Disappointment was the best description of the Cougars' first two years in the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL). In 1972/73, they finished the season with only thirteen wins, five less than the eighteen win total from their inaugural season. Fans were getting impatient, as they were used to watching successful Cougars teams when they were in the BC Junior Hockey League (BCJHL). Going into their third year, General Manager Eric Bishop made numerous trades in an attempt to change the tide, but it was not enough. 1973/74 is very significant in Cougars history, with ownership making a move that transformed the franchise.
In the offseason Bishop hired, Walter “Ollie” Dorohoy as the new head coach. He became the fourth Cougars coach in three years. Dorohoy played with the New Westminster Royals of the Western Hockey League in the 1940s and 1950s. His previous coaching experience was three years prior with the New Westminster Royals of the BCJHL.
Before the season, The Daily Times predicted a vastly improved team that could finish as high as third place. “The team is nearly set and looks to be the strongest aggregation since Cougars joined the WCHL.”
Even with all the changes, the results remained the same. Reality hit on opening night with a humiliating 9-2 loss to the Calgary Centennials. The Cougars showed no improvement as the season went on. After 20 games, they owned the third-worst record in the league with only five wins. The defence was a big concern as they allowed an average of 5.75 goals a game.
Just before Christmas, the ownership group had enough. They fired Dorohoy and announced the resignation of GM Eric Bishop. The Cougars made a big splash by hiring Pat “Paddy” Ginnell as the new head coach, general manager and part-owner (purchasing Bishop’s share). This was the most significant move in the Cougars' three-year franchise history. Ginnell was the winningest junior coach in Western Canada as he guided the Flin Flon Bombers to three WCHL championships.
Ginnell was described as a “fiery performer, both in practices and at games. He intends to install this same fire into the players.” He stated his intentions in an interview with the Daily Colonist
He also gave an indication of the new physical style he wanted the Cougars to play when he concluded the interview by saying, “I’m going to stress bodychecking in our first practice.”
On the ice, the team was led by Brad Anderson, acquired in an offseason trade from the Regina Pats, with 47 goals and 95 points. The Cougars farm system started developing impact players with the emergence of rookies Mel Bridgeman and Rick Lapointe. Mark Lomenda scored 28 goals, but it was a significant dropoff of the 52 he scored the previous season with Calgary. One of Ginnell’s first trades was to pick up goalie Jim Foubister from Winnipeg. He quickly established himself as the starter winning sixteen games. The Cougars slowly improved under Ginnell’s strict disciplinarian style, with their best record in franchise history. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as the Cougars finished in fifth place for the third straight season, seven points out of a playoff spot.
Five Cougars were selected in the 1974 National Hockey League (NHL) entry draft - Brad Anderson (third round), Mark Lomenda (fifth round), Mike Thompson (fifth round), Jim Foubister (ninth round) and Glen Ing (thirteenth round). None of the Cougars drafted in 1974 ever played in the NHL. Cam Conner attended the Cougars training camp in 1973 but was traded before the season began to the Flin Flon Bombers. Conner scored 91 points with the Bombers and was selected in the first round (fifth overall) by the Montreal Canadiens.