By Matthew Burgess
Less than 24 hours before their penultimate home game of the regular season, the Cardiff Devils confirmed the shock departure of head coach Jarrod Skalde.
A brief statement released by the club on Friday night shed little light on the circumstances around Skalde’s departure, except to confirm that assistant coaches Brodie Dupont and Neil Francis would be taking over for the rest of the season.
Skalde, a former NHL player, was originally appointed for the cancelled 2020/21 season and was forced to work with a completely rebuilt roster after the core of the Devils championship winning team departed following the Covid outbreak.
“I would like to thank Jarrod for his contributions to our team over the past season and during the year we missed because of Covid,” said managing director Todd Kelman.
“The Devils organisation has great respect for Jarrod and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”
The news will come as a major surprise to those who follow the Devils and the Elite League.
There had been no hint of Skalde’s impending departure in the build-up to Saturday’s game with Guildford Flames, with the coach conducting his usual pre-game interview this week via the team’s social media channels.
At time of writing, it is unclear whether this decision was taken by the club or by Skalde himself for personal or professional reasons. If this was a team decision, then the timing seems unusually strange with the Devils set to compete in the end of season play-offs later this month.
Despite being out of the title race for some time, Skalde leaves the Cardiff Devils third place in the table and he had also led the Devils to the Challenge Cup final, where they were eventually beaten by Belfast with an injury-hit roster. The general feeling around the club was that Skalde’s first season with the team was not a complete failure, especially when taking into account last summer’s high turnover of players, the lack of a pre-season to work with his new team and the steady stream of injuries that have hindered the team throughout the current season.
Nor do the Cardiff Devils have a reputation for axing coaches, especially mid-season which makes the decision all the more strange, even if they did privately intend to replace him at the end of the current season.
If Skalde’s exit was triggered by the offer of an opportunity from elsewhere, then it will be the second time in succession that the Devils have lost their head coach to another team after Andrew Lord joined the Greenville Swamp Rabbits back in June 2020.
However, the current lack of details behind Skalde’s shock exit will likely fuel rumours and speculation until more information becomes made available.
Both the Cardiff Devils and Jarrod Skalde have been asked to provide further comment.
Featured image: Cardiff Devils / Dave Williams