The search for the next head coach at Maine has progressed to the next phase. Athletic Director Steve Abbott announced the seven members of the search committee that will be tasked with finding the best candidate.
Former Black Bear captain Peter Metcalf was the biggest name on the search committee that was announced today by Abbott. He was a freshman when Maine won the 1999 NCAA Championship and was the captain of the 2001-02 team that lost to Minnesota in overtime in the NCAA Finals. He was a tremendous leader on that team which played through the adversity of their head coach having passed away just weeks before the season. The Pembroke, Mass. native works in the financial field in Portland now.
As reported last week, Bob Corkum has been named the Interim Head Coach. He has been an Associate Head Coach for Tim Whitehead since 2008. The Massachusetts native played in over 700 games in the NHL but isn't the name most Maine fans wanted to hear.
Jim Montgomery was the favorite among most fans and boosters, but the Dubuque Fighting Saints head coach and former Black Bear has taken the head coaching position at Denver as of last Sunday.
Corkum is certainly a viable candidate. He has an NHL pedigree, has experience coaching junior hockey and has been a coach for some international competitions. He was a blue-collar player who would work hard in the corners.
There are plenty of candidates with Maine ties that continue to pop up in rumors in addition to Corkum as well as Montgomery who now obviously is crossed off Abbott's wish list.
The 1992 Hobey Baker Award winner, Scott Pellerin, is the head coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL. He had previously spent six seasons as an assistant coach for the Manchester Monarchs. He lacks college hockey coaching experience, but his long NHL playing career and success as a player at Maine could have some appeal and revitalize the fan base.
Greg Cronin was the interim head coach at Maine in 1996 when Shawn Walsh was not behind the bench. He was also an assistant at Colorado College and Maine and played his college hockey in the state, at Division III Colby. He left Maine when Walsh came back, and worked for the US National Development Program and as an assistant for the New York Islanders. He then took over as the head coach for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL) before returning to the college game where he was the head coach at Northeastern. He guided the Huskies to a few good seasons before bolting back to the pros and is currently an assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Cronin coaches with an edge and would most likely be successful in Orono, but his propensity to not stick around at one place for too long might be seen as a negative with the administration.
Campbell Blair was an assistant for Whitehead from 2001 to 2006 when he left to become the top assistant at Alaska-Anchorage for Dave Shyiak who was recently fired. Blair has applied for the opening in Anchorage, but also has interest in the Maine opening where he played in the late 1980s.
Another name being discussed is Carolina Hurricanes scout Gene Reilly. The former Elmira College player was an assistant at Maine under Shawn Walsh when the Black Bears won the 1999 NCAA Championship and remained on staff until 2001 where he took a job in the AHL. After a few seasons coaching in the minors, he returned to the college game as an assistant at Northeastern and Harvard.
Guy Perron, who graduated from Maine in 1990, was an assistant coach at Maine and Dartmouth and also was the head coach of the women's team at Maine. He played professionally in Europe after his playing career at Maine. He is a long shot, but certainly a possibility.
Providence College coach Nate Leaman's first job in coaching was as a graduate assistant for Maine's last national championship team. He has often mentioned the many things he learned from Shawn Walsh that season. The SUNY-Cortland graduate left Orono after one season to become an assistant at Harvard. He quickly worked his way up the ladder, being named the head coach at Union in 2003. After eight years at Union where he built the hockey program into a legitimate contender, Leaman left to take the reins at Providence. He is considered one of the brightest young minds in the coaching profession. This is a real long shot. He has four years left on his contract at Providence, but he'll probably listen to a Maine offer even if just for leverage at Providence.
The biggest splash could be made if the Black Bears can woe former Denver coach George Gwozdecky to Orono. He has no ties to the Maine program, but had built a perennial contender at DU before being abruptly fired earlier this month for a lack of recent success in the NCAA Tournament. He led the Pioneers to the 2004 and 2005 NCAA Championships. His program also sent numerous players to the NHL.
According to Abbott, the search committee has been instructed to return a candidate within two months.
Jeff Cox covers college hockey for SBNation. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.