Tuesday, 22 January 2019

A Major Plot Twist

The Sixth Sense. The Usual Suspects. Fight Club. These three movies are examples where a great plot twist is introduced near the end of the movie that cause people to talk about and remember the movie for years to come. I won't spoil any of the above films by revealing the plot twist, but there was a major plot twist today in Canada West women's hockey, and it was one I didn't see coming at any point after all that has happened.

I'll give Global Lethbridge's Matt Battochio all the credit on this one as he broke the news on Twitter about an hour ago.
Excuse my Minion-like response, but...
This is a move that is not only unexpected as the University of Lethbridge was preparing to defend itself and Janus in court against four players in a $1 million civil suit, but removing Janus at this point in time while the Pronghorns are in contention for a playoff spot seems entirely untimely if not a curious move. It's entirely speculation on my part, but perhaps the university felt its case in the civil suit wasn't as strong as they may have originally thought.

The announcement seems to have been planned by the university as the women's hockey team's webpages with Janus as the head coach have already been removed, and Janus' name and position have been removed from the team's roster page. The scrubbing of Janus' name from the pages would have taken some coordination between university departments, so the announcement made earlier and reported by Battochio seem to be the final steps in closing the book on Janus' career with the Pronghorns. By stating that the university will have no further comment on the dismissal allows them to proceed quietly with what I believe will be a settlement with the players in the lawsuit.

Make no mistake that Lethbridge's documented poor records over Janus' tenure from 2015 until today seemed to no factor in the dismissal. As I pointed out on this very blog, Janus' record as head coach was less than impressive as shown by the records below, and the 1-23 record in the second halves of the previous two seasons - seasons in which they fell from second-last to last over the second halves - would normally be enough to prompt questions about the effectiveness of the head coach and his or her staff.

2018-19: 4-10-0-2 - 14 points (7th) with playoff spots TBD.
2017-18: 3-9-2-2 - 15 points (7th); finished 3-18-2-5 - 18 pts (8th).
2016-17: 2-11-1-2 - 10 points (7th); finished 3-21-1-3 - 14 pts (8th).
2015-16: 6-7-2-1 - 23 points (7th); finished 9-14-4-1 - 36 pts (7th).

It appears that assistant coach Hailey Wood will take over in the interim just as she did in 2014-15 after Chand Kaip left the program. With a playoff spot seemingly in reach for the first time in a few seasons, it seemed as though Michelle Janus may finally lead her squad to the promised land with a few more wins and a little help. Whatever the reasons were to dismiss Janus today, the University of Lethbridge likely altered that plan in a significant way today and I can't help but feel for the players who were playing their tails off in trying to make the playoffs. And with first-place Manitoba coming into Nicholas Sheran Arena this weekend, things don't get any easier for the Pronghorns.

I've reached out to the players named in the lawsuit for comment, but I haven't received a response yet. I'm not sure where this dismissal leaves them regarding the civil suit filed against the University of Lethbridge, but perhaps the school took my advice and is planning on settling with the former players.

By firing Janus and agreeing to a settlement, the university would be able to put this whole incident behind them and move forward while the players in the suit would get some closure regarding their ordeal surrounding Janus. I'm sure there may be a few non-disclosure agreements that the school will insist the players sign, and that will be up to them to decided whether that's something they want to do. But this seems like the most logical, least embarrassing conclusion for the University of Lethbridge, so I'll be keeping an eye on developments with this case over the next few weeks.

The only thing that is certain right now is that Michelle Janus will not be at practice nor behind the bench this weekend when the Pronghorns take the ice.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

UPDATE: CTV Calgary reports that the team walked out on practice today after being unhappy with conditions on the team. Shaun Frenette has more in this report.

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