Doug Christiansen in frame for return to Belfast Giants
Published 12/04/2014 | 11:00
Doug Christiansen has refused to rule out making a dramatic return to the Belfast Giants as successor to departed coach Paul Adey.
The 35-year-old American has described Belfast as a 'very special place' and, as a free agent, he is perfectly placed to make a comeback to the Odyssey.
Christiansen led the Giants to the Elite League title in 2012, but quit the club this time last year, less than 24 hours after a Play-off final defeat against the Nottingham Panthers, to become coach of the Sheffield Steelers.
Now, after being sacked by the Steelers in February, his name is in the frame to take over in Belfast after Adey's exit, which was announced on Thursday night.
"I had three great years in Belfast and the people that know me well know the reasons why I left," said Christiansen.
"We won the league – we should have won more – and Belfast is definitely a very special place to me."
The Giants and Adey failed to reach an agreement over he terms of a new contract and that led to an almost inevitable parting of the ways, plunging general manager Todd Kelman into a new search for a coach, just a year after Adey was seleted to take over from Christiansen.
It remains to be seen if Christiansen, who will lead the Great Britain team into their World Championship tournament in Lithuania next weekend, makes his interest in the Giants job official, but he expects a high number of top quality candidates to apply for the post.
"I was surprised at first when I heard that Paul had left the Giants," said Christiansen.
"At present I have the World Championships coming up with the GB team and I am 100 per cent focused on that.
"I am sure that Todd Kelman will search across Europe and north-America for a top coach and there will be plenty of interest given the club that Belfast is."
Three other former Giants coaches, Dave Whistle, Rob Stewart and Steve Thornton are also among the early runners for the job. Two ex players will also be in the mix, with former Sheffield coach Dave Matsos, who is now back working in Canada, declaring an interest this time last year before dropping out of the race.
Jeff Hutchins, who played for the Giants under Tony Hand during the 2004-05 season, has just led the Dundee Stars to an impressive third place finish in the Elite League as a player-coach and could figure high on Kelman's wanted list.
Whoever the new coach is, he will have captain Adam Keefe (pictured) in the team after the Giants confirmed yesterday that he has signed a new deal, this time for two more seasons.
It is a smart piece of business from Kelman, who also secured Keefe's immediate future early last season, at a time when no coach was in place.
"Every single team in the league would love to have a player like Adam Keefe," said Kelman.
"He is just a genuinely great person and a great player. On the ice, he is our best penalty killer, he hits, scores, fights when he needs to. He is just a real old school pro.
"This past weekend he could barely walk and we had to keep him off the ice on Sunday after he played on one leg on Saturday to help us win our play-off semi-final. He shouldn't have played, but he did because that is who he is."
"I am very pleased to have him back for at least the next two seasons.
"My intention, and I think Adam's as well, would be for him to finish his playing career as a Giant. This two-year deal is hopefully not the last time we announce signing Adam Keefe."