June 17, 2010 in Sports

Chiefs interview ex-assistant

By The Spokesman-Review

The Spokane Chiefs’ search for a new coach, now in its seventh week, has produced just one interview but Tim Speltz, general manager of the Western Hockey League club, was very impressed with Steve Pleau.

“He was a great interview and a great guy,” Speltz said of Pleau, a former Chiefs assistant who was fired by Edmonton after the WHL season. “He’s definitely a candidate.”

That still doesn’t change the time frame for replacing Hardy Sauter, who was fired in May after two years and a 91-45-1-5 regular-season record because of an unexpected first-round exit from the playoffs. Speltz has said he hoped to have a new coach by the end of June.

“The (NHL) draft is (next week),” Speltz said. “I don’t have any meetings during the draft. It’s a natural I could have meetings with guys there if things don’t come together before.”

Pleau, 37 is the son of Larry Pleau, the senior vice president and general manager of the St. Louis Blues. In three seasons in Edmonton he had a 67-116-12-21 record, including 16-43-4-9 this year. He had one year left on his contract.

Pleau was an assistant for the Chiefs before getting the job in Edmonton when the Oil Kings rejoined the league. Sauter took Pleau’s place on Bill Peters’ staff just in time to make the run to the 2008 Memorial Cup championship. After that, the Chicago Blackhawks hired Peters to coach their American Hockey League team and Sauter was promoted.

“I said we would look to see if we could get a more experienced accomplished guy, that’s way we would go, but we don’t have that guy jumping out now,” Speltz said. “I’ve liked Steve all along. I know him, that always means something. He has good pro experience. … He wasn’t successful at his last stop but that doesn’t change that.”

He pointed out that Stanley Cup winning coach Mike Babcock was fired in Moose Jaw before the Chiefs picked him up and Peters didn’t have much success at the University of Lethbridge before coming to Spokane.

“When you look at that experience from maybe having lean years, it helps you learn and grow as a coach,” Speltz said.

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