EVERETT – With the Everett Silvertips 2012-13 season now at its end and the offseason upon us, Silvertips broadcaster Travis Huntington recently sat down with General Manager Garry Davidson to take stock of the season past, discuss what’s next and look ahead toward the team’s hopes for the exciting and successful seasons to come:
Travis Huntington: Now that you’ve had a few days to look back, what are you feelings about the way the team ended the season and how the guys played in the playoffs?
Garry Davidson: I think what we did in the playoffs has to be considered very positive; taking a strong Winterhawks team to six games. I was expecting a little better finish in our last 20 regular season games and hoping we could have climbed into 7th place. Obviously we wanted to avoid needing until the last weekend of the regular season to clinch a playoff spot.
All in all, with the young group we have and the way we finished in the playoffs, I think you look forward with a lot of optimism. This group of young players will all be a year older and have another year of experience under their belts for next year.
TH: The Silvertips finished the season with 13 rookies on the roster. How did you feel about the progress of the young players on the team this year?
GD: I think it’s a real positive that they all played and they all experienced different situations. They weren’t just here – they were gaining real experience and learning what it takes to succeed. That why you do what we did with a young team. Some of them played above their heads and some were typical rookies who just got their feet wet. Now I think the proof in the pudding will be at the start of next season, when we see how big a step each of these players has made.
We used an extremely young group of players this season and made it to six games in the first round of the playoffs, but it won’t mean as much if guys don’t take the next step next year. It’s going forward from now until training camp when we’ll really get a sense of how guys have improved going forward. We’ve sent the players home knowing that our expectations for next year are going to be substantially higher than they were this year.
TH: Obviously one of the biggest moments in the season was the January coaching change, when you stepped behind the bench on an interim basis with Mitch Love. Did that change have the effect you hoped in terms of changing the emphasis or philosophy?
GD: I think the group was heading in the right direction after the change, but there’s going to be a period of adjustment when you make a change midstream. Did we get as far as we needed to? That’s debatable, because there was a period of time where there was some confusion. We made some progress, and I feel comfortable that the players understood what we were trying to do and how we want to play going forward.
TH: Of course there are many things to address in the offseason, but with the season now behind us, how much of your focus falls on the search for a new Head Coach?
GD: Over the next two months, my two main focuses will be the WHL Bantam Draft and filling the coaching position. That process has basically just begun this week with the season ending, so now it’s time to really start moving forward with that.
We’ve built a list of criteria to fill the coaching position and will sort through all the potential applicants. We’ll also probably reach out to a few people who we think are good candidates. The goal is to take a large list of possibilities and pare it down to a manageable number of candidates before we start conducting telephone and then face-to-face interviews.
There’s already been a number of people reach out, and I’m sure over the next couple of weeks we’ll see more résumés coming in. That’s another reason why we’ve built a set of criteria; to get through a large number quickly.
TH: With the potential of the young players in the organization and the excitement regarding the future, it seems like hiring the right coach is an important step for the Silvertips at this time. What are some of the attributes you want to see in the next Head Coach?
GD: It is very important, and that’s why we didn’t rush into this process. We wanted to take our time and make sure we come up with a hire that’s going to work through the next steps to get our program back to an elite level.
Junior experience is very important. We want someone who is a teacher and a developer. It needs to be a coach who knows how to nurture and develop young talent and understands the process of helping players reach their potential. That kind of coaching will help us get to a point where we’re competitive with the top teams in this league year-in and year-out.
TH: You touched on the WHL Bantam Draft, which is coming up on May 2 in Calgary, Alberta. It’s one of the most important dates on the league calendar and requires a great deal of preparation. Of course the scouts have been watching the top bantam players all winter, but what happens in the last month before the draft?
GD: The month of April is about getting out to all the provincial select camps. Each province in western Canada brings all the top players together, giving us a final look at all of them on the same ice. That’s important because some play in single-A bantam programs and some play in triple-A. You have a list of the top players going in, but you’re fine-tuning your evaluations as you build your list of players you might want to draft.
They don’t have those same camps for U.S.-born players, so with them you take the best opportunities you can to watch them – and also judge whether they’re committed to playing major junior hockey – and then hammer out your list. We’re always having discussions with our regional scouts to make sure we’re ready to make solid selections when draft day comes along.
This time of year really is “game time” for the scouting staff. I personally really enjoy this time. I think it’s an exciting part of the job as you’re trying to get your evaluations together and make good, solid decisions that have a big impact on your team in the years to come. It’s also a little bit stressful, but that’s how it should be because it’s a serious thing.
TH: Even though we classify this time of year as the “off-season”, there are always things to be done and important dates to look forward to, aren’t there?
GD: It really is an ongoing thing, and one season really just flows into the next. Not that you can’t take a few days to get away from it sometimes, but you definitely can’t just shut down for weeks at a time. After the Bantam Draft there’s the NHL Draft, which is an import time to make connections and talk to people. Then right after that you’ve got the CHL Import Draft.
In June, July and August, there are other camps out there that you can be attending to get a jump on next year’s scouting. Plus we’ve already started working with the league on making a schedule for next year. So there’s always something to do and a task to focus on.
Log on to our website throughout the 2013 offseason for updates on our head coaching search, the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, NHL Entry Draft and much more! To keep up with all the latest team news and information, “like” the Everett Silvertips Hockey Club on Facebook or follow @WHLSilvertips on Twitter.