Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Breaking News: Bliss Littler Fired

According to Bliss Littler's twitter page, he was fired today as head coach of the Omaha Lancers. Assistant coach, Mike Aikens, will take over for the remainder of this season. Very surprised this move was made at this point of the season.

Bliss currently has the most wins among junior hockey coaches, which is quite an accomplishment. Ever since taking over at Omaha, he has not won over any fans. This season was a lot of their breaking points, as I've read multiple comments from long time season ticket holders refusing to renew or even go to games while Littler was still coaching. Whenever watching Bliss on the bench, it was always joked that it was only a mannequin because there was no movement, emotion, or talking.

Littler plays one of the most boring styles of hockey and really fails to develop players. Take a look at Seth Ambroz, who was a projected 1st round pick. After a couple of seasons under Littler, he fell all the way to the 5th round.

I think this will be a boost for the Lancers as a whole and will probably bring some fans back.

Good luck to Bliss, wherever you end up.

Edit: Here is a press release from the Lancers.


John Meissner said...

Bliss Littler is the best coach I've ever worked with. With that in mind, I respectfully disagree with Ryan's comments.

Look at the economy vs the price of tickets. USHL hockey tickets are not just a drop in the bucket. Factor in the impact the Huskers have in the early part of the season, plus high school sports, movies, restaurants, etc, etc. People are more tight(for lack of a better term) with their money these days.

As far as his style of play, in the four years I worked with him, I had no problem whatsoever with how his teams played the game. None. To place the decline in attendance on his shoulders is a pretty big stretch.

Seth Ambroz? Regardless of what many people think(Ie: his agent, his family), he was not a first round pick. He may make a good pro player one day, but some people are expecting perhaps too much out of the kid. Placing that on Bliss's shoulders is a real stretch as well.

Bliss Littler, is a quality coach, a good man and a friend. He will do quite well in the future. In my opinion, the Lancers made a decision that simply defies logic.

Ryan said...

Their attendance right now is the lowest it's been in 10+ years.

John, if you asked any player/fan/coach, they would most likely say his style is boring to watch. The games lack flow and excitement. Trust me, watched the same style with Strand in SC.

Ambroz was projected as a 1st round pick for a very long time. His stock had dropped after his first season under Littler. Coincidence? Maybe, but it takes a lot of wrongdoing to go from a projected first round pick to a 5th round selection. Don't know his agent or family, so no idea what their thoughts were on how good they thought he was/is. I go off of what scouts say and that is what they get paid to do.

I think the Lancers did what they needed to do to salvage the season and get some excitement back in the Civic.

Anonymous said...

Matt White and Haula also played for Bliss and developed quite well. The Ambroz story is more a story of a kid that couldn't skate and was projected to get better and didn't. Certainly not Littler's fault. Seth Ambroz had 46 points last year..not bad. 49 points the year before that. He slipped because he never improved his speed...period.

Eric Bonanno said...

Boring style of hockey????? Bliss' teams have scored the most goals in the division during the time that Bliss coached in Omaha! I guess Bliss' style of scoring goals and winning games really would drive the fans away in droves and it has nothing to do that the Lancers have played musical buildings over the last few years!

John Meissner said...

The Lancers were the highest scoring team in the West over the past 4 seasons.

The 1-3-? Yup, boring. The most goals? Not boring.

MITCH said...

A wise man once said you never know what you had until it is gone. The Lancers Organization will find out what they lost when this comes back to haunt them. It may take a year or so but mark my words it will. Coach Littler has only built on the foundation that was molded here in Omaha to make this organization a Program of Excellence on and off the ice.

QUESTION: Why do the majority of the NHL Scouts and College Coaches set their dates to evaluate prospects and recruits in the USHL with games played by the Omaha Lancers?

ANSWER: The Omaha Lancers are coached at the highest level of team fundamentals of any team in the USHL. When a player performs well against or for the Lancers they will be projected to do so at the next level.

Players are not made in Omaha they are developed on and off the ice.

A Lancers practice is organized and excecuted so that games become natural reaction. Coaching takes place during practice and adjustments are made during games. Bliss Littler is one of the best in the country at this-the reason he has been selected to the USA Hockey National Team staffs multiple times.

ALL in ALL I have to say Bliss THANK YOU for your time in Omaha.

As a longtime hockey fans I personally appreciate the character, dignity, respect and committment to which you and your family brought to the Omaha community, the Lancer fans and the Lancer teams.

The Best of Luck - I will always have your back.

John Meissner said...

Thank you Mitch and Eric. Nice to know a whole bunch of people have your back, isn't Bliss?

The best coach I have EVER worked with, bar none!

Ryan said...

3 game weekend with Bliss and 2 goals scored. Shutout twice. 2 games after Bliss gets canned and 12 goals scored. Seems like the change has worked so far.

I will always stand by that it's the most boring style of hockey ever. Trap. Dump. Chase.

An answer to your question, Mitch, would be that Omaha is one of the more centrally located places in the USHL and also has a major airport.

