Friday, September 16, 2011

Exit Interviews (Part 1)

With Traverse City in the books and the New York Rangers get ready to open the main training camp; the attention for most will be shifting away from the Ranger prospects.

And honestly that is a good thing because a lot of Ranger fans got the wrong idea about Traverse City. Traverse City was never meant to be entertaining for you as the Rangers gave you a gift; a chance to peek at what they hope is players who will be a part of their future.

Winning was a bonus and if anything the difference in talent levels among teams was something else. Last season the Carolina Hurricanes sent the oldest team; this year they were the youngest.

The challenge was for the prospects to try to put their best foot forward, some did and others did not. Now the plan is to develop individual training plans designed to help the prospects improve themselves whether it is in the AHL or the CHL.

Give Ken Gernander and his staff some serious credit here for what they did. They took 25 players, 15 of whom had never played in anything like Traverse City and got them to the championship game.

So we will start with the coaching staff in our "exit" interviews and like the team what we do is give them one key area to focus on for the coming year.

Coaching Staff-- We start with an apology as until Wednesday evening we had no faith in Ken Gernander as a teacher. In the AHL, a coach has to not only win but he has to develop players for the next level.

We thought the TV cameras in the locker room were affecting Gernander and got to admit that his "No More Respect" comment is going to stick with us for a very long time. Gernander was an infantry drill instructor, sticking his foot up their rear and at the same time teaching his troops how they can win.

Had Gernander somehow coached that team to a win over the Sabres would have been a masterpiece but to us the bigger victory was how the team responded. Add "In Ken We Trust" to the other "who we trust" sayings.

The knock on Gernander is that he has yet to get the Whale/Wolfpack out of the AHL first round. He is going to have an even younger team this season so take your own lessons from Traverse City and get the Whale to the next level.

Goalies-- Jason Missiaen was what one expects from a guy 6'8, took up a ton of space but boy did it seem like it took him forever to do anything. His number 1 item to learn is how to speed up his decision making processes as his body is going to stop a ton of pucks.

It is going to be how fast he can get his reaction time to be in order for him to become an NHL goalie. Worth the risk to see how he does in the ECHL and spot start him in the AHL this season.

Scott Stajcer has the potential to become a good NHL goalie as he is strong in his positioning as well as his reaction times. What we need to see from him is a way to cut down on giving up those long rebounds as that is going to be his number one weakness.

Right now we know the plan is to send Stajcer back to the OHL for an overage season. If Stajcer does not want to see that happen then he had best play each game like it was his last. 

Defense-- Tim Erixon showed that his hockey IQ was in the genius range as his ability to see the ice and adapt to plays was as good as any young defenseman we have seen. The only thing we still want to see is Erixon on the attack as with his hockey sense and stickhandling skills then he could be lethal off the rush.

Dylan McIlrath-- playing with Erixon hurt the perception of McIlrath as he looked slow on the ice compared to Erixon. McIlrath gets a failing grade for TC in large part because he let others get under his skin.

Once people know how to push your buttons then they can render you ineffective which is what happened in the last 2 games. McIlrath has to develop a thicker skin and understand that as much as he wants to fight there are times when you have to walk away or else hurt the team.

If I can goad McIlrath into a fight then I am going to because he can not hurt me from the penalty box and even better the ice has opened up. Got to work on maturity this year as the other areas are coming together.

McIlrath also needs to work on his shot release as he was not getting a lot of power on it.

Samuel Noreau was a nice surprise as we liked what we saw from him as he was what McIlrath was not. Noreau understood he has to stay on the ice and play defense, we liked how he played with 3 different partners and adapted to each.

Still the biggest thing we want to see him work on is how to use that 6'5 size of his to his advantage. Learn how to use his size will help improve his chances at the NHL.

Blake Parlett also was a surprise as his first 2 games were outstanding so the question is going to be what would have happened if he had not hurt his knee? Parlett plays like each game is going to be his last which we like but what we want him to work on is not thinking he has to try to win the game on every shift.

Let the flow of the game come to him rather than trying to do 1000 things at the same time/ Parlett against the Sabres tried too hard to make plays which instead led to mistakes and turnovers. Relax BP you did well

Peter Ceresnak had the advantage of nobody having any expectations for him but despite having NHL size; if he does not greatly improve his foot work then he is not going to go anywhere.

This is going to sound insane to some but honest truth we would send Ceresnak to a dance class. Stop laughing as learning to dance will allow him to learn how to move his feet without tripping all over himself as he was.

Jyri Niemi is the annual prospect who we wish we could figure out how to fix as we know he has a ton of talent inside of him. The problem is nothing being able to get him to use it or put everything together.

Is it his heart? Maybe he does not want it bad enough or maybe he expects it to just be handed to him. Honestly if we knew how to fix him we would say so but right now we will give him 2 things.

The first is a mirror and tell him if he wants to know who is going to keep him from an NHL career to look at the reflection. The second item is a ticket to a Ranger home game as that unless he wakes up the only way he will get to be at a Ranger game will be from the stands with a ticket.

Maybe what the Rangers need to do to save Niemi from Niemi is to convert him to a forward as he clearly has offensive talent. He just shoots himself in the foot as a defenseman.

Lee Baldwin has the terrible disadvantage of being a defensive prospect on a team that has a ton of depth. Baldwin is one of those who felt leaving school early would help his chances to make it to the NHL.

Baldwin played the worst kind of game which was "trying so hard not to make mistakes that all he did was make mistakes." It got to the point where we felt bad for him as it was not like he was not trying.

Baldwin was in over his head at Traverse City which may sound cruel but not everyone makes it to the NHL. For Baldwin we tell him quite simply to do whatever he has to in order to earn a call up to the AHL.

Baldwin is in a hard position as the depth chart works against him so if he does not want to spend all year in the ECHL then he has to outwork everyone and stop playing scared.

The Collin Bowman who showed up in Traverse City was not the Collin Bowman of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Great person who we felt really bad for because he works hard for the Warriors on and off the ice.

The best description we can say for Bowman was stage fright but for Bowman there remains hope. The best advice we can say to him is that out of the last 3 years just about every non-roster invitee went back to their CHL team and earned themselves a contract with other teams.

Tomorrow the Forwards

(Gernander courtesy of New York Rangers)

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