The Marlies turned ten on Tuesday night in Utica. Ten is a terrific time to look at accomplishments. There isn’t any need to write a memoir with that many games in the history books but it’s a nice number to draw some thoughts out about this team and why it is having some success.
“We need to get those dirty areas of the ice and play a simple game, we can’t play too complicated. When we do that we fail.” If you tune in regularly to the website or the broadcasts, you have heard head coach Steve Spott say this in some variation. I keep hearing it when I throw that microphone at him each day and it has taken me this long to understand it completely. After all these are phrases that all coaches have ready to go at a moment’s notice but this…this is different. This isn’t a stock phrase meant to distract from the really complicated machinations of a hockey team’s inner workings. The guy really means it.
Can’t be? It has to be hours of critical thinking and scheming? Years ago the folks who programmed children’s TV decided to try and teach kids instead of selling the Chocosugarpuffs, and they found something that the advertising folks already knew. Say it. Say it again. Say it again. It only took me a month to really absorb the message the Coach was telling his team. I wasn’t that great at finding Blues Clues or piecing together where Snuffleupagus kept disappearing to.
Have you soaked it in yet? Do you understand the message? You are going to need to as well. You aren’t a passive member of this effort.
“You have to keep practicing, even the things you are good at, you can always get better, and better is what is going to put you at the next level.” this wisdom from New Jersey’s T.J. Brennan who came off the practice ice in between games 9 and 10 after working on his one timer. Yes the one timer that travels so fast it seems to become invisible only to reappear in the back of the net.
Are you making the connection?
“It was easy to come down here because the Leafs play the same system, everything is set up the same. When you just have to think about playing the game, it really helps you stay consistent.” Josh Leivo was brought back to the Marlies for some more seasoning after a nice opening stint with the Leafs. When he returned I put him in the camera crosshairs and asked him how difficult it was to be sent down. It’s the standard awful question you have to ask, but Leivo found comfort in the simplicity of the messages he was getting enough to share the positive.
Our third player to say essentially the same thing is NHL veteran Jerred Smithson who before that tenth game (a win on the road) offered his take.
“We know we have to get in front of the net, not get too fancy. We’re a team that is going to have success when we keep our game simple.” Now to say I put more weight on Smithson’s answer is accurate but not entirely. He has likely heard it all from a variety of coaches but it is obvious he likes what is being said from the bench.
You may be getting tired of hearing those quotes over the first ten games. I promise we will move on to other topics in our interviews. It will be necessary to continue hearing that regularly because as intelligent fans, you will be a part of the success or failure of this team if you always keep in mind that this year won’t require a lot of dipsies, doodles and dangles.