John Meissner said...

So Ryan, how many goals should they score each game? 7? 8? It just ain't gonna happen, no matter who's playing and who's coaching, you know that?

So, Bliss didn't win over ANY fans? That's stretching your opinion way, way out there. A mannequin? Where did that comment come from? What's he supposed to do? Empty the sticks and the water jugs each game? Scream at the officials 'til he pops a vein? Of course not. C'mon Ryan. As before, I respectfully disagree with you.

And it's my opinion that coaches make players better MOST of the time. But to throw Ambroz's drop from projected first round to actually fifth round pick isn't right either. If a player falls that far, that drop is on them, not the coach. A coach that bad wouldn't make it through one season, let alone 3 1/2. I don't know the numbers, but I'll bet Bliss is in the upper half of the league in the number of players he's coached that have moved on to D1 hockey.

I'll say it again: Bliss Littler is a good man, an outstanding coach and will hopefully be back behind a USHL bench again soon. And I would be proud to have my son play for him one day.

Ryan said...

I never claimed he never won over any fans, but most Lancer fans weren't too happy when they hired him. There are plenty that are happy he's not the coach now.

Yes, mannequin. He stands on the bench. Doesn't do anything else. You rarely ever see him tell a kid something while on the bench or get heated over a bad call.

John Meissner said...

Your exact words were:

"Ever since taking over at Omaha, he has not won over any fans."


"Whenever watching Bliss on the bench, it was always joked that it was only a mannequin because there was no movement, emotion, or talking."

If people are actually paying good money to sit and watch a coach and not the game, then they're spending their money for the wrong reasons. Coaches coach, players play. Any coach that was actually a mannequin would have a player revolt in short order and would not develop a high enough skill level to have the most wins in the West Division over the past 3 1/2 years.

Tossing out "most fans" and terms like that are stretching an opinion, because who has the time to canvas 2,543 fans each night? The Lancers have 19 home games left. Let's revisit the attendance numbers at the end of the season and see where the numbers are then.

Mike Aikens is a solid coach too. (Yes, I've worked with him as well.) I expect he'll do well, but I still believe Mr. Robert's decision to relieve Bliss Littler of his duties was a knee-jerk reaction to the two games prior. If I had the time and resources to do so, I expect that I could find several players that would go through a wall for Bliss. (I know at least one broadcaster who would.) That's in opposition to the grand total of one player who ever said anything negative about their time with any of the teams Bliss was associated with.

MITCH said...

everyone has thier own opinions but facts are facts -

#1 - Why is attendance down? Well in the 11 homes dates that Omaha has had this year 3 have been Sundays, 3 have conflicted with Husker Football and 3 have conflicted with UNO Hockey - that leaves 2 dates that are woth no conflicts WOW both games had over 4500 in attendance.

#2 - the reason that scouts and coaches watch games in Omaha is not becasue it is centrally located and has a major airport-look at a map you are way off only two teams further west and three teams further south-second if you think that teams have the funds to fly into Omaha you are dead wrong - over 90% 0f the coaches and scouts drive-this a fact.

#3 You can not compare starters and backups - Omaha's last three games with Littler behind the bench faced three starting goaltenders all in the top 5 in the USHL at the time on top 3rd teams and the two game after faced a starter that was hurt and a back up both in the bottom half of the league at the time. Just an FYI JT (Lincoln) had a groin issue before the game and did not even finish warmups.

Trap, Dump and Chase wins games - WHO has the most wins in USA Jr Hockey? Fact Bliss Littler!

Opinions are Opintions and Facts are Facts! Sorry but you will never convince me that Bliss Littler not being behind the bench in Omaha was the right decision for the Lancers Organization.

As I said I will always have your back Coach Littler!

"5 for Fighting, 2 for roughing and a 10 minute misconduct"

Ryan said...

Teichroeb tweaked his back and was only pulled because the team was doing so poorly. Guess he was so hurt he couldn't start the next night, wait he did. When a team is playing inspired hockey, it isn't going to matter who is in net. 98% of the goalies in this league can be #1 goalies at any given time, much like McAdam is a quality goalie for Waterloo.

"Robert couldn’t stop smiling as he traded fist bumps with all of the players, most of whom were wearing ear-to-ear grins themselves. Then Robert shared a handshake with both interim head coach Mike Aikens and interim associate coach Mike Zucker, who both looked relieved their first game without Littler was in the books."

You tell me they aren't happy with the change.

MITCH said...

98% WOW I would like to get some of the coolaid you are drinking - question have you every been a part of a team besides sitting in the stands? Player? Coach? Staff? Scout? I have multiple rings at all levels -Do you have a ring? That is why I will no longer continue this battle of wits - you are unarmed! May your days be filled with joy sitting behind your key board throwing opinions out. As I said Facts are Facts and Bliss Littler is one the best Jr Hockey Coaches in USA Hockey - he will find a new home and win many more games!