After seeing his team in action for the first time, Don Nachbaur was pleased.
The Spokane Chiefs played three preseason games in Everett last weekend, winning two, prompting the coach to say, “There were some real positives from our young guys and some real positives from our returning players.”
Then came the expected.
“But I’m not trying to gauge anything on scores or results,” Nachbaur said. “We have to work on some things.”
“What don’t we?” he responded. “Any team that gets to this level that gets content gets left behind.”
The Chiefs played three U.S. Division rivals, losing to Tri-City 3-2 despite out-shooting the Americans 44-21, beating Seattle 4-3 in overtime and Portland 3-2 in a shootout.
The good and bad centered around effort.
“For the most part we’ve got a good work ethic as a group,” Nachbaur said. “A couple of games we got down but we didn’t have any quit in us. We found a way to come back in those games. That to me is a real positive. That’s instilled by the older guys on the team.”
On the flip side, he said, “We took way too many penalties. For me the discipline on this team has to improve. You can never discount work ethic. Any time you’re working hard you have to find it in yourself to work harder, that’s individually as a group.
“Work to me is about competing. There were areas I thought we didn’t compete hard enough, and battle hard enough and win enough battles. That’s a big part of today’s game, that’s been a big part of the game since it was invented.”
It isn’t Nachbaur’s style to single out individual players during the preseason, especially as he gets to know his roster, but the names that dotted the score sheet were mostly veterans.
Anthony Bardaro, 18, had two goals, Tyler Johnson, 20, and Levko Koper, 20, each had a goal and two assists and Brady Brassart, 17, had a goal and an assist.
Two new 18-year old defensemen, Bruin McDonald and Tyler Vanscourt, also had a goal and assist.
James Reid, the returning starting goal tender, played the whole Portland game, giving up two early power play goals. The other two games were split between newcomers Mac Engle, 17, and Chris Sharkey, 18. Michael Tadjdeh, 19, last year’s backup, didn’t play.
The Chiefs play two games in the Tri-City tournament, facing Lethbridge tonight and the Americans on Saturday. They’ll practice in Spokane in-between.
It’s an important weekend because four key players are departing for NHL camps: Johnson (Minnesota), Koper (Atlanta), Blake Gal (Philadelphia) and Brenden Kichton (Detroit).
“We’ve got guys now that get more of a role on special teams and the onus goes to the other guys for leadership,” Nachbaur said. “We’ll see who emerges. … Everybody’s thrust in a different role.”
Before coaching in the American Hockey League last year Nachbaur helped Tri-City start its most successful run in franchise history. The tournament marks his return, so there has to be some emotion, right?
“That can’t be as hard as standing in the Philadelphia Spectrum with 18,000 people screaming at you and on national TV,” he said. “So is there apprehension about going into a building where there might be 500 people watching an exhibition game? No.”
Well, for sure when the Chiefs open the regular-season there on Sept. 25?
“You know what the answer to that will be?” he said. “No!”