Benoit Groulx was off the ice at the first day of training camp to observe the players taking part in the first scrimmage. He was there to observe and see what players had to offer. He was observing with Jack Birch, Jody Gage, and Ted Nolan. How’s that for a jury deciding your future? Players have a very short period of time to show what they can offer to a team with a limited number of available roster spots.
Here’s a few questions I asked Benoit after practice on Thursday morning.
Scrimmage instead of a typical practice?
— We already have a good idea of what our lines are going to be. This weekend it’s important for many of them to show us what they can bring to this team. Training camp is about knowing them (the players) better, many guys here we didn’t know before this morning. The first two games, especially Saturday, it’s going to be an important game for guys to prove themselves. It’ll be the team we don’t know too much of.
What’s different about this year? What was learned from last year?
— It’s not about what we have learned from last year, it’s about the team we have in place now. This is going to be a much different year this year than it was last year. Last year I didnt know anybody. I didn’t know any players, didn’t know anything about this league. Obviously having a year under my belt helped me knowing where i’m going, knowing the players, the league, the players we’ve signed. It’s only about knowing things better.
Anything that surprised you about coming into the AHL?
— Its a very competitive league. Going into a new league, people are talking about the new players your coaching, going onto the ice you really don’t know them. Everything is turning around, the six veterans you have on your team have to be good players but also have to be good people. Our focus was not only on signing good players but good people, hopefully they’ll be able to take charge of this team on the ice and lead by example on the ice also.
Talking about the adjustment for some players to playing hockey as a job and not just another day at the rink..
— They know what it takes now to be a pro hockey player. They understand what they have to do better than last year. I believe they’ll be more comfortable on the ice. Basically it’s only about what they have to do, what’s been expected of them, a much better understanding of what it takes to be successful in this league than they did last year.
— We’ve got to go step by step. The first thing is to get those guys together, assemble this team. Our focus is to assemble this team right now. Find chemistry on the ice, find chemistry off the ice. Have a good start.
The tough guys at camp?
— We had Riley Emmerson last year. There’s a job for grab. We’ll see how it plays over the weekend, obviously it’s something we’d like to have on our team. A guy that can not only be a reinforcer on the ice but a guy that can bring toughness and a guy that can skate. That’s why we’ve invited a number of guys to camp. To me its not nice to have a guy on the bench who can only fight and not play. He’s taking a spot and he’s only helping the team fighting. We’d love to have guys that can have a presence on the ice, like i said can skate, can play, not only be a reinforcer.
Asked about goalie Alexander Salak..
— He’s done well. it took him a good week to adjust. the more he’s been out there the better he was. competes hard. very good competitor. never quit on a shot, on a rebound. works hard, seems ot be a good guy. we’ll have to get to know him better.
The Amerks are back on the ice Friday morning at 10am at ESL Centre in Henrietta. The practices are open to the public, stop on down.