The Rochester Americans put the icing on the cake Thursday afternoon by signing veteran center Chris Taylor to a 2yr American Hockey League contract. The ownership was not joking around when they said they would be bringing in veteran leadership once free agency began.
The veteran leadership that Chris Taylor will bring to the Amerks locker room is something that has been missing in recent years. Taylor said, “I play hockey to win, I don’t play hockey to play hockey. I want to win and expect everyone in this dressing room wants to win.”
“This is one of those times when we can take something good that was there in the past and bring it into today to help him and help us,” Lewis Staats said before introducing Taylor.
Over the past two weeks the Rochester Americans and Florida Panthers have made a strong statement that they’re committed to winning by signing Jeff Taffe, Jamie Johnson, Clay Wilson, Graham Fink, and now Chris Taylor.
Any time a player signs a contract with a team they will say that they’re excited, most of the time they are and at other times it’s just good public relations. When Chris Taylor said he’s excited to play for the Rochester Americans he means it. Taylor said, “There was only one place I wanted to come back and that was here in Rochester. I’m personally excited for a team that I love.”
At the end of the season head coach Benoit Groulx talked about being contenders as the goal for the 2009/2010 season. I think everyone would agree with him.
Taylor echoed the same thoughts by saying, “The most important thing to start the season is to play to make the playoffs. You make the playoffs and anything can happen. You can’t look too far beyond that.”
“The last few years it just didn’t feel right not having Tails in the lineup,” Don Stevens said.
As we talked about having a player fans know compared to some of the free agents Jody Gage commented that Chris Taylor isn’t just known by hockey fans but also “intertwined with the community.”
The ability for the Rochester Americans and Florida Panthers to be able to get players to agree to contracts is a sign that both teams are moving forward and trying to change. Everyone knows what the past two seasons have been like for the Amerks but the fact that they’re trying to change is the biggest thing.
Chris Taylor knows what is expected of him and he does not feel any sense of relief about being back in Rochester, he feels the opposite. “It’s scary, not a relief. I’ll have jitters when I first step on the ice out there because I want to perform well and I expect myself to perform well,” he said. “Every day is a working day. Until it starts getting done and you’re winning games you can relax a bit.”
If Taylor would have been approached prior to the other free agent signings it would have been a tougher decision for him to come back to Rochester.
At the age of 37 Chris Taylor is not only looking out for his best interests with his career in hockey but also that of his family. He has two kids that are getting older, making new friends, and wanting to do a lot more with school. They made the family decision that it was the right decision to come back to Rochester.
Anyone who is worried about his age should not be. Manitoba Moose winger Mike Keane is 42 and will be heading into his 23rd pro season and still competes at the highest level.
Another concern is that the season is easier in Germany with less games during the season and also only having two games on the weekends. Taylor squashed that thought pretty quick.
He believes that players have to work harder over there.
Training camp was one example where they would have four workouts a day. The team had 20 players so they would split up into two groups in the morning, one group would bike for an hour while the other group was on the ice and then they would switch.
After lunch they would have to run for an hour followed by another 60 to 90 minutes on the ice.
Once the season started they would always have Mondays off.
The team would be back on Tuesdays with 90 minutes of off ice workouts followed by two hours on the ice. They’d get to go home for the afternoon and then return at night for another 60 minutes on the ice.
Practice would continue on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Play a game on Friday. Practice on Saturday and then another game on Sundays.
When talking about Germany he said, “The games were intense. You only play two games a week and guys are ready to go. They’re playing for jobs, playing for a lot of money. Every game is worth 3 points and only half the league makes the playoffs. Winning was everything.”
Benoit Groulx did an excellent job last season of trying to teach the players about winning and playing hard, but there’s only so much a coach can do. Having a player that can also lead by example goes a lot further. I have not had the opportunity to speak with the other free agents the team has signed but I’m sure they’ll echo the same thoughts of Taylor.
The determination of Chris Taylor will be a big boost for the younger players in the locker room, something that has been missing in recent years.