After the 2012-2013 season, Dwight Mullins knew he was returning. The new ownership group had just taken over, and the Jackals, despite their of the ice distractions, still made it to the Kelly Cup playoffs. It certainly warranted at least a wait and see approach to Coach Mullins for a second season.
All season, Elmira was above making excuses. We'd poke and prod to see if Trenton's folding took a toll on the Jackals schedule, but they always said, "It's part of the game."
When the Buffalo and Rochester affiliations were announced, Mullins was there, but was towards the back of the Splitrock Brew Pub. It's at that point that most of knew, we'd probably seen the last of the Mullins' led Jackals.
You may not have liked his style, but you can't deny that he helped guide the Jackals through one of the most difficult times in their organization's history. As much as Elmira took a chance on him, he took a chance on Elmira.
He was announced as their head coach just days before the puck dropped on the new season. He left a job in Texas, for a shot in the ECHL, with the Jackals, who's near future was undetermined, and uncertain.
With all of that, he helped keep the season, the hope, and the Jackals alive, as they continued their stretch playoff appearances.
That streak came to a close this past season. For whatever reason, Elmira just couldn't put it together. Leads slipped away and former Jackals always seemed to make the highlight reel against their old team.
That leads us to where we are, now.
This time around, Elmira has a position available. This coaching job has local ownership that's dedicated to it's surrounding area. There's no questions about whether there will actually be a season. It has close affiliations to keep in constant contact, as well as a slew of young talent on the way. Maybe even most important, with Evansville's hiring of Mullins, it's the last job available in the ECHL.
Everyone who is eyeing a job, is seeing that this position is available. The job security alone is going to attract plenty of interested and qualified candidates. One's that would have stayed away when the position opened in 2012. The Jackals also have some time. The puck is not dropping on the new season next week, but free agency is right around the corner, so there is a sense of urgency.
Time will only tell how the Jackals progress next. It will be interesting to see just how involved the Sabres will be in this process. Will they be a consultant, or will they be the ones telling it how it is?
I have a feeling we'll find out sooner, rather than later.