First year Chicago Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson knows all about results. The Calgary, Alberta, native has a calm demeanor about the process of coaching and embracing the process that lies ahead.
He took the last-place Windsor Spitfires and turned them into the Memorial Cup champions in less than two years. Wins are always ideal, but it is rather the process of transforming an entire team to a functioning unit that inspires Thompson. Wolves TV Report Mark Citron chatted with him briefly after Thursday’s practice to see how the process has looked so far through six games and about the 3-1 loss to the Manitoba Moose.
Q: Wednesday, you said you liked the Wolves first period. What can you take away from the last two periods as a team?
RT: I thought we actually played a good game. We only gave up eight scoring chances against and a very good night in that department is under 10. Our power play did not come through but we got good looks at the net. It all comes down to execution.
Q: It seemed Manitoba was really forceful in your defensive zone at times, causing guys to turn over the puck or make uncomfortable passes through the neutral zone. We have not seen that sort of play this year from the Wolves defense. Your take?
RT: It wasn’t anything they did. It is all us. Execution. We had great chances in this game. We passed the puck too much. We generated multiple odd-man rushes and didn’t shoot the puck or tried to make the perfect pass at times. Again, I really liked a lot of the looks, but it all comes down to capitalizing. (Wednesday) was just one of those days.
Q: You’re in the middle of a three-games-in-four-nights stretch. What challenges for the weekend are we expected to witness?
RT: We had a great practice today. The guys looked great and we are ready for tomorrow night. I expect Grand Rapids to be a very dangerous team tomorrow night. They have lost a few games lately, but are the defending Calder Cup champions. This is a team with a lot of skill and on their home ice we expect their very best. We will have to be on top of our game and we are ready for the challenge.
Q: With different players being shuffled in and out of your lineup (Vegas, St. Louis, Quad City) how does this affect you as a coach? It must be frustrating, right?
RT: Well, that is part of the deal being the coach. You tell the player what they need to do to be better. It really isn’t because someone had a terrible game is the reason they sit. We make sure we tell them what they need to work on and the next guy will get called on.
Q: Besides playing a complete 60-minute effort from your team, what is your top message to the team moving forward?
RT: Execution. Not just scoring, but in many different areas of our game. Making the right decisions on the ice. Passing the puck when necessary. Shooting the puck, taking penalties, whatever it is, this team just needs to execute to get the results we need.
As Thompson preached, it should be an interesting tilt Friday night in Grand Rapids at 6 p.m. on The U Too. Saturday night is Super Hero night against the Milwaukee Admirals and the first 1,500 kids to enter Allstate Arena receive a Marvel University Live Superhero giveaway. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. Saturday.