Dave Barr was named Wolves assistant coach July 25 and has been preparing to work alongside head coach Bob Nardella for the 2023-24 season. Barr played 614 games in the NHL before joining the coaching ranks, including with five NHL teams.
How did you end up joining the Wolves?
“As soon as I saw the job and it was going to be with Bob and that it was just essentially he and I, I knew it was going to be a very rewarding job.
Here’s a funny thing: From all my years with the Houston Aeros, I absolutely hated the Chicago Wolves. The six years I was there, we did not like the Wolves and they didn’t like us. Both of us had good teams all the time. So, I was like, ‘OK, well, maybe I’ll join the enemy.’ ”
Your experience stands out. How will that be a benefit behind the Wolves bench?
“I’ve done a lot. I’ve run power plays and penalty kills, been a head coach, coached internationally and played for 16 years with different organizations. So, I’ve kind of experienced everything.
When I got to talking with Bob, we got along personally very well and I think professionally we’ll be very good for each other.
I’m going to be working with the defense, which is a great way for me to learn again. I have worked with defenses before, using them in game situations, but I haven’t done it for a while.
I’m just looking forward to coming to Chicago and hopefully helping us win a bunch of games.”
How would you describe your coaching style?
“Aggressive. Let’s force teams to make plays they don’t want to make.
I’m going to be running the penalty kill this season and my thoughts are, ‘what does the power play hate?’ Power plays hate pressure. So, let’s pressure them.
I’d rather be an aggressive coach than a passive coach and I think Bob thinks along the same ways.”
The roster will be a mix of young players and veterans. How do you balance working with each?
“That’s a great question. When you’re talking to players, whether it’s a 22-year-old or a 32-year-old, there should be a lot of respect for them and from where they came. It’s understanding how they got to this point and understanding what their expectations are for this season and maybe the rest of their careers.
And then hopefully having them understand that we want to do what it takes to win games. So, we have to put them in the best position to be the best players for us.”
Do you take away something from each stop in your career?
“For sure. I think everybody does by watching other players do this or that. I remember my first year as a pro watching other pros play the game and I was like, ‘holy cow, they make it look so easy.’ So you learn from everybody.
You’re always learning and getting better. I’m 62-years old and I’m excited to be a ‘D’ coach this year.”
There’s a huge turnover on the roster from last season. Is that a good thing for a coach joining the organization or would you rather have some more continuity?
“Continuity helps, but after a month the guys will get to know each other personally and they’ll get to know what Bob is trying to ask of them.
Bob knows the players better than I do and it takes a while to understand, ‘OK, this guy is really good in this situation and he’s not as good in this situation.’ Obviously, it’s our job to help them become better in those situations.
At the same time, everybody’s got their strengths and that’s going to take a while to learn. We play two exhibition games so we have to learn a lot about our players real quick.
There’s a lot of learning and within roughly a month or so we’ll have a lot of the bugs out and we’ll have figured it out.”
You’ve touched on this a bit, but what makes a good coach?
“Well, there is a little difference between the head coach and the assistant. The assistant for the most part is not really the disciplinarian but if a guy is not working hard, I might be going up to him in a game saying, “hey, we’re going to have you sit here for a little bit until you get going.
“Communication is huge and being honest with them. If you sit a guy, but you don’t tell why you’re sitting him, you’re not doing yourself or him any favors. Because then he’s thinking, ‘why am I sitting? Is it because of that last shift? Was it because of the last game?’
Players respect honesty. Even if they maybe don’t like the answer, at least they know that’s why they’re in the situation they’re in.”
It’s about having them understand that we care about them. And you really have to care. You can’t pretend.”
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
“I’m a trail runner. I do not run on roads so I have to find some trails to run on somewhere near.”