Saginaw Spirit General Manager Dave Drinkill announced this afternoon that the team has relieved Greg Gilbert of his duties as head coach.
“The Saginaw Spirit would like to thank Greg Gilbert for all his hard work and dedication to the organization over the last five seasons,” Drinkill said in an email from the team. “After losing 8 straight games, the time has come to make a change behind the bench. There is never an easy time for something like this to happen and it is the toughest part of the hockey industry. We want to wish Greg Gilbert all the best moving forward.”
Gilbert joined the Spirit in the middle of the 2011-12 season, replacing former coach/GM Todd Watson. Gilbert went on to a great 20-10-0-6 finish that season, winning OHL coach of the year honors. He leaves the Spirit with a regular season record of 134-134-26 and a 7-18 post-season record.
Gilbert came to Saginaw with a very extensive NHL resume, playing 15 seasons for the New York Islanders, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, and St. Louis Blues. He won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Islanders in 1982 and 1983. He won a third Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994.
After retiring as a player following the 1995-96 NHL season, Gilbert went on to a 19 year coaching career that started with the Worcester (Mass.) Ice Cats of the AHL. He would have stops with the Mississauga Ice Dogs in the OHL before spending two years as head coach of the Calgary Flames in the NHL then back to the AHL for five more years before coming to Saginaw.
The Spirit announced that current Northern Ontario Scout Moe Mantha will become the interim head coach moving forward throughout the 2015-16 season.
Mantha -who played 12 NHL seasons with Winnipeg, Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Minnesota, and Philadelphia- was once before named the Spirit interim head coach back in the 2003 season, which eventually led to a full time coaching position with the Windsor Spitfires.
Mantha returned to Michigan in 2010 to coach and co-own the Michigan Warriors, a tier II Junior team that played in the NAHL and were based in Flint before joining the Spirit as a scout.
Drinkill also mentioned that the organization will be conducting a search for a new head coach at the end of this season.
“Moe Mantha has been our Northern Ontario Scout and is coming in to coach the rest of the year,” Drinkill said. “At the conclusion of the 2015-16 season, I will be doing an extensive search to find the next head coach of the Saginaw Spirit. I want to go through a thorough process making sure we have the right leader and teacher in place for our team to be successful on and off the ice moving forward.”
Spirit President and Managing Partner Craig Goslin also welcomed and thanked Mantha for coming to lead the team this season, while also noting the teams ultimate commitment is to the players and their development.
“Moe Mantha comes from a great hockey family, he is a positive, high energy head coach with 20 plus years of coaching experience,” Goslin said. “We are grateful that he was able to adjust from his scouting position with us to fill the role behind the bench as our interim head coach. Our obligation and commitment is to our players and their ability to compete at a very high level.”
Mantha will be behind the bench tomorrow night when the Spirit host the Sarnia Sting for a 7:05 p.m. face off at the Dow Event Center.