Wednesday, 11 February 2009

A Kerfuffle In Manchester

Rarely do I report on hearsay and issues within the locker room of a hockey team without some sort of concrete evidence. Normally, problems within dressing rooms are kept in-house and solved behind closed doors in order to minimize the impact on both the team and the people involved. Besides, no one really likes airing dirty laundry for all to see and hear, right? Apparently, however, there are problems inside the Manchester Monarchs dressing room, and head coach Mark Morris has had enough of the "egos" that certain players have brought back to the AHL with them after spending time in Los Angeles with the Kings.

CJOB's Brian Munz, play-by-play broadcaster for the Manitoba Moose, caught up with Manchester head coach Mark Morris, and he got a clip of Morris talking about how some of the players who have had a taste of NHL action seem to think they shouldn't be in the AHL. A huge thanks to Mr. Munz for this sound clip, and his continued outstanding work with the Moose. Click here to hear to Mr. Morris speak about his team.

Now, I understand that some of the Kings' young players might want a chance to stick with the big team instead of playing out their time in the AHL. Teddy Purcell, Drew Bagnall, Jonathan Bernier, Brian Boyle, and Matt Moulson all appear to be NHL-ready, but the Kings have a large contingent of solid young players in Los Angeles right now. There's no need to rush any of these young men into NHL action.

With the likes of Anze Kopitar, Patrick O'Sullivan, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, and Oscar Moller already logging major minutes for the Kings, would it be more beneficial to the careers of Moulson, Boyle, Purcell, and Bagnall to play a lot of minutes in the AHL or a few minutes in the NHL?

As a coach, you want your players to develop, and the only way they will develop is by playing. Sitting on the bench in Los Angeles will not help any of these young players. Mark Morris is a capable coach and a very good teacher. He taught 17 rookies last season how to play at the AHL level, and they should be thankful they have a guy like Morris in their corners.

"Massaging a few egos along the way" is not how a player goes about establishing one's self as a professional. I get that everyone wants to play in front of the bright lights in the NHL. That's completely understandable. But Morris' last statement of "learning how to be a pro" should reverberate through the dressing room.

As colour man Chris Neilsen stated shortly after that sound clip aired, if this sort of thing is being broadcast on the radio by coach Morris, it has to be noticeable around the rink. You don't call out players publicly unless you are sending a clear and concise message. Or unless you're Brian Burke. But I digress.

Morris didn't name names, and I'm not going to speculate on who this was directed at. I threw a few names out of players who have suited up for the Los Angeles Kings at one point, and these players chipped in during their times with the NHL club. However, GM Dean Lombardi has built a very good future, and the Kings are improving. They look to be on the precipice of making the playoffs, and only sit three points out of eighth at the time of writing.

By not playing hard in Manchester, this could go a long way in determining a player's future. There is a lot of discussion between the coaches and management during the summer as to which players deserve a look, and, for those who simply cruised through the AHL season this year because they felt they deserved an NHL job, they may find themselves back in the AHL again next year. Effort and hard work is rewarded, and both Manchester and Los Angeles need that effort and hard work to improve in the standings. Not only that, but additional playing time is certainly up for grabs for players that work hard.

Is there any excuse for not working hard? No. Every veteran player who goes to the AHL always says the same thing upon his demotion: "I'm going to work hard to make it back to the NHL". Why do younger players feel this isn't the best course of action for them?

While I realize that you can't suspend the guys who don't work hard, a night in the press box might help. The only problem is that the Monarchs need their best players every night as they sit with a 21-24-0-5 record, good for 12th out of 14 teams in the AHL's Eastern Conference. They sit nine points out of a playoff spot right now, so they need a boost from their best players.

Sulking on the bench about not playing in California won't get anyone in Manchester a one-way ticket to the NHL. It's time for a reality check and a gut check for a few players in the AHL if they ever want to see the NHL again.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Huge thanks to Mr. Brian Munz for the audio clip. You can listen to Mr. Munz's broadcasts of all the AHL's Manitoba Moose games at CJOB's website, and read and hear Mr. Munz' reports on the AHL and the Moose on the Moose webpage on CJOB's website.

1 comment:

Tony said...

...damn hippies should be happy they HAVE a job


Er, the young guys prove their immaturity for not being patient with the process. Its how it works, man...especially when you sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates of the NHL.