By Dave Leaderhouse
Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series of features on the 12 head coaches in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League that will run every Friday throughout the summer. The intent is to familiarize the fans with those who are in charge of the various clubs as there has been a significant turnover in the last couple of seasons. Often ready to take a backseat to the players, as those are the ones who deserve to be in the spotlight, the coaches and general managers shoulder the responsibility for putting the product on the ice and rightfully deserve credit for making the SJHL one of the premiere Junior “A” leagues in the country.
For the biggest part of the past quarter century Trevor Blevins has been associated with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Melfort Mustangs.
He was a player with his hometown club for three years in the mid-1990s and then for several years in the 2000s he was an assistant coach. For the past five-plus seasons he has been the head coach and general manager.
In total, the 43-year-old Blevins has been on or behind the bench in the neighborhood of 800 regular-season games and with 20 more wins he will become the winningest coach in franchise history as his 192 victories as a head coach trails just the 211 Darryl Mann posted from 2004-11, a period where Blevins was part of some of that success as an assistant coach.
That personal success, and longevity, washes quickly off Blevins’s back as he is already focused on what he wants his team to look like next year.
“We will have a little higher turnover than usual, but we should have two solid lines and good d-men (defencemen),” says Blevins. “We had a camp at the end of March and there were 80 players there. That was pretty encouraging.”
A lot has changed in the game since Blevins first joined the team as a 17-year-old, but one of the biggest improvements is the attention the league is starting to get from post-secondary institutions.
“The league is definitely getting more exposure,” says Blevins. “We have added the second showcase and NCAA schools are starting to really notice what we have here.”
Proof of that is Blevins’s captain from last year’s squad, Carson Albrecht, getting signed by the University of North Dakota for this fall. Albrecht was the league’s most valuable player last season and his linemate, Justin Ball, was the league’s top scorer. Ball will continue with his career this year toiling with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
The Mustangs have won a pair of Canalta Cup championships under Blevins’s watch (he was also a member of a championship squad as a player in 1996) and last year they came up just short of another title when they fell to the Battlefords North Stars in five games in the league final.
His approach to the game is simple.
“Obviously your focus is on improving the skillset, but as a coach I am huge on attitude and structure,” says Blevins. “You are looking for a competitive edge and with all that hopefully you are always in the mix.”
They certainly are that as the Mustangs have qualified for the post-season every season since Blevins has been in charge. They are consistently at the top of the overall standings finishing just three points back of the Nipawin Hawks last year for both the Sherwood Division title and regular-season banner.
One thing that has eluded the club in Blevins’s era, however, is a 40-win season as they have posted 39 victories on three separate occasions. Maybe this year will be the year and even more success for a homegrown product will follow as he will undoubtedly put his name in the franchise’s record book as the club’s most successful coach ever.