Kevin Constantine is an incredible coach. Few would disagree. Unfortunately, even great coaches reach a point where their words no longer effect the team. Like any other job, doing the same drill day in and day out wears on the players. They grow tired of a particular system and cry out for change. That was the case in Pittsburgh. It’s not because KC was horrible. It was simply the right time for change. Herb Brooks is offering exactly that. Labeled the “Miracle Man” for his efforts in coaching the 1980 US Olympic Team and leading them to gold, Brooks is anxious to see what he can do with a potentially explosive Penguins squad. Whether it’s a long-term solution, or not, remains to be seen, but for now it’s nice to see the Pens having fun again. And by fun I don’t mean the practices … Brooks is determined to give these guys a good workout. He would like to see them cover 100% of the ice, with quicker, shorter shifts. What I am referring to is feeling confident and feeling inspired. Removing the harnesses from players such as Darius Kasparaitis and Mathew Barnaby , who are known for their aggressive style, is a good start. They won’t only turn up the intensity, but also make room a potent offense.
Brooks is not a savior. He struggled in his fourth season with the New York Rangers (1984-85), then again with the Minnesota North Stars in 1987, and later the New Jersey Devils. What he is however, is a man who knows how to motivate … or at least he was once upon a time. He convinced 20 college students they were capable of defeating the legendary Soviet Union. So perhaps he can dig deep down and convince a talented team in Pittsburgh they too are capable of a miracle, capable of recapturing the season. An appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s also not impossible.
Besides “having fun,” it appears as though the “Parent” Penguins have sent a wave of inspiration throughout the entire organization. The coaching change seems to have shifted the momentum, both in Pittsburgh and in Wilkes-Barre. Amazing considering Wilkes-Barre no longer has an assistant coach, nor is there any plan to replace the ones who left to join Brooks’ staff. What they do have however, is an injured winger by the name of Mike Yeo filling in as Glenn Patrick’s assistant. So far, all is working out for the best.
Pittsburgh recorded back to back victories (12/9 & 12/11) under newly acquired Coach Brooks, while the “Jr. Pens” won their third consecutive game Saturday evening, defeating the Providence Bruins by a score of 4-3. Tyler Wright, Tom Kostopoulos, Valentin Morozov, and Pavel Skrbek, each scored to give rookie goaltender David Weninger (GAA of 2.33 and a save percentage of .905) his third consecutive win.
Are more changes expected in the near future? Perhaps. Don’t be surprised if Bonvie finds his way onto the Pittsburgh roster. Brooks has made it very clear he admires players with spunk. That is why he enjoys Kasparaitis and Barnaby. Their presence is always felt.
Other notable changes: rookie defenseman Andrew Ference was listed as a healthy scratch on December 9th vs. the Washington Capitals, then again on Saturday December 11th vs. the Phoenix Coyotes. It was however, later determined he was suffering from the flu. Having missed Sunday’s 90-minute workout, Andrew will more than likely be scratched from tonight’s game against the Boston Bruins. Not a great way to make an impression on a new coach, but hopefully the feisty Ference will soon return and Brooks will get a chance to see what this kid really made of.
As for KC , don’t worry. He will be in charge of a new team very soon. Minnesota would be great, but no matter where he goes I’m sure the team will benefit from his presence.
Top 15 Wilkes-Br/Scranton Penguins Stats (as of 12/13/99):
GP G A PTS PIM
Tyler Wright 24 5 15 20 84
John Slaney 16 9 10 19 9
Dennis Bonvie 25 1 18 19 196
Martin Sonnenberg 21 7 9 16 28
Greg Crozier 24 10 5 15 6
Tom Kostopoulos 22 10 4 14 17
Boris Protsenko 24 5 7 12 20
Sven Butenschon 24 6 6 12 38
Valentin Morozov 20 4 8 12 0
Alexei Kolkunov 23 4 7 11 8
Robert Dome 16 2 9 11 44
Pavel Skrbek 21 4 5 9 14
Josef Melichar 26 2 4 6 28
Chris Kelleher 19 0 4 4 18
Casey Harris 25 2 1 3 38
GP Mins Avg W L T SO GA SPCTG G A PIM
*D. Weninger 14 833 3.10 5 5 3 0 43 .894 0 1 0
C. Hillier 8 395 4.10 0 4 2 0 27 .874 0 0 0
JS Aubin 7 347 4.84 1 6 0 0 28 .849 0 0 0
*David Weninger (goalie)
Height – 6-1
Weight – 180
Birth date – 2-8-76
Birthplace Calgary, Alberta
The Washington Capitals drafted Alberta native, David Weninger, as their fifth choice (74th overall) in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. Just 23 years old, it would be fair to say he’s full of potential. In four seasons at Michigan Tech, he became second on the school’s all-time list in appearances (108), and was noted for being fifth in career saves (2,706). To prove how special this young man is, he respectfully earned various awards including: the Norbert Matovich Memorial Award (outstanding freshman), the Superior Player of the Year honor (2 consecutive seasons), and the prestigious Merv Youngs Award as the Most Valuable Player of the team. One cannot appreciate these accomplishments, until they realize they were achieved while guarding the net behind a very poor Tech team. Signed as a free in August 1999, by the Wheeling Nailers, David is not under NHL contract, but he is certainly doing his part to help the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, farm affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins. There have been many nights when he has been the brightest star on an otherwise struggling roster. Even Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who has found success in the NHL, but struggles in the AHL, admits it is difficult to tend goal for the “Jr. Pens.”
GP W L T PTS
Pittsburgh Penguins 27 10 14 3 27
Wilkes-Br/Scranton (AHL) 26 6 15 5 18
Wheeling Nailers 23 6 15 2 14
12/7 – the Pittsburgh Penguins recalled goalie Jean-Sebastien Aubin from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to replace goalie Tom Barrasso during his 4 game suspension
12/9 – the Pittsburgh Penguins fired Coach Kevin Constantine and named Herb Brooks as head coach. Ed Johnston and Rick Kehoe were named assistant coaches
Wed 12/15/99 7:30 Pittsburgh at Carolina
Sat 12/18/99 7:30 Florida at Pittsburgh
Mon 12/20/99 7:30 Pittsburgh at Montreal
Tue 12/21/99 7:30 Pittsburgh at New York Isles
Fri 12/17/99 7:35 Albany at WB/S
Sat 12/18/99 7:05 Philadelphia at WB/S
Sun 12/19/99 6:00 WB/S at Hershey
Wed 12/22/99 7:35 Hershey at WB/S
Fri 12/17/99 7:30 Wheeling at Toledo
Sat 12/18/99 7:30 Wheeling at Toledo
Sun 12/19/99 6:00 Johnstown at Wheeling
Thurs 12/23/99 7:30 Huntington at Wheeling