BLOG: Dundee looks to the stars after shock LeFebvre exit

Few will begrudge Marc LeFebvre if, as reported, he’s taken a role that will advance his coaching career – he’s earned such a chance after all.

But the timing of what can only be described as a bombshell leaves more unanswered questions and may have deeper repercussions.

Such a departure has been rumoured for a while, though like most rumours during the off-season it would not have been out of place if this one proved unfounded.

The reality is rather different and will take a lot longer to sink in after LeFebvre accepted an offer with an unspecified organisation in North America.

With two months until the curtain raiser, Dundee are left to pick up the pieces and undertake a coaching search that few predicted and no one desired.

Make no mistake, LeFebvre will depart Tayside with nothing but warm wishes, such was the esteem in which he was held.

He dragged one of the lowest budget sides in the league to two play-off berths in his two seasons, even reaching a maiden play-off semi-final against all the odds last term.

He played a straight ahead, exciting brand of hockey predicated on Dundee stinging teams with odd man rushes and dynamic offensive play.

In his midst he deployed the likes of Justin Faryna – who owes much to LeFebvre for facilitating his move to Cardiff Devils – and Vinny Scarsella who leaves the league worse off with his retirement this week.

They are not easy pieces to replace. Nor is the fact that Dundee’s recruitment drive ahead of the 2017/18 season is already at an advanced stage.

No fewer than nine new faces have already agreed deals with the Stars, the latest – American forward Tyler Brickler – only put pen to paper a matter of days ago.

It would be ill advised to speculate on the terms of LeFebvre’s departure and whether or not the Stars front office had a contingency plan in place for such an eventuality, such were the rumours clouding the Canadian’s future in recent weeks.

There is certainly the possibility that the Stars, expecting this outcome, have already reached out to potential successors ready to name a replacement in due course. It is certainly likely that LeFebvre has been in regular contact to inform the club of his plans.

Yet it is worth asking the questions about where this leaves Dundee’s roster now. The players that Dundee have already signed ahead of September’s opener presumably committed their futures to Dundee Ice Arena under the assumption that LeFebvre would be behind the bench.

The same could also be said for those who re-signed for an additional season. Does the new coach, player or bench, completely rip up LeFebvre’s plans and start afresh by identifying his own targets that will have differed from his predecessor?

Or does the Stars’ new boss, recognising the limited timeframe, simply complete the recruitment job that LeFebvre commenced and try to gel a team comprised of a myriad of his own players and some of those selected for him?

At this stage, with the news still fresh and the consequences of such a move still uncertain, it would be wrong to speculate on what the Stars do from here.

One thing is absolutely certain, this is a hammer blow to lose the coach around which the entire preparations for the new campaign were being shaped.

Losing him at the end of June leaves the Stars facing the prospect of being behind the eight ball for September, which seems strange given their recruitment is, on paper at least, one of the most advanced out of all twelve sides in the Elite League in terms of new faces.

Protracted or not, LeFebvre’s departure and subsequent coaching search is at best a minor inconvenience and at worst a season defining piece of news.

There have been some suggestions, not based in fact but mere speculation, that Dundee’s budget for 2017/18 is less than it was twelve months ago.

Only the Stars brass will know for sure, though that is not to suggest that his decision to leave and leave now was budget related, otherwise he surely would have walked at the conclusion of last season.

Either way, the new coach will face the same testing circumstances as LeFebvre in building a competitive team with limited resources. More than that though, whoever the new man is will be following in the footsteps of a coach who overachieved in his two years with the Stars.

Replicating and exceeding those achievements are complicated by the sense of urgency that surrounds Dundee’s coaching search. There will be no bedding in process, no acclimatising to his new surroundings, no taking a few weeks to find his feet.

It will be all hands to the pump as the clock ticks towards September. Those are unenviable circumstances to face for a new coach who will be playing catch up from the get go.

How he deals with these surprising, if not unprecedented, circumstances will go some way to determining Dundee’s fate next season.

The answers are unsurprisingly scarce at this early juncture. Providing a sense of calm and direction in light of this setback though may be the more pressing and immediate concern.

(Image permission: Dean Woolley)

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