Coach Evason was introduced to the Milwaukee media yesterday. I do find these sorts of events exciting because everyone is all smiles and it’s easy to be optimistic about the future of the team. But at the same time, the content of these sorts of events can be somewhat predictable. Happy to be here, thanks to my former team, thanks to the management of the current team, looking forward to winning hockey games, but understand that it’s also about player development. He touched on all of those points.
That said, we did learn some things from the Q&A, and also from Aaron Sims’ 1-on-1 interview with the coach afterwards. And Admirals’ GM Paul Fenton was gracious to give me a few minutes of his time and provide some of his insight on Coach Evason also.
Do read Dave’s Boehler’s write-up, where he talks about the Coach inviting the media to ask him two hours worth of questions, and explains how he feels about the concept of traveling on buses instead of airplanes.
One of the things Coach mentioned when talking to Aaron was how this whole chain of events was set in motion.
“I had an opportunity in Washington and I interviewed for the head coaching there. When I spoke with George McPhee, they were going to go in another direction. George asked me, at my convenience, to talk to David Poile, if I wouldn’t mind. So I talked to him quite quickly after that, and he in turn told me that Paul would call me, and that started the process.”
I find it interesting that it was the GM of the Caps that played the role of matchmaker in this story.
But Evason has a previous history with both Poile and Paul Fenton. Poile drafted him, and Fenton was his teammate on three different teams. Fenton talks about what kind of a player Evason was back in the day.
“Dean, for not being an overly big guy, he played with some great edge and determination and smarts. The smarts is what kept him in the league for over 800 games. He could adapt to anything. He could play a skill game, he could play a hard-nosed game. No matter what, he showed up every night to play. And that’s what I expect his team will be like as well.”
Seven years as an assistant with the same team…that’s a long time in hockey years. And Fenton explains some of the success of his longevity.
“First of all, he’s a great hockey person. He’s been involved in professional hockey and in coaching for well over 30 yeras. So experience in itself kept him there. He’s a great person, an excellent teacher. He has great values in hockey and as a family man.”
Coach Evason knows that there is plenty for him to learn as he works to become better in his role, in hopes of securing an NHL job some day. And one of the keys for him will be the relationship-building with his team.
“I think the biggest thing is dealing with the players 1-on-1. Dealing with men. I had an opportunity as a head coach at the junior level, but you’re dealing with 16-20 year old guys. Here, you’re dealing with men. You’re dealing with guys that are trying to make their next step. Fortunately, I’ve been in that position, as they are. I was in that position trying to get the NHL, I know that process, and hopefully we, Stan and I, can teach them how to conduct themselves not only on the ice, but off the ice as well. How to play the game the right way in order to play at the next level. ”
Coach Muller had a similar quote around this time last season too. They’ve been there, and they can use their experiences to prepare the next generation.
While Coach Evason hasn’t specifically laid out plans for what responsibilities will primarily be his and which ones will primarily be Stan Drulia’s, it sounds like he wants to focus on having a team community.
“The biggest thing that I talked to Stan about, and to our trainers and to everybody, is that we’re a team. It’s not me, coaching the team and Stan looking after special teams. We’ll do it together. One guy may present video, one guy may head up a special team, but it’ll be a team effort. Not only between the two of us, but everybody else. The trainers as well. The closeness of your off-ice group at this level (is important) so that your players can be that close on the ice.”
So now the two men behind the bench for the Admirals have come from a forward/offensive background. I asked Paul Fenton if hiring a third coach to work with the defense would be out of the question.
“You know, that’s a professional coach. I don’t have a problem with what position you played whether it’s goaltender, forward, or defenseman. We’ve had several years where we’ve had two forwards, and several years where we’ve had two defensemen. It just depends on the quality of the teacher, and I believe that we have two extremely quality teachers there that are going to be able to teach our guys the proper way to play the game.”
So now what? Entry draft….Rookie development camp…Summerfest….free agency. Looking forward to it.