The Tech Hockey Guide staff brainstormed potential candidates and settled on our top picks. Through the next few weeks we will break down potential candidates while discussing pedigree as a player and coach as well as likelihood of being Coach Pearson’s replacement. Yesterday, we profiled Chris Bergeron, the current head coach of BGSU. Today we take a look at the last Pearson assistant on the list, Gary Shuchuk.
Before we go any farther, the staff at THG would like to explain the name of this one. Assistant Coach Gary Shuchuk announced via twitter on April 28, that he became a US Citizen so in honor of that, we decided to nickname him, "The Citizen"
Shuchuk played four seasons for the University of Wisconsin Badgers where he served as the alternate captain of the 1989-90 NCAA championship team. In that senior season, he lead the team in scoring with 80 points including 41 goals. Throughout his college career Shuchuk amassed 176 points in 177 games while playing for legendary coach, Jeff Sauer.
During his days with the Badgers he played along side Tony Granato, Steve Rohlik, and Mark Osiecki who have all reached the pinnacle of college hockey as head coaches with Granato (Wisconsin) and Rohlik (Ohio State) still in charge of Big Ten programs.
Birthplace: Edmonton, Alberta
Current Position: Assistant Coach, Michigan Tech
After graduating from Wisconsin, Shuchuk went on to have a successful professional career including stints with the Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings, but the majority of his success was had in the AHL and IHL where he spent majority of his career from 1990 through 1997. Over that stretch, he played in 286 games for Adirondack (AHL), Phoenix (IHL), and Houston (IHL) where he scored 113 goals and 289 points, averaging over a point per game. In 1992, he helped lead the Adirondack Red Wings to the Calder Cup—the AHL's championship—where he scored 13 points in 19 playoff games.
After the 1996-97 season, Shuchuk bounced around Europe and North America before his playing career finally came to a close after scoring 29 points in 67 games with the Springfield Falcons (AHL). After a break following his playing career, he started his college coaching career when he joined the staff of Mike Eaves at his alma mater, Wisconsin. The team was just coming off an NCAA championship game appearance and needed to replace both assistants as Mark Osiecki (Ohio State) and Kevin Patrick (Muskegon,USHL) had left for head coaching jobs of their own. During his first four years as an assistant coach, the Badgers averaged over twenty wins a season and made the tournament twice before crashing in 2014-15 when the team only managed 4 wins with only two coming in Big Ten conference play. After that season both Shuchuk and the other assistant, Matt Walsh, were fired as scapegoats, but success continued to dwindle and Mike Eaves was fired during the last offseason by the Badgers.
After assistant coach Bill Muckalt left Michigan Tech following their first NCAA tournament appearance in over 30 years for a head coach position in the USHL, Shuchuk again came in as a replacement. The team continued success and won over twenty games in his two seasons as assistant under Mel Pearson. His work with the forwards included a spectacular senior season from Max Vallis, who more than doubled his career point total in his final 18 games with nearly a point per game production and guiding both Gavin Gould and Alex Smith to surprisingly strong rookie seasons last year.
Coach Shuchuk has a familiarity with the program, players, and recruits similar to the other former Pearson assistants. He also seems pretty laid back and has given the appearance that he doesn't necessarily want the job or at least hasn't been gunning for it. That could be reason enough to consider him for the position, as it shows an understanding of his role. He has shown the leadership skills as a player throughout his career and his pedigree shows that he knows what it takes to get to the next level. Players and recruits alike should respond to that.
His perceived lack of interest and the fact that he was a part of the collapse of a very powerful Wisconsin Badgers program could give pause to athletic director Suzanne Sanregret and whoever else is involved in this process for Michigan Tech. His short career as a coach may also hurt his chances especially considering neither stint resulted in improvement. That might be a bit unfair though, considering each program was coming off one of their best seasons in at least five years.
All indications are that Shuchuk has been popular among the players that were a part of his two seasons with Michigan Tech. If would be foolish for Sanregret to not at least entertain how Shuchuk would plan to build on the program that Pearson has left behind. Whether or not Shuchuk could wow her enough to get the job is another question entirely. There are a bunch of qualified candidates so it is difficult to see how Shuchuk wins the job, but the THG readers chose him as their favorite among all four of Pearson's former assistants.
Feature image courtesy of Travis Pierce