The Muskegon Lumberjacks continued to reshuffle their chain of command this week.
On Wednesday the club announced that General Manager John Vanbiesbrouck, who has been in charge of the organization for the past five years, has left to accept the position of Assistant Executive Director of Hockey Operations for USA Hockey.
USA Hockey oversees the development of the American amateur teams that compete at the international level, including the USA Olympic team.
On Thursday the Jacks announced that they’ve hired Ryan Bennett, the former general manager of the rival Chicago Steel, to take Vanbiesbrouck’s place.
Bennett will begin his duties immediately, as the Lumberjacks host their tryout camp this week to determine which players will be invited to training camp in August.
The front office change comes just a week after the Lumberjacks introduced Mike Hamilton as the new head coach, replacing the fired John LaFontaine.
Bennett, 36, had a great deal of success as the GM of the Steel over the past three seasons. His 2017 Chicago squad won the USHL’s Clark Cup, something the Lumberjacks have yet to do. Chicago missed the league playoffs for eight straight seasons before Bennett took over the team.
The Steel eliminated the Lumberjacks from the first round of the 2018 playoffs in April. Bennett resigned after the season, but was coaxed back into the league by Lumberjacks owner Dan Israel.
“I wasn’t expecting to get back into the USHL,” said Bennett. “But the ownership treated me and my wife great. They were confident I was their guy, and their trust in me pushed me over the edge.
“We can be very successful in Muskegon. (Vanbiesbrouck) has done great job building the foundation here. We want to put a team together that can win. We have a very good foundation, and just have to figure out what we need and what we don’t. I have to figure out Coach Hamilton’s type of player and what he needs to win.”
Israel is excited about finding an experienced and successful replacement for Vanbiesbrouck, a former All-Star NHL goalie who helped the Lumberjacks put a consistent winner on the ice over the past few seasons.
“We are thrilled to have met and hired Ryan Bennett,” Israel said. “He’s coming to Muskegon to help us toward our goal, which is to build the world’s best junior hockey organization on and off ice.
“I’m confident Ryan will make an immediate and long-term impact toward accomplishing this goal. While we are happy for John Vanbiesbrouck and his new job, we are just as excited to bring Bennett on board.”
Bennett doesn’t think the Jacks need major changes. He said he already sees a lot of potential in the group of players on Muskegon’s roster.
“There are a lot of good players, no need for big changes,” the new GM said. “We have the personnel to win this year. Beezer is very happy with what he has brought in, we just need to fine-tune them and continue to build a winning culture.”