The University of Maine hockey team has a long history of excellence. From 1984 to 2001 Shawn Walsh built a team that won two national championships (’93 and ’99), five Hockey East championships (’89, ’92, ’93, ’00, ’04), and three regular season Hockey East championships (’88, ’93, ’95). These are just the winning years. The Black Bears have been to the national dance multiple times since Walsh took over the team in ’84, going every year between 1987 and 1993, once in 1995, then every year between 1999 and 2007. Since 1987 Maine has only seen two periods (1994 and 1996-1998) in which they did not go to the tournament at all.

In September 2001 Shawn Walsh died from kidney cancer, leaving the team to current coach Tim Whitehead. As shown by the statistics above he was able to get the team to the national tournament for the next 6 years. This was due in part to excellent recruitment on the part of Walsh and the freshman players brought on in 2000-2001 who stayed on through the 2005/2006 school years. In present day Maine fans, used to the feast of championships and higher level games and achievements, are antsy because their team has not made it to the NCAA tourney since 2007 and they have not won a Hockey East championship since 2004. At the end of the 2010-2011 season many called for a change in leadership.

Whitehead was offered a three year extension on his contract and has two more years of that extension to work. While I sympathize with anyone following up a coaching great like Walsh, with 4 years in the trash and 7 years since a conference win at some point someone needs to say that it’s time to say goodbye. Relying on his own recruitment from 2006 on Whitehead has produced nothing like what Maine fans are used to, and the rebuilding excuse can only work for so long. Eventually the excuse must become a coaching issue, an issue resolved easily if people are willing and able to let go.

Without a winning record or some kind of championship run in the next few years I think it is time to say goodbye to Tim Whitehead, and time to say hello to a coach that might return the team to greatness.

Advertisements