Editor’s note: Following is part three of a three-part interview. Part one appeared in the Aug. 24-30 issue, and part two appeared on rockrivertimes.com as an Online Exclusive the week of Aug. 31-Sept. 6.
By Todd Reicher
In part three of the interview with Mike Peck, IceHogs vice president of communications and “Voice of the IceHogs,” we talk about, among other topics, the IceHogs’ potential new roster.
Todd Reicher (TR): Now, I don’t want to get into predictions, but who are a couple of your dark horses this year? Who do you think the fans will associate quickly with and be a “fan” dark horse of, and who are some of your personal dark horses?
Mike Peck (MP): Man, that’s tough. I think Andrew Shaw and Rob Flick (for fan favorites), since they are that kind of gritty player. But the fans have to realize their role will be a little different here, so they might not get a whole lot of scoring. If they happen to be fourth-line guys, they’ll be lucky to get 10 goals probably. But that is just the nature of the role on the team — you can’t judge them by their numbers. Again, there is going to be plenty of room for error and growth because they are rookies.
I’ve always liked (Ryan) Stanton. I think he flies under the radar from a defensive standpoint, but I don’t know if fans will take association to him because he does good things quietly.
Some other guys that could take a big step this year are Dylan Olsen, and it’s not a big year for him, but it could be an important year. He played a lot of games at the pro level last year, and now he will have a full year, so it will be interesting to see how he comes in. Same thing with Kyle Beach. It’s not a make-or-break year, but it’s his second full pro year, and he has a full season under his belt and he knows the pro game. So it will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments he makes and how he reacts to being a second-year guy. You can’t really judge a guy because he was a first-round pick, like Beach. I think that is why fans started falling out of favor with Jack Skille, because he was a first-round pick, and people expected him to put up first-line numbers, and that’s just not Skille. That’s the thing that drives me up the wall with rating drafts. Guys will see someone like Mark McNeill and say he should be in the NHL this year, and it just puts unneeded pressure on a kid. I don’t know, maybe he can (play in the NHL), but it’s just unneeded pressure. It was the same thing floating around the first few months for Beach last year. He’s learning the pro game. It’s not that he is not in the NHL yet because he’s not good, it’s because he has to figure out how to play the pro game. And I think IceHogs fans became increasingly frustrated with him because they saw his trials and errors, but that is why the AHL is here.
Joe Lavin has a good potential, and Brandon Pirri had a great first year last year, so it will be interesting to see how they mature.
Another guy that could potentially be here is Brett McLean. He could be the veteran guy on the team, and he had one of his best years in the AHL with the previous ’Hawks affiliate Norfolk, so he could be a guy to watch. It’s hard to live up to the impact of Jeff Taffe, but he could be a guy like that, or a Mark Cullen.
TR: I think a lot of people will take a good look at (Jeremy) Morin. He lit it up when he first got here, then he was set back by an injury.
MP: He is certainly a guy that could play in the NHL, and he just has to get everything honed in here. And once he gets that opportunity, he’ll go. I think he has one more year here, but I think once he gets rockin’-and-rollin’, he could be that guy that goes up if they need someone.
I think it’s a big year for the organization. They have a lot of depth up top, and I didn’t think they were very deep last year — I don’t think they had enough guys to fill all the roles. I think if the Pirri, Morin, Beach, Stanton guys take that next step this season, then, bam, the depth is really back next season.
With the salary cap, it’s going to be a constant struggle with turnover, and some years, the cupboard is not going to look as full as it was. But that’s why they went and restocked last year, and that was why the team was so young. Again, it’s not a make-or-break year, but it’s going to make it a lot easier for them next year when it’s free-agency time.
TR: Last year, the team finished really strong, and I know you want to go into your next season thinking it’s a new season, but how do you think the players and staff will come in? Will they say “let’s carry that momentum over from last season into this season.” You have to think they want to try to carry some of that momentum into this season.
MP: I think some of the guys that were here last season remember the feeling of winning compared to the feeling of struggling. There’s such a long break, and I would even argue that momentum from game to game is overrated. I mean, how many times does the momentum change in a single game? So I think it’s hard to say, “Oh, they carried that momentum in from the last game.” Yeah, they might be excited from the last game, but I think you get into more trouble from a 7-0 win then from a 3-2 win. You see it all the time. A team goes out and scores two goals in the first three minutes of a game, and then they don’t score again. It happens all the time. I think the lesson you learn is losing is tough and makes it not fun coming to the rink, but the feeling of winning makes it fun to come to the rink. And I think that is what the guys will bring into the season — not necessarily the momentum from last year. Hopefully, those guys remember what it was like last February through March when it was a terrible stretch, and they compare it to the end of last season when they won, what, 17 of their last 24.
TR: I think what broke it up during that last winning stretch was the Oklahoma City game where they lost something like 6-0 or 7-0.
MP: You know, it happened in Houston, too, around the time (Ryan) Potulny was traded. It was, what, a 2-12-2 streak? I want to say that out of the 14 games they lost, 11 or 12 of them were two goals or less. The coaching staff was half-joking that it would be better to lose 7-0, because if you are losing 3-2, 4-2 with an empty-net goal, guys are like: “We’re right there! What are we doing wrong?” But, if you get your clock cleaned … we lost in Houston 8-1, then we went on a winning streak. We lost in Oklahoma City 7-0, and we win the last five games of the year. So, it’s interesting how that works. If you get waxed, it stings a bit and hurts your pride. But if you lose a few games by 1 goal, it doesn’t sting the pride as much. You hate to get your doors blown off, but it’s almost better that way for it to happen.
From the Sept. 7-13, 2011, issue