Yesterday, University of Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez announced that long-time hockey head coach, Mike Eaves, would be relieved of his duties. Though he led Wisconsin to the the 2006 National Championship and consistently kept the Badgers near the top of the college hockey world, his last few years behind the UW bench were less than stellar.
In the 2014-15 season, Eaves led the Badgers to a terrible 4-26-5 record. This year, he followed that up with an equally awful 8-19-8 mark. Not long into the season, after another slow start for the Badgers, various college hockey outlets (including myself) began speculating whether Eaves was on the hot seat.
As it turns out, his seat was hot and Eaves got burned. Alvarez, in his announcement, explained that a national search for Eaves’ replacement would begin immediately. It didn’t take long for “College Hockey Twitter” to jump in on the conversation and offer names of potential replacements.
Among those names: University of Wisconsin hockey alumnus, George Gwozdecky.
Gwoz, as he’s known in DU hockey circles (all of college hockey, really), just finished his one-year contract as the head coach with the Valor Christian High School Eagles hockey team. In short, unless he has already signed another customary one-year contract (all Valor employees are on one-year contracts) with the school, the former DU head coach and Lightning assistant is on the coaching market once again.
Even back when Gwozdecky was fired from his post as Denver head coach, speculation arose about a potential reunion with his alma mater. Of course at that time, Eaves was still a successful head coach for the Badgers and Gwozdecky decided to try his hand behind an NHL bench in Tampa with the Lightning.
After the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup ended last year, Gwoz made the decision to return to Denver, spend more time with his family and coach high school hockey in Colorado, a state not exactly known for the sport.
When he returned to coach at Valor on the one-year contract, it was believed that his year with the Eagles would just be a temporary job until a more appealing option (like Wisconsin) opened up. Though he never confirmed that idea, Valor’s lack of deep success this year might be telling.
It’s impossible to tell right now whether Gwoz would take the job with the Badgers if and when Alvarez offered it to him. But speculation is fair and it’s warranted. Wisconsin is one of the most attractive jobs in college hockey. There are few programs with more history and tradition than Wisconsin and the idea of leading the Badgers back to the top of the college hockey world is an appealing one, to say the least.
Gwoz is one of the most successful coaches in the University of Denver history. He has even already led a successful restoration project in the Mile High City. He took a perennial college hockey doormat under Frank Serratore to national contenders in just a few years. In short, Gwoz is the reason why DU is a perennial national contender.
He started the streak of 20+ win seasons. He won two straight national titles. He recruited better than most coaches. He built the University of Denver hockey program into the national power that it is.
Gwozdecky has the resume that Alvarez will no doubt be looking for in his next hockey coach. He’s done the job Wisconsin needs before and it’s reasonable to think that he can do it again, especially with the checkbook that a Big Ten program has.
The factors for Gwoz’s return to the college hockey ranks are there. There is no guarantee that Gwozdecky will take the job if Wisconsin offers it to him, but you can be sure that he will at least seriously consider it.
The ability to be the coach that restores his alma mater to national prominence has to be something Gwoz will seriously consider. It appears that he’d be a great fit with the Badgers. Gwozdecky was good for college hockey when he was in Denver. He can be again if he returns to lead Wisconsin back from college hockey’s basement.