The Spokane Chiefs are about an hour from dropping the puck in their Western Hockey League regular season opener at Tri-City, and below we've got all kinds of pregame material for you to read before you watch the game on SWX at 7:05 - including a lot of extra material from my sit down with coach Don Nachbaur yesterday at the Arena.
MORE DON NACHBAUR QUOTES:
- On the Chiefs' offense: I don’t think we have a guy that’s going to score 50 goals. But somebody in that group might surprise me. I would like to think we had a guy that could, but it’s a long season with a lot of ups and downs. There’s a couple guys that have the potential to score goals every night and we hope that happens, but I won’t name guys.
- On if he thinks the offense will de more spread out/deeper: That’s hard to project. We’ve got some kids that were young guys last year that were third- and fourth- line guys that are moving up a line. You never know how that’s going to turn out. You hope it turns out well, but at the end of the day it.s up to them. They’ll get the opportunity. Guys like (Liam) Stewart and (Connor) Chartier are moving up a bit, you know, from the third and fourth lines. We hope that they’ve developed and we’ll get more production out of them this year. Same with Carter Proft. Hopefully with more ice time they’ll take advantage of that and produce more. I think the generic makeup of our team is we’re going to have to score by committee this year. We weren’t a potent scoring team last year. Our highest point getter was Brenden Kichton – a defenseman – he’s done that two years in a row and usually it’s a forward that leads your team in scoring.
- On leadership group: Still analyzing and going through that in our minds. We won’t name a captain this week. Hopefully by our home opener, that is my goal. But right now it’s wide open. I think there are some guys in the back of my mind that can do the job, but I want to see them in a game situation in a regular season game and luckily we are able to do that.
- On final cuts/overage situation: With Marek being out, I have 13 healthy forwards and usually you keep 14. On the back end we have nine guys and one extra overage, so we’ve got to do something there because we can’t carry nine guys all year.
(Note: the four players competing for three overage roster spots are: forwards Dylan Walchuk and Blake Gal, and defensemen Brenden Kichton and Davis Vandane. My money is on Vandane being traded. Lots of experience, good size, would be perfect for a team that needs some older leadership on the blue line. Just my thought. Here's Nachbaur's thought...)
- I think you’d prefer to do it sooner rather than later but we want to be fair to our guys. I think those situations always clear themselves up and it becomes clear what the right fit is – whether it’s two D-men and a forward or two forwards and one defenseman. It’ll clear itself up. There isn’t a lot to tell. Tim and I haven’t sat down and said, ‘This is it – these are our guys.’ The truth of the matter is we haven’t done that, we’ve been pretty open-minded. We have some time if we want to use it.
(NOTE: They do have some time. Oct. 10 to be specific.)
- On using that time to expirement with line combos and D pairings: My style has always been to play four lines, so regardless of who is playing first or second line, there really is no first or second line, I think people have seen that. One way to develop young guys is put them against the other team’s top line. That way they have no fear. That said, I haven’t put together four lines that are set in stone. We’re still juggling. We did that throughout exhibition to find chemistry amongst these players because guys that played together last year – every line lost a guy. So we have to navigate our way through the new chemistry among the guys.
- On defense: We should be better in the sense of experience and knowing where to go and how to play and how hard to play and how committed you have to be. That experience bodes well for young guys because if our veteran guys can pass along that knowledge right away we should be farther along than a lot of teams real early in the season and that would be great to see for us. But we can’t think it’s going to be easy. We had some guys come back from last year that I think had the attitude it would be easier because they’d been in the league and that hasn’t been the case. We’ve had to put on our workboots and go back to work in a lot of areas, not just on defense.
- On fresh import Mikulas Rimmel: He’s young and going to the WHL from the level that he came from back home and that will be a huge step up for him competitively. The rink is smaller, it’s more physical and everything happens a lot quicker. But I like his skill, I like his attitude and I think he’s going to fit in nicely.
- On Fiddler, who had a solid preseason: Bottom line with him, if he’s working the puck is going to come to him. He has skill and he’s showed he could be a real good player for us, but that’s up to him.
- On the highly-anticipated goalie situation: Nobody is ahead of anybody here. What they did last year means nothing to me. They have to re-prove themselves all over this year and that’s just life.
(NOTE: Again, just my opinion, but I would put money on Engel or Williams being traded - my instinct says Engel. They can't keep two 19-year-old goalies and not future think.)
Would love to hear your thoughts!