Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Jimmy" On The Spot

Season in and season out, you always have the top notch coaches like P.K. O'Handley, Mike Hastings, Kevin Hartzell, and Dave Siciliano being talked about. Last year, you could have added Steve Johnson to that list, but Steve ultimately stepped down after last season concluded. Perhaps we could even start to mention Jimmy McGroarty. Ok, probably not just yet, but if he continues his success, we could very well be talking about the next coach to break the 500 win mark. Only 464 more wins to go :)

Let's take a look at the path taken for McGroarty to get where he is right now.

McGroarty played junior hockey in the BCHL before playing for multiple different pro teams. This journey even included a couple stops for some roller hockey. McGroarty last played pro during the 1999-2000 season. After that, his coaching career would begin. McGroarty spent 2001-2006 on the bench for the Omaha Lancers, helping bring in some great talents like Mike Howe, Paul Stastny, Jeff Lerg, and Trevor Smith among others. Following the 2005-2006 season, Lincoln hired Jimmy to man the bench with Steve Johnson.

The very next season, he was appointed the Stars head coach. Some fans weren't sure how to react, since he hadn't been a USHL head coach before, but his first season at the helm proved to be quite a success. After Johnson's stepping down at Lincoln, the Stars staff looked high and low for their 2nd head coach in the history of the Lincoln Stars. Ultimately, they didn't have to go far, as they hired assistant coach, Jim McGroarty. McGroarty, though, was quite successful as an assistant coach, which probably made the transition a little easier. Steve Johnson stuck around to help out with the draft, which ultimately saw just one player, Jake Newton, end the season on the roster.

McGroarty's first addition was forward Ryan Kretzer, who was released by Waterloo. Kretzer was told he was going to be a 4th liner in Waterloo, but Jimmy liked what he saw and picked up Kretzer. That move turned out to be an amazing addition, as Kretzer was a near point per game player.

Nick Hopper, also a draft pick, started the year out with the Stars, but quickly became a liability. Hopper posted a 4-6-2 record and Coach McGroarty knew something needed to be done. After some searching, the name David Reekie came along. McGroarty added Reekie and that move, in my opinion, saved the season for the Stars. Reekie went on to post a 23-10-4 record, while recording six shutouts. David garnered USHL Goalie of the Year honors for his great season.

More additions from the coach came as well, and these three dramatically helped the team. First was Lyon Messier, son of former NHL legend, Mark Messier. Lyon came to Lincoln after bouncing around in the major junior ranks. McGroarty offered him a spot, and traded Dennis Brown to Topeka to make room. Messier came in and was an instant leader on the ice and in the locker room. He's a solid stay at home defenseman, with good breakout speed.

Second was Jimmy Hayes. There was a trade between Ohio and Lincoln, in which Hayes' rights were acquired and Lincoln shipped off draft picks and Mike Henderson. Hayes is an 89 born that was playing for the NTDP for the second season, after reportedly saying he would not play for Ohio. Hayes reported to Lincoln, and had a slow start, as he wasn't accustomed to the USHL level of play. He eventually matured and adapted to the game, becoming a go to type player. Hayes was one of the best players throughout Lincoln's playoff run this season.

Lastly, Coach McGroarty added the bulky forward Chris Forfar in a trade with Waterloo. Forfar was a player who really impressed me at the Fall Classic, but did not have a great start in Waterloo. After the trade to Lincoln, he quickly became an effective forward, as he notched three game winning goals with the Stars.

McGroarty was named one of the three finalists for the USHL General Manager of the Year Award, but fell short of coming out on top. I feel he should have won this award, because without the moves he made for the Stars, they could have easily missed the playoffs all together. I don't have any issue with Mike Hastings winning this award, but I feel McGroarty did much more to help his team and fans out. Factor in this was McGroarty's first time being a GM in the USHL, and it makes that much more impressive.

I'd just like to say congrats to Coach Jimmy McGroarty on his fine season, and even though it ended with a tough loss in Game 5 to Omaha, there is nothing he or the rest of the Lincoln Stars players, organization, or fans have to hang their heads about. Let's not forget about his first year assistants as well. All three have done tremendous jobs in their first year.

With the success McGroarty had in his first head coaching gig, maybe some other fans of certain teams should be willing to give their new coach a chance.

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