Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

Dan Lambert behind the bench - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • He's back. Dan Lambert returns behind the Kelowna Rockets bench tonight for a road game in Spokane against the Chiefs. Lambert has missed six games while coaching Team Red at the Under 17 World Hockey Challenge in Ontario. Lambert's team placed 6th. Full marks to assistants Kris Mallette and Travis Crickard for guiding the ship while Lambert was away. I will admit I missed the personable Lambert. It is like a member of your family missing and not being part of the fun. I think Lambert has a massive influence on this team, something I don't know I would have said at the start of the season after moving into the seat of the departed Ryan Huska. I thought it would take Lambert longer to win the room. As personable as Lambert is, he carries a certain respect amongst the players and finds a way to get the maximum out of them. Lambert is a stabilizing force behind the bench and he brings a certain calm during choppy waters too. While he was gone it was just different. I can't pin point exactly what it was, but it was just different. 
  • The best interview I conducted last week was with Victoria Royals head coach Dave Lowry. I knew Lowry was in a good mood when he met me in the hallway and said, 'Pitter patter, let's get at er". I spoke to Dave about his coaching philosophy. Lowry is extremely emotional behind the bench but he admitted to me he isn't intense all the time. "I am fighting for them. That is where the battle is. When we lose a game, I'm disappointed. We hold each other accountable. I may be mad at you today but tomorrow is a new day and we move forward. They also know I have a real soft spot and I care for my players. We have fun together. My demands are 65 minutes a night.  I want everything you have. Lowry says like other coaches, he conducts meetings with his players all the time. But those meetings are not all about pointing out the errors they make. "I adjust my meetings accordingly. They are not just strict, straight forward, real intense meetings. Sometimes they are loose. But when it is game time I turn into a different person. My intensity picks up and I expect my players to do the same thing."    
  • Madison Bowey and Tyson Baillie are participating in the Subway Super Series and are represent the WHL against the Russian Selects. Bowey says he has learned from his experience last year. "I have to play each shift as hard as I can. To make that team as a defenceman, you have to be really steady in the defensive zone. I want to be a harder guy to play against. I have to make sure to make the quick first pass and get the puck in the forwards hands", Bowey told me Saturday night. Both players return this weekend for back-to-back games in Prince George.
  • The G-M-C line. Shouldn't we call them that? The Rockets number one line is comprised of Tyrell Goulbourne, Nick Merkley and Rourke Chartier.
  • What do the Top 10 CHL rankings mean? Probably little in the big picture, but it does provide a sense of pride an accomplishment when your team is mentioned. Call it a badge of honour. 
  • I sure liked the fact that the Spokane Chiefs players, coaches and management took time to member those lives lost during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Spokane Arena this morning. The Chiefs, like many WHL teams do so many good things with their players outside of just helping them improve on the ice. Sadly, these activities are rarely celebrated in the media yet the negative things get all of the attention.
  • Travis Moen was traded today by the Montreal Canadiens to the Dallas Stars. I often marvel that Moen was able to earn a NHL paycheck for so many years. Moen was a gritty player and would do anything to help his team win. But over the years, I've seen many of his type make an impact at the WHL level and never get a crack at playing with the elite. Now 32, Moen has played 690 NHL games and has won a Stanley Cup title.  The former Kelowna Rockets forward has made the most of the chance he has been given and doesn't take anything fore granted.       
  • Despite what you have read or heard, 18 year-old goaltender Michael Herringer remains with the team. I don't know what the future holds now that 17 year-old Jake Morrissey is healthy, but it is pretty hard to shut the door on Herringer considering what he has done in his sort stint with the team. Herringer has earned two wins in two starts. The Comox, BC resident was nothing short of solid in a shutout win against Vancouver. He competes hard at practice and seems to be a really good addition in the dressing room as his teammates really like him. Unless he falls flat on his face, I can't see how you can close the door on him. The fact remains, the Rockets crease is crowded with starter Jackson Whistle, Jake Morrissey and Herringer. Something eventually has to give. Stay tuned.
  • Have you noticed how Nick Merkley is getting a lot more attention from opposing teams lately? It is a clear indication that teams are trying to rough him up in an effort to get the leading WHL points leader off his game. But does it work? "I am used to that over my minor hocket career. You just hopeful the ref's take care of that. I just have to turn the other cheek and not get too rattled. I don't think I can thrown off my game. Obviously it will happen sometimes, but I just have to remain focused," Merkley added. 
  • The best player I saw last week was Victoria Royals forward Austin Carroll. Carroll didn't register a point in a 5-1 loss in Kelowna Wednesday, but he plays mean. I like it. It is just this side of dirty when he gets ticked off. I don't see that from many players these days when things are going badly. Carroll obviously doesn't like to lose and isn't afraid to show it. I will take that type of fire over a player that wilts like a flower when things aren't going for his team. Would I take Carroll on my team? Darn rights!    
  • Does anyone enjoy practice more than Nick Merkley? I don't think so. I watch pre-game skates on the road regularly and Merkley is smiling and often does an exaggerated goal celebration when he finds the back of the net. He is much more subdued in a game situation.   

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