OPINION: O’Connell’s departure necessary for Men’s Hockey

On the heels of a rocky season on Comm. Ave, the Boston University athletics department showed it’s committed to raising the expectations and performance of Terrier hockey by setting out to replace former head coach Albie O’Connell. 

O’Connell’s tenure at BU wasn’t as bad as some angry tweets might describe, but it was certainly not up to par with the standard of the program. He garnered a 58-49-16 overall record and led his group to a Beanpot championship and NCAA appearance –– but the ruts between those successes were pretty low. 

The Terriers have been booted from the first round of the Hockey East playoffs for two consecutive years and had a quick exit in the 2020-2021 NCAA tournament, while not even receiving a bid this time around. 

Despite their 14-1-1 run from December to late February, the inconsistency and, simply put, bad hockey, which started in October, was unacceptable. Injuries didn’t help the squad and it can’t all be put on coaching, but the lack of control O’Connell had over the locker room showed in his team’s passionless play.

BU’s turnaround effort would mean a lot more if it amounted to anything, and unfortunately, when the calendar flipped to March, it didn’t. After losing 8-1 to Maine in their last regular season game and 3-1 to University of Connecticut in the HE quarterfinals, the Terriers’ redemption tour was halted when it mattered most. 

To go far in the postseason, a roster has to not only want to play for each other, but for their coach too. From the outside, O’Connell didn’t ignite that winning fire in his players, and from a media standpoint, the energy and fervor was rarely there. 

Looking at a team like the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which has collected three trophies –– including a national championship –– in the span of a calendar year, the guys in the Minutemen jerseys would run through a wall for head coach Greg Carvel. BU needs to bring that kind of culture back to their own program. 

O’Connell had a stellar playing career at BU and is an outstanding recruiter, but arguably a better assistant coach. He understands the game to a tee, but that doesn’t always translate into being a strong head coach. This next hire is pivotal for the organization with a fanbase that’s growing impatient of watching subpar hockey.

Jay Pandolfo came on staff as associate head coach this season. With his NHL experience and Terrier alumni status, it would make sense for his name to be in the hat of potential candidates. 

Before BU, Pandolfo served as the assistant coach for the Boston Bruins for five years and it’s curious to me why he would leave a job at the pro level if a head coach position wasn’t guaranteed in the college-level job description. That said, he’s good at what he does as an assistant and may be content with that specific role –– only time will tell. 

Many previous head coaches have had a prior affiliation with the program, including David Quinn and legendary coach Jack Parker who preceded O’Connell in recent history. This factor has been significantly important to the team but it also shrinks the selection pool. 

BU Director of Athletics Drew Marrochello wouldn’t have made this decision if he didn’t have a couple of people in mind to fill the role, but there’s no obvious answer as of now. 

On the athletes’ side of things, it’s not easy losing a head coach whether you liked playing for them or not. The system is about to completely change and that takes an adjustment period. The Terriers’ rising senior class contains 14 of some of their most talented guys who deserve their last year on Comm. Ave to be competitive and not simply a transitional season. 

It’s a big question whether O’Connell’s departure fires these guys up or makes them more skeptical about the stability of the program and influences their choice to stay. I imagine they’re excited for a new direction, but this next hire needs to hit the ground running for a memorable final campaign for this group. 

As BU men’s hockey opens this next chapter, the Terrier faithful wish O’Connell and his family nothing but the best and thank him for his time and effort. He’s a great guy and it will be interesting to see where he ends up after all of this, too.

This is a developing story so be sure to stay updated on Twitter @BOShockeyblog and Instagram @boston.hockey.blog as more information is released.

19 thoughts on “OPINION: O’Connell’s departure necessary for Men’s Hockey”

  1. Its true. Watching Albie OConnell in postgame interviews, he always seemed too willing to accept losses.

    • No one wanted to win more then coach. I will give you when he first started he did not look comfortable in post game press conferences but I think the past two years he did a much better job.

  2. way to call it Belle: This next hire is pivotal for the organization with a fanbase that’s growing impatient of watching subpar hockey.

