Donatelli Won’t Alter Expectations

WHEELING – If you’re a Wheeling Nailers fan expecting more than the name of the man making decisions to change, go ahead and stop. And for that, be thankful.

While it’s true interim coach Clark Donatelli does not have previous pro hockey coaching experience, he’s got plenty of support going forward, as well as a proven system already in place. Not to mention a club that is 11-6-0 and in second place in the Atlantic Division with four games in hand.

”Our structure’s here and our template is in place,” Donatelli said after learning of Stan Drulia’s advancement Monday morning at WesBanco Arena. ”The demand to win is high here. There’s a rich history in Wheeling.

”We set our goals very high and they’re not coming down.”

Donatelli doesn’t lack for enthusiasm. A former captain of Team USA, he’s been around the block a time or two and only knows one way to coach the game, which is hard – the same way he played it.

”Our goal is to come into work every day, put the helmets on and take care of business out on the ice,” Donatelli said. ”We’re going to work hard too, first and foremost, and make these players better every day and get them to the next level.

”I’m up for the task. This is what I came here to do.”

Don’t know about you, but that run-through-a-brick-wall attitude is just what I want to hear from a coach during times of uncertainty. Donatelli has been thrust into a situation a lot sooner than he expected, but will meet the challenge head-on.

One thing fans shouldn’t be fooled into doing, is thinking this is going to be easy. For one, there’s a different dynamic involved in terms of being an assistant and the head coach.

”It’s going to be a little bit different, but sometimes Stan would tell me to go get someone. Sometimes I was the bad cop,” Donatelli said. ”So it’s actually going to be OK. The guys know me very well and we’ve spent a lot of time together.

”They know that the transition here should be smooth as long as they go out there and work hard, and pay attention to detail.”

Goaltender Peter Delmas has been here the last two seasons, so he has a pretty good idea of what to expect, no matter the coach.

”It’s great for Stan to move up. It’s the best career choice for him and he’ll do very well up there,” he said. ”It’s obviously too bad for the team but we have all the trust and belief in Clarkie to do a great job.”

A 5-foot-10, 185-pound stick of dynamite, Donatelli has faced his share of doubt. But he ignored it then, and will continue to do so now. Part of that is because he believes in the guys in his locker room, and the other half of the equation is the help that will be provided by the Pittsburgh organization, of which Donatelli is very familiar. He’s good friends with everyone on the Penguins staff, and goes back a long way with each guy.

”We’re lucky to have a guy like that already on staff. There’s a lot of ECHL teams, and even three years ago we were in the same boat, where we didn’t have an assistant coach,” Nailers co-owner Jim Brooks said. ”Imagine how hard that could be. We’re really lucky to have Clark here.”

And count the outgoing Drulia among the members of the Clark Donatelli support staff.

”He knows the structure. We’ve got a blueprint and we’ve got a plan,” Drulia said. ”Believe me, Clark and I go over every situation. It’s not that I walk in here and make the decision.

”Yeah, I go in (to the locker room) and relay the message. But it’s a group decision, and it was with John (Wroblewski) and I last season.

”Clark will keep the ball rolling here.

”And like I told (him), I’m only a phone call away.”

Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at