Spokane Chiefs drop head coach Hardy Sauter
Hardy Sauter embraced the high expectations of the Spokane Chiefs, even after failure to reach them cost him his job.
Five weeks after the Chiefs were eliminated in the first round of the Western Hockey League playoffs, Sauter was effectively fired as the team declined to pick up the club option on his contract.
“The best way to put it is you can’t hate something for the same reason you like it,” Sauter said Tuesday afternoon, shortly after being informed he would not be retained for a third season as head coach. “The expectations are high and although the regular season was fairly good, nobody, including me, likes the fact we didn’t make it past the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s a time in my contract when the team had the option to pick it up and obviously they chose to do otherwise.”
Portland eliminated the Chiefs 4-3 in the best-of-7 series, winning all four games in Spokane, including the last one on March 31 despite trailing 3-0 early in the second period.
“More than anything I wanted to try to make a decision that was not based on emotion at all; I wanted to give it some time,” Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz said. “The bitterness of losing was fresh. I wanted to get over the emotion of that. I wanted to make sure we were thorough with our exit meetings at end of the year.”
The Chiefs went 45-22-1-2 in the regular season, battling for the top seed in the Western Division playoffs until the final weekend. In Sauter’s first year they were 46-23-0-3 before losing in the second round of the playoffs.
“Looking at it after two years you have to ask yourself, ‘Did your team accomplish what you expected? Did it meet expectations?’ ” Spletz said. “As much as our regular seasons were good — you could say very good — our playoffs weren’t what we expected. Everybody would say that.”