been able to bring in the top end guys that other schools have. Another thing is credibility,” Nielsen said. “You want to bring in (a coach) who is a proven winner, someone who has been there before and obviously someone who can get the job done and someone who can communicate with players and hold players accountable.”
Nielsen, who was on the hiring committee, said he believes the tide is turning. “I am hoping it is heading in the right direction, and I think it is. I think we will (turn things around) if we get a few of those top end guys that we need.”