By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Johnstown Chiefs owner Jim Weber wasn’t naming names on Friday.
Instead, Weber spoke of numbers.
Potential candidates to replace Frank Anzalone as head coach of the Chiefs: Three.
Possible NHL affiliates to replace former minority owner/affiliate Tampa Bay Lightning: Multiple.
That’s about as specific as Weber was on the record.
“Our offer to Scotty Bowman still stands,” Weber said, laughing, after he was asked to name his candidates.
Of course, the Hall of Fame coach and former Stanley Cup winner won’t be on the Johnstown bench this winter.
“The truth is, we have three quality candidates that we’re talking to,” Weber said. “I feel that I’m in a very exciting position right now to advance the quality of the team in the future.”
At least one of those candidates was interviewed last week, possibly in Johnstown, sources said. Another is still involved in the hockey postseason.
Toledo’s Nick Vitucci, originally high on Weber’s list, had been ruled out two weeks ago.
Vitucci probably intends to remain in Toledo even though the Storm won’t play the next two ECHL seasons while a new arena is built.
“They’re all experienced and there are varying degrees of experience,” Weber said. “They’re all hungry coaches that want to win. They understand what Johnstown needs as far as an entertaining hockey product.”
When asked if he had a timeline to name a coach, Weber said, “I want to take a pass on that.”
Weber made what might be perceived as a risky move by severing nearly all ties to Tampa Bay. Over the past two years, the Lightning were in charge of Johnstown’s hockey operations.
Tampa hired Anzalone and Vice President of Hockey Operations Ryan Belec. The Lightning provided 10 to 13 contract players at various times during the past season.
The Chiefs’ intended to save money through Tampa’s handling of hockey operations. But Weber and Tampa GM Jay Feaster each said the financial commitment had decreased in two years and probably would have dropped even more had the two organizations partnered again this season.
“The financial savings that I thought I would receive from Tampa weren’t as sizable as I thought,” Weber said. “That was disappointing. There were additional costs of having the affiliation that weren’t foreseen.”
Weber declined to elaborate, but the Chiefs’ carrying contract players who were frequently healthy scratches or disgruntled players such as Andre Deveaux certainly didn’t help the locker room.
Weber is optimistic that the Chiefs will land another, more conventional, affiliate.
“It looks pretty good on an affiliation. I could get one today, but I’m waiting to get the right coach,” Weber said. “If I get the right coach in, the affiliation will take care of itself.”