New Coach and New Look, 2009-10
In April of 2009, the Cougars and every other team in the WHL were getting set for the annual Bantam Draft. The Cougars were going to have a new man on board at the draft table, as the club announced the hiring of Dean Clark as Head Coach on April 28, 2009. Clark is a proven winner in the WHL, leading the Calgary Hitmen to a league title in 1999 and entering the 2009-10 season among the most victorious coaches in league history with 382 wins under his belt. With that move, Wade Klippenstein was announced as the Cougars new Director of Player Personnel to go along with the Assistant General Manager title. Two days later, the Cougars added to their crop of promising young players, taking defenceman Josh Smith in the first round, 19th overall, scoring whiz Troy Bourke in the second round and defenceman Dane Phaneuf in the third round, the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs star blue liner Dion Phaneuf. Brett Connolly was busy on the international scene in the off-season, taking part in Team Canada’s Under-18 program, first at the U-18 World Championship in North Dakota and Minnesota, where Canada finished fourth. Then at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in August, where Canada won gold. That tournament was also the scene of Connolly’s start to a long, frustrating year, suffering a hip flexor injury early in the tournament, which resurfaced again in training camp. That hip injury cost Connolly 56 games, but he was still able to produce 19-points in 16 games during the season. Prior to the start of the 2009-10 season, the Cougars and every other CHL club introduced their new Reebok Edge jersey, with the Cougars going through arguably the most dramatic change of any team in the WHL, changing the primary logo that the Cougars had since it moved to CN Centre in 1995 to the current logo, which was unveiled at the start of the 2008-09 season. While the black and red remained on the jersey, the Cougars were going with a brand new look that went over very well with Cougars fans. 20-year old forward Alex Rodgers led the Cougars with 41 assists and 61 points, while James Dobrowolski, a forwarded the Cougars acquired during the off-season, led the Cougars with 23 goals. Although the Cougars struggled throughout the season to a 12-56-1-3 record, the seeds had been planted with young building blocks for the future.