Merlin Malinowski is up to the challenge.
And he doesn’t just want to coach . . . he wants to win right away!
Malinowski, 55, was recently named bench boss of St. Marys Lincolns, replacing Londoner Mike Crespeigne who was fired following the 2013-14 season.
Malinowski is certainly no stranger to the Lincs’ organization. He coached the Western Conference team for seven seasons (2003-10), brought respectability back to the proud organization, and enjoyed a lot of success in the process.
In an interview with the Journal Argus last week, Malinowski wants that type of success again.
“I love coaching and I’m not ready to step back yet,” Malinowski said when asked what motivates him to coach at the Junior level again. “Someday, I’m going to be too old and not able to coach.
“Three or four years ago when I stepped down and got into minor hockey, I think I was a little burned out after seven years (at the Lincolns’ helm).
“But after three years, now I feel energized and rejuvenated again. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m not ready to step away from hockey and coaching . . . I still really enjoy it.
“This opportunity (with the Lincs) presented itself about a month ago, and I thought the timing was good. So I said, let’s do it.’”
Coached ‘AAA’ minor hockey
After stepping down as Lincolns’ coach in the spring of 2010, Malinowski coached Bantam ‘AAA’ hockey for a couple of seasons. This past season, he was bench boss of the Huron-Perth Major Bantam Lakers.
In his first stint with the Lincs, Malinowski certainly established himself as one of the top coaches in the Western loop. He guided St. Marys into the playoffs all seven years. The former NHLer had 230 wins; 197 regular-season victories and 33 playoff wins.
He won at least 30 regular-season games four times, and won 29 games another year (the 2006-07 season).
In the playoffs, Malinowski managed to get Lincolns into the league final once—the memorable 2005-06 season—when they lost in Game 7 to Chatham Maroons. Lincs also reached the semi-finals twice under Malinowski.
“We had a nice run there,” he said.
Philosophy hasn’t changed
And Malinowski’s philosophy when it comes to coaching hasn’t changed. He wants to win again.
“I would love to have another crack at winning the league . . . we were so close last time,” Malinowski recalled. “It’s always in the back of your mind.
“Absolutely, I’m not coming into this to just tread water for a few years and scratch that itch. I want to win. I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself until the day of the game. But when the game starts, I want to win the game.
“It’s just in me, and it’s just in people who play sports. If you win enough games, you’ll win a championship. I know it’s going to take some time to rebuild, but I think the organization is in better shape now than the first time I came in. I think there’s a better pool of talent out there.”
Malinowski says he hopes the Lincolns can move up the standings and follow a similar path the way they did when he took the reins of the team the first time.
“The last time, we went from eighth to fifth to four to first in a fairly quick period of time,” he remembers.
Malinowski is particularly impressed with Jason Ross, one of four men who comprise the new general managers group with the Lincolns.
“We have some good new people involved, like Jason,” the coach said. “I truly believe this guy is good, and he sees it as a great opportunity. And he wants to be a part of the rebuild and be an impact.
“You can tell when a guy knows what he’s talking about. I think this guy is good. This group is motivated to turn this (team) around.”
Ross, from London, was a member of the Thamesford Trojans’ Jr. ‘C’ coaching staff last season, and he also served as the team's GM. Another new member of the management team is Dustin Wenger, who has coached in the London Jr. Knights ‘AAA’ minor system.
Spring mini-camp Apr. 25-26
Lincolns will hold their annual spring mini-camp on the Apr. 25-26 weekend at the PRC.
Malinowski expects between 60 and 80 prospects, divided into four teams for scrimmages.
There will be two games on the Friday night, starting at 6:45 p.m., and four games on the Saturday, starting at 10 o’clock.