CHICOUTIMI, Que. — The Moncton Wildcats are entering a rebuilding period and they obviously see Danny Flynn as a key figure in helping them reach their ultimate goal.
Flynn has signed a three-year contract extension that allows him to continue as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League club’s director of hockey operations for four more years. There was one year remaining on his deal, but he’s now locked up until the end of the 2015-16 season.
“I recognize that we have to build a team here and it’s going to take an awful lot of hard work,” he said. “It’s going to take an awful lot of good decisions. The contract extension gives me the opportunity to be here throughout the process and devote my full energy to the task at hand.”
Flynn was Moncton head coach and director of hockey operations for the past six seasons and guided the club to a championship in 2009-10. His tenure as the longest-serving head coach in Wildcats history ended on April 1, three days after the club was eliminated in the opening playoff round.
“When (team owner) Mr. (Robert) Irving and I met after the season and talked about me reducing down to one job, he made me an offer to stay as just the director of hockey operations,” he said.
“I took some time to think it through to make sure that I was ready for the significant challenge that lies ahead.
“I was in all likelihood going to coach one more season and then try to move into hockey management full time. It happened a year ahead of schedule, but I think at this point I can help this team best by doing a good job as director of hockey operations.”
Flynn, 55, just completed his 26th season coaching for a living — 10 at St. Francis Xavier University, eight in the Ontario Hockey League, seven in the QMJHL and one in the National Hockey League.
He won two QMJHL championships, two OHL championships and made five trips to the Memorial Cup, winning the national title with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1993. He won a CIS national championship with St. Francis Xavier University in 2003-04.
Flynn was associate coach when Moncton won the QMJHL championship in 2005-06 and then spent the next season in the NHL as assistant coach of the New York Islanders. He’s been with the Wildcats since 2007-08 and owns the franchise record for most career wins by a head coach in the regular season with 219.
“My family and I really didn’t want to leave Moncton,” he said. “I had a couple of very good coaching opportunities presented to me shortly after the season ended and certainly one job that I had to think long and hard about.
“The No. 1 team in your life is your family and for me to stay in Moncton at this time makes a lot of sense to us. My contract extension allows us to stay in a city that we love. People in Moncton have treated my family and I really well and made us feel at home since we first arrived.”
Moncton, the Quebec Remparts and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are all looking for a new head coach.
Moncton’s rebuilding project is especially challenging because it has no picks in the top two rounds of the 2013 QMJHL draft Saturday in Chicoutimi. It also owns no picks in the top three rounds of the 2014 QMJHL draft.
The Wildcats own 16 picks in Saturday’s 14-round draft and their first selection is in the third round, 44th overall. They don’t have many quality trade assets that could allow them to make a deal to move higher in the selection order.
Their best trade assets are a trio of 19-year-olds with goaltender Alex Dubeau and forwards Christophe Lalonde and Ryan Penny. Dubeau should be among the league’s top goalies next season. Lalonde (28 goals) and Penny (20 goals) are coming off a strong season where they produced offence while playing on a checking line.
“We would look at opportunities to move up in the draft selection order,” said Flynn. “We have some very good players, but for us to part with any of those guys it would have to make very good long-term sense.”
The Wildcats must weigh their options. Can they get more for Dubeau, Lalonde and Penny in a trade now or during the mid-season trade period?
Wildcats forwards Ivan Barbashev, 18, and Conor Garland, 17, would have significant value on the trade market. But both have a no-trade clause and the club wouldn’t consider trading them anyway because they’re keys in the rebuilding process.
“We’ve had teams approach us to see if we’re looking to move players,” said Flynn. “That happens every year at the draft. I think teams recognize that we’re in the process of building a team so they’re going to approach us with offers to give us younger assets for older assets.
“We’ll listen to trade possibilities, but that certainly doesn’t mean we’re going to make moves. History shows that for the most part we don’t usually trade our players at the draft.”