Wichita Thunder Should Retain Head Coach Bruce Ramsay
There is an old adage in sports that says you are only as good as your last game. This is a business after all, and the expectation is very high to deliver, especially when one is the head coach.
While one game may not make as much of a difference, coaches are expected to lead their team to the playoffs, or at least to show dramatic improvement over the previous season. Often, if a team does not reach either one of those expectations, the coach finds himself looking for a job.
However, there are instances where a coach has proven himself (or herself) to be worthy of additional time with the team, even if the club has not reached the playoffs over the last couple seasons. This is the case for Wichita Thunder Head Coach Bruce Ramsay, who has proven that he is the right man to lead this team in 2023-24.
Let the Numbers Speak for Themselves
The Wichita Thunder have not made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. The club finished 27-36-9 in 2021-22, and went 33-32-7 this past season. They finished seventh a year ago, and finished fifth this year, missing the playoffs by just two points.
In 2020-21, Ramsay led the team to a 41-22-8 mark, as they finished second in the Western Conference. The team lost in a five-game series in the first round of the playoffs, but the regular-season performance earned Ramsay Coach of the Year honors.
In his four seasons with the Wichita Thunder, Bruce Ramsay is a combined 125-122-32. That is a solid performance, especially considering the recent history for the Thunder. The team has missed the playoffs in seven of the last nine seasons, including six of the last eight since the team join the ECHL.
Ramsay has a proven track record of success. He earned his 500th coaching victory this past season, and has coached over 1000 games in his career. In his 16 seasons as a head coach, Ramsay has made the playoffs nine times, including reaching the finals (2008-09). There are few coaches out there that can boast that type of resume who are available, and it literally makes no sense to go in another direction when the team has a proven winner behind the bench.
Let’s Talk about the Intangibles
The numbers are impressive, but there are some other key reasons why the Thunder should keep Bruce Ramsay around, at least for another season. It starts with his influence on the players. The team has come to love their head coach, and gives him 100% each and every night. To the man, each player in that locker room has a strong loyalty for Ramsay, and that is something that is hard to achieve in today’s sports world.
While the results have not been spectacular in the win column, no one can deny that Ramsay is a true teacher of the game and has helped to develop some of the best rookies the league has seen over the last few seasons. This past year was a great example, where Michal Stinil scored 31 goals and had 79 points. Quinn Preston also reached the 20-goal plateau (23) and had 61 points, and Peter Bates delivered 22 goals and had 40 total points. Ramsay has a knack for finding young talent and turning them into some of the best players in the ECHL.
It is also common knowledge that the San Jose Sharks opted to sign with the Wichita Thunder because of the work that Bruce Ramsay does. The Sharks had several options, but chose Wichita because they knew that players like Timur Ibragimov and Strauss Mann were going to learn from a head coach who truly understands how to develop players. Hiring a new head coach may mean that San Jose opts to go in another direction with their affiliate, which would be very sad news for Wichita fans, as this club has a lot of young talent and is going to increase that talent with a number of high draft picks this year. Keeping Ramsay around ensures that the affiliate deal will remain in place, which should have a dramatic impact on the Thunder next season.
Avoid the Noise
There is no doubt that some will be calling for a new head coach in Wichita. There are likely already some who have been advocating for a change, but that would be a mistake. Bruce Ramsay has proven that he can win at this level and, truth be told, Wichita is not the easiest place to win. However, the Thunder head coach is creating a culture that is drawing the right types of players and he is developing them into true talent. He deserves at least one more season to accomplish his goal of leading this team to a deep playoff run, if not the Kelly Cup championship. To let him get away would be a serious mistake.
By Robert Pannier