Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Changing the culture

After what was a long but very entertaining weekend of hockey from both the New York Ranger and the New York Islander Prospects, we have a quick chance to catch our breath as the final week of the CHL regular season as well as the finals of the US college hockey league tournaments gets underway.

For those who are new here, it has been a long journey as once upon a time for Ranger and Islander prospects usually this time of year meant a quick trip in and then out of the playoffs regardless of whether it was CHL or NCAA.this

But those days are actually changing and with that change brings a side benefit that doesn't always get talked about, which is changing the locker room culture.  Nobody wants to say it out loud but after a while when a team has been losing for a couple of years that players when they show up don't show up expecting to win.

When they're sitting on the bench and something bad happens then players start going "oh no here we go again." That is why you see teams start moving players out while rebuilding, it's not that they don't have talent but a big need to change the culture or mindset of the locker room.

That is the hardest part about rebuilding as it's one thing to get players to buy in to a new system, but it's even harder to get them to believe they will win.

So sometimes the only way to change that culture or mindset is to bring in players who are used to winning, whether it's from another team or from the juniors and NCAAs.

Take a good look at the roster the Rangers have right now and sure they have a couple of guys who've played on cup winning teams, not to mention their coaching staff.  The Rangers also have players that they have brought in who were winners elsewhere.

Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan played against Chris Kreider in the 2010 NCAA championship final.  Carl Hagelin played in four straight NCAA tournaments while at Michigan.

We can go on from Girardi winning the Memorial Cup to Henrik Lundqvist before he joined the Rangers winning a world championship as part of Team Sweden.  Now take a look at the prospects and see where they're playing; Dylan McIlrath, Michael St. Croix, Steven Fogarty, and JT Miller all you are playing on teams that won at least a division championship.

It takes time to change the culture or mindset.  But if you look at the bigger picture and you see that you have a locker room full of players who are used to winning then the odds greatly increase that you will win too.

A good example for the Islanders is Casey Cizikas as the former captain of the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors played in the OHL Finals and Memorial Cup last season.  Travis Hamonic played in the Memorial Cup while with Brandon the WHL.

We are seeing in Islander fans reacting positively to having Cizikas in the lineup.  To them it's an increase of talent but if you think about it, Cizikas also has you believing that the team has a better chance with him in the lineup.

That is a change in your own mindset as you too start to believe that the team is getting better. It is a slow and sometimes frustrating process, but once started and you let it finish the results could be what you're looking for; a winner.

This year Islander prospects will be well represented in the playoffs and tournament, starting with Kirill Kabanov already going to the Memorial Cup, Ryan Strome and Mitchell's Theoret both play on a very legitimate Niagara team that could win the OHL Championship.

Scott Mayfield of Denver and Brock Nelson of North Dakota are just about locks to play in the NCAA tournament.  Take a good look Islander fans at Bridgeport this year and remember where they were last year.

When you're winning you can't wait to get to the ice, the road trips aren't as bad and the locker room has a much brighter environment to it.  When you are winning you believe in the guy sitting next to you on the bench can make the play.

Just like fans in the stands, if you are don't believe that you can win then there is a good chance that you won't win. It may sound corny but if you stop and really think about it then you the fan will see that even your mindset will start to change.

Ranger fans can tell you that there's a difference when they show up at the garden or turn on the game on the TV.  At the trade deadline when the Rangers did not sell their souls (the youth) for Rick Nash; there was more of a relief that they didn't make the trade because of the price tag.

The attitude was "let's give these guys a chance."  That right there is the biggest change among Ranger fans that they didn't need to go out and make the big move.

Ranger fans know the future is going to get better and that is no longer the need to mortgage tomorrow to pay for today. It has been a long process for Ranger fans to go through, but now you are seeing fans or believing in the team again.

Winning has that effect on you.

( Memorial Cup - CHL)

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