    • Bu hockey is not subpar if you hate the team so much root for another team. When we won the beanpot and went 14-1-1 the blog went empty. We will be successful no matter who the coach is. Unfortunately with a new coach we might have to rebuild but only time will tell. I’m going to root them on regardless. We have a top notch program and your knocks on it won’t change that.

  3. Thanks Belle! I am not so concerned whether or not a BU alum takes the helm. As long as it leads to our program becoming a college hockey powerhouse once again, I will support whoever is selected.

    • Vinnie why do you comment on the bu blog if you hate bu so much. We will have a new coach we won the beanpot. We have the talent to win a national championship but so do a lot of other college teams so if your measuring stick is that then year in year out you will hate this team and constantly call for change.
      You can root against or for whoever you want but I think it’s more enjoyable of a experience to pick a program and stick with it. Bu will return to the national program its only a matter of time and all the haters on here will hop back on board the bu band wagon and I’m sure you will be the first one vinnie. But what I have over you is I never get off the train so my viewing of bu winning will not be cheapened.

      • Why do you assume Vinnie hates BU at all? Because he’s expressing frustration over a team that’s been underachieving? Because he’s sharing valid criticism of a program who’s winning percentage and success culture has declined over the past 4 seasons.

        You don’t seem to understand that your way of supporting a team is not the only way. Some (read: most here) people rightfully show their passion through analysis, discussion and constructive criticism. When you attack people for showing their support in this way you’re attempting to rewrite the rules of fandom according to your specific values.

        This is ludicrous.

        All you’re doing (again and again) is proving all of us right by modeling a childish attitude toward free and open debate.

  4. Colin, being a “hater” is exactly the opposite of what you think it is. To further clarify this point, there are teams in pro sports who are rivals of my pro teams. When those rival teams are doing poorly (like we were over the past four years), I hope with all I have inside of me that those teams make no changes and keep the same staff in place – so they will be less of a threat to my team.

    You continue to point out that Albie won a Beanpot and you seem to conveniently forget that all of us were on this blog celebrating it and commending the team and coach. It’s just that over the four years of his leadership as head coach, there was not nearly enough of those victories/championships. Nobody said he didn’t win anything. He is only being accused of underachieving … and for a prolonged amount of time. As for the 14-1-1 stretch, it cannot be viewed in isolation from the rest of the season. It’s true we were way healthier in the second half than we were in the first half. However, as Belle said, the “redemption tour was halted when it mattered most”.

    Speaking of Belle, do you think she is a “hater” too (given her viewpoint)? I highly doubt it.

  5. colin,
    i have been consistently posting on this blog: win or lose. i have pointed out many times examples of when they play well. but when they deflate like they have at the end of the last two seasons(or play like crap like they did the first half of the season), i intend to speak up and call them out. why? because i hate BU? no, i love BU. as someone who grew up watching the great jack kelly and jack parker teams, my expectations are high. i am not going to apologize for that. i think Albie is a good guy; alway treated me well, but he just did not get it done in a way that is commensurate with what a name brand program should be. if we only allowed your rose-colored opinions to be published, you would be the only blogger. that would be boring

    ok, enough of the colin/vinnie nonsense

    when will they make this announcement and who will it be. i am ok with jay but he needs to hire two dynamic new assistants. lenny needs to go too

  6. A coach can and should bring anyone he wants . But for you to say Lenny needs to go you have no idea what Coach quinelle does . How can you be so dismissive of a guy who is respected so much . And we hit the jackpot getting Doug Friedman in last year. This is why I said a move like this has consequences but so many on here just don’t care they wanted coach fired now you have to deal with this type of stuff

    • I agree vinnie with you that certainly a new coach should pick who he feels comfortable with that said I think we have good ones in Lenny Jay and Doug

  7. i thought Doug was director of hockey ops. does he do on ice coaching?

    i think the assistants coaches/recruiters are key. look at Parker. when he had top notch assistants like Blase Mc, Toot, Ben Smith, and Quinnie his teams were dominant. and when he had not so hot assistants/recruiters like Bavis and Durocher, they pretty much floundered. Again, i like all these names; only talking about team performance under them

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