Admirals Roundtable had a chance to catch up with new Ads head coach Dean Evason this week and get his thoughts on his time with the Caps, the lockout and life in Milwaukee. Below is the interview in Q&A format.
Coming from a team like the Capitals that’s experienced a lot of growth and success over the last few years, how are you looking to carry that over to the Admirals?
Well, there’s a lot of different things you learn from being an assistant coach under three different head coaches in seven years, as far as systems and getting your head around how you want to play the game and have your team play the game. The most important thing I found over the last seven years is to try to make the players as accountable as you can. Not giving them too much rein that they run with it, but not pushing them so hard that you stifle them. Hopefully I can do that at this level. Allow the players to play the game the right way, but not let them off the hook if they’re not.
Are there any similarities you’ve seen so far between the Caps and this team?
There’s a youth aspect, we’re a young hockey club and when I first went (to Washington) years ago the Ovechkins and the Greens were young and Backstrom wasn’t even there yet. We had a real young group then and they’ve come along. We’ve got a few veteran guys here, but hopefully we can get the same stuff out of our younger players. They’re going to have that high energy level and excitement to play the game and start and/or continue their careers, so we’re just looking to guide them in that direction.
Being under those three head coaches the Caps played under a lot of different schemes. Did any of them stick and are you planning on using any in particular this year?
Any coach wants their team to compete and battle every night and be hard to play against, and certainly that’s what we want to do. We want to be a team that’s difficult each and every night to play against. We also want our hockey team to be very well-rounded and not particularly an offensive or defensive specializing group. We want to play the game at both ends of the rink the right way.
With the NHL lockout you’ve got a lot of two-way contract players coming down for at least the start of the season. Anyone you’re particularly excited about?
Certainly Bourque is a special player. What he did there in Nashville in the playoffs was terrific. Ellis is obviously a special player as well, and Blum’s going to provide us with steady influence back there with some offensive ability. Every team’s going to have their players come down that they didn’t expect to be there, and it’s great for the American Hockey League to have these players come down. We all hope that the NHL goes as soon as possible, but it’s going to make our league better, and certainly those three guys are going to make our team a better hockey club.
How have you been adjusting to life here in Milwaukee so far? What do you like or dislike about the city?
There’s nothing I don’t like. I really enjoy the people. They’re very down-to-earth and very friendly. I haven’t been here that long, but I just like the atmosphere of not only the downtown area but the surrounding areas as well. Weather-wise it’s going to be interesting through the winter, but we had some funky weather in Washington and I’m from Canada so it shouldn’t be too bad.
If you could recall your favorite story from either your time as a player or those seven years in Washington what would it be?
A story I tell a lot from when I was a player about how to treat people was when I was playing in an exhibition game in San Antonio against Wayne Gretzky during a lockout year. I was playing for Dallas and we were playing the Kings that game. My son’s birthday was coming up in a couple of weeks, and when we were out warming up on the ice I called out his name, and he turned around, and I asked if I could maybe grab a stick from him after the game for my son. He asked what his name was, and I gave it to him, and when I came in after warm up the stick was sitting in my stall with his signature on it addressed to my son. I think things like that stick out. While Wayne Gretzky was a hell of a hockey player he wasn’t too big to sign autographs or talk to people or give a stick to another player.