There it is folks, the news a lot of fans wanted/were expecting has been announced. Portland's head coach and general manager for the past two seasons was let go today. His final record with Portland was 77-54-8-5 during the regular season and 10-11 in the post-season. He took the Hawks to the Western Conference final in 2015 and was on the bad end of a sweep at the hands of Everett this season.The Winterhawks have announced that GM/Head Coach Jamie Kompon has been relieved of his duties: https://t.co/kLfl8GXxFY— Portland Winterhawks (@pdxwinterhawks) April 1, 2016
In Defense of Kompon:
While I do not disagree with Kompon being let go, you have to realize that he had a lot of bad luck that did not help his hopes of staying as coach/general manager for long. Here are a few of the things that hurt Kompon, that he had little or no control over.
- Following a legend- He was hired after Mike Johnston had come in and resurrected a franchise that was on life support. Johnston recommended Kompon, a close friend, for the job, but that did little to help his standing with the fans overall. He also had to follow in Johnston's foot steps with the more tenured players. A lot of Portland's players were recruited by Johnston and co. and stepped away from college scholarships from big NCAA hockey schools, because of what Johnston and Portland offered. While Johnston was coaching in Portland, you could count on them listing some of the best talent in the U.S. and
- Losing skid to start his tenure- The Winterhawks lost nine of his first 10 games on the bench. Most of this was due to the absence of as many as nine keys players at points during that stretch, including Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nic Petan. A lot of fans were already losing patience with him, before he had even been a head coach for 10 games. Kompon received little credit for turning the team around leading them to within spitting distance of the Everett Silvertips and winning 24 of their final 33 regular seaosn games. The team also bought into his system that year and he got them to play hard both ways, en route to a run all the way to the Conference Final.
- Not a lot of draft picks- Prior to being in Portland, the team had their first round picks taken away through Kompon's entire time here(Portland did acquire one via trade-Cody Glass). Not only did he not have the picks that were taken by the league, Portland traded away a lot of their others for players who have already graduated out (Matt Dumba etc.). Key to a lot of Johnston's success were first round bantam picks Ty Rattie, Derrick Pouliot and Nic Petan. Kompon did not have these same tools. Johnston also took awhile to be able to recruit around the U.S. Kompon did not have the time to make these in-roads.
- Mike Johnston getting canned in Pittsburgh- Immediately after Johnston lost the room with the Penguins and was let go, fans were clamoring for his return to the team. Kompon then had to endure his presence while Johnston sat in his home, only a few hours away and contemplated his next move. Johnston was even reportedly scouting for Portland and even made a visit to the Rose City. Without Johnston committing to another gig, fans were left to hope that their "savior" would come back. This attitude may well have entered the room as well, especially among parents who had Johnston recruit their kid to come play for Portland.
- Turgeon and Bittner getting injured- Just two games in the post-season, Dominic Turgeon was forced by the NHL team that had his rights to call it quits on the season, due to a needed shoulder surgery. This meant Kompon was without a key player and voice in the room. Even before that, the guy who was expected to lead the way offensively for Portland, Paul Bittner, was injured during a trip to Prince George and missed the last three months of the season.
-Despite all of these excuses, this is a results based business and Portland lost 11 of their last 14 games, while looking awful doing it(including the post-season). In the playoffs, they endured the first sweep for the franchise since Bill Clinton was president and were just completely shut down by a team that boasted only one NHL drafted player. Kompon appeared to have lost the room, as Portland's effort level dwindled as the season went and plunged to a new depth in the post-season. By the end, Portland's experienced players seemed to have little drive with a few expecting AHL contract money as soon as the season ended. Also, it was painstakingly clear which coach still owned his locker room in their first round series, as Everett's Kevin Constantine had his team playing their system to a "T", while Kompon could not get even his oldest players to back-check.
-Player development also appeared to have been an issue as a couple key Winterhawks had their point totals dip, instead of increase as they usually do (Keegan Iverson, Keoni Texeira).
-Recruiting among U.S. players appears to have stalled (I know I gave him a pass for that, but still). Recently we watched top goalie prospect Keegan Karki commit to the University of North Dakota, instead of the WHL (Portland has his rights).
-The biggest reason though for me that Kompon was let go, is that Portland is certainly headed for a rebuild and they clearly wanted to go in a new direction for that rebuild. There was little patience among fans to deal with a rebuild under Kompon and a new voice was clearly needed to lead that rebuild. Who that voice is, we will see within the coming weeks.