Mavericks ready to return to 'normal' after up-and-down first year under Tad O'Had
It's been anything but a quiet offseason for first-year Kansas City Mavericks coach Tad O'Had.
"We've been busy, that's for sure," O'Had said of conducting exit interviews with his players, making phone calls to agents and possible future Mavericks players, and working with the yet-to-be-named front office personnel who will replace Brent Thiessen, the only president and general manager in the history of the franchise who was let go late in the season.
"The exit interviews were the biggest thing at the end of the season. Each of the guys got physicals, moved out of their housing, and while we didn't have the season we had hoped for, many of them are eager to return to the Mavericks to have the type of season we had hoped for this year."
When asked about the big changes in the front office, O'Had said, "The front office personnel changes will be announced soon. It's a process, and we are all working together."
The Mavericks finished the season – which began with Thiessen coaching the team in its first game as O'Had and assistant coach Kohl Schultz were in COVID protocol – with a 31-31-8-2 record, good for 72 points and a sixth-place finish in the ECHL’s Western Conference in a makeshift year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Individual wins, despite Mavericks falling short of playoffs
The Mavericks did not make the playoffs, but many individual players enjoyed great success.
"We were the only team with four players in the top 20 in scoring," O'Had said, referring to Brodie Reid (eighth with 60 points), Darik Angeli (16th with 51 points) and Lane Scheidl and Rob Bordson (tie for 18th with 50 points).
"We had three D-men in the top 20 in scoring (Marcus Crawford, fifth, 42; Willie Corrin, eighth with 36; and Zach Osburn, 19th with 26) and our combined special teams finished third in the league – so we had some success, but it did not result in the team success we were all looking for."
O'Had has a game plan for the 2021-22 campaign and he is already laying the foundation for a successful season starting in October.
"We've gone through the seven stages of grieving," he explained. "I got some great feedback from our guys during the exit interviews and we can start signing guys for next season July 9, and we're going to announce those signings to get our fans excited.”
O’Had said that was difficult this season, which included limited crows – until the end of the season – because of the pandemic.
Getting to know the Independence community, working with the Calgary Flames
"You know, we had players who really wanted to get out in the community and become a part of Independence and Eastern Jackson County this past season, but they couldn't because of the COVID protocol,” he said. “I wish our fans could have met the guys because they were a special group. And we hope to bring that core group back next season, a season that we are hoping will be more normal, where our guys can go out into the community and interact with our fans."
That's something rookie goalie Matt Greenfield is anticipating.
"This is such a class organization and Tad and Kohl are great coaches," Greenfield said after his exit interview. "If I come back – and I hope that is a possibility – I want to get involved with the fans, get our in the community and get to know the area. I loved my time here and want to be a part of a winning season, a winning culture, with the Mavericks."
O'Had is also hoping to create a more beneficial working relationship with the team's NHL affiliate, the Calgary Flames.
"We need support from Calvary and Stockton (the American Hockey League affiliate), and I believe we will get it." O'Had said, as players who moved between the affiliates had to take part in a 14-day quarantine before they could play because the Heat moved from California to Canada because of the pandemic.
Looking forward to next ECHL season
"And we have to add more hard skills. Being in the Mountain Division with Allen and Wichita, we have to add toughness but not take away from our speed and offensive skills. We can't be pushed around, and that is something we are definitely going to address this season."
Because the 2020-2021 season started late because of the pandemic, this will be the shortest offseason in ECHL history. And the league should return to normal with four divisions in two conferences instead just two conferences because several teams opted out of the ECHL season because of COVID-19. And two new teams will join the ECHL – the Trois-Rivieres Lions in Quebec and the Iowa Heartlanders, who the Mavericks open the new season against on Oct. 22 in Coralville, Iowa (near Iowa City).
"We're getting after it, and we're all excited about next season," O'Had said. "We're going to give our fans a team they can be proud of – on and off the ice –and we're hoping things get back to normal."