This was posted on the Merritt News website:
September 20, 2011
Merritt News Reporter
Last season, there were quite a few rookies in the lineup. What does the mix look like this season?
-We’ll have five rookies plus Brandon Bruce has 35 games of WHL experience so (he’s) not classified as a rookie with us but he is a first-year guy, so we’ll have six new faces.
Are the returning players taking a bigger leadership role?
-It’s going to be a real big leadership group. We just announced our captains for the year: Evan Stack will be our captain, Steve Wall, Billy Marshall, and Richard Sabourin as our assistants, but there’s probably another five or six names that easily could be in that group. We want to have as many leaders as possible and I think to be a really good leader you have to also be a really good follower. We definitely won’t have a shortage of leadership.
Are the players getting used to each other yet?
-I think so. Obviously with such a big group, all those guys know one another and are comfortable, but the new faces seem to be fitting in well. Our returning guys have done a real good job of helping them with that transition. Definitely a lot quicker bonding process than it was last year.
Do you have any specific goals for the team in mind this year?
-At this point in our three-year plan, we wanted to be in the top four and it lines up well with the way playoffs are now, with only four teams making it. Our goal is to get into that and obviously improve on what our season was last year. We’re going to have to in order to be in that top four group.
How do you expect the changes in league rules to affect play throughout the year?
-I don’t know. A lot of it is going to probably take time to recognize. The fewer numbers in the roster (means) we have to have a good affiliate program that we can bring guys in. The league schedule, with only playing the other-division teams once instead of twice each, that makes more games within the division matter that much more. Every regular-season game, especially against your divisional opponents, is going to be huge. It’ll definitely make for more exciting regular-season hockey.
The team did a lot better in the pre-season. What’s behind the improvement?
-Having a big group of veteran guys around helped. At the same time, in the first five games, we had five essentially all different lineups playing every night with a lot of different players mixed in. I thought the guys had a real good desire to just do the extra thing to win a hockey game. They were all close, there were no blowouts, so going into a tie game in the third period, we just showed up with more will to win.
What are the team’s greatest strengths?
-In every position, there’s a lot of depth there. Having two starting goaltenders is big. We’ve got a very mobile defence group that’s going to be able to get pucks out of our zone quickly and then we got a fairly fast and physical forward core. The test for us is going to be making sure we can find ways to score on goal.
And their weaknesses?
-Obviously just natural finish and scoring. We didn’t want to sacrifice our overall intensity and work ethic for guys who can strictly just score. If we have to win a bunch of games 2-1, 3-2, so be it.
How has your coaching style evolved since you first started?
-It’s regressed. No, I’m just joking. (Laughs.) I think I’m getting more confident in instilling the game that I want to play and we want to play here, realizing that you can’t try to cover every single thing that happens in the game. We want to really be excellent at three or four different things as opposed to being mediocre at 20. In the past, maybe I’ve tried a little bit too much to cover off a whole lot of areas.
Anything else you would like to add, Coach?
-No. We just want to start playing hockey games that matter.