MACON, Ga. – It takes a healthy mix of hungry talent and proven leadership to guide a team for it to be successful. The Macon Mayhem appear to be on track to have especially the latter given their recent training camp invites.
A team expected to be without some of its most recognizable scorers from recent seasons is taking significant steps to build a strong foundation of leadership from the forward positions.
By way of the respective trades of Dakota Klecha to Quad City and Derek Sutliffe to Evansville along with the expected absences of Jake Trask and John Siemer, Macon will needless to say having some scoring holes to fill.
That’s where head coach Leo Thomas will put the onus on the Mayhem’s leadership to shepherd this squad. For a team to contend for a championship, it at times comes down to things beyond just the stat sheet. It’s intangibles like leadership, alpha dogs in the locker room who can take the focus of the team and point it where it needs to go, without the prodding of the head coach.
Going back three years to Macon’s President’s Cup championship, the Mayhem had leadership with Jeff Sanders, Matt Johnson, Matt Summers, and Daniel Gentzler. With that leadership, then-head coach Kevin Kerr at times didn’t have to light a fire within the locker room – the leaders within the locker room already took care of it.
The Mayhem will bank on similar, yet new, leadership core with some of its training camp invites.
Two faces will be familiar to Macon fans from late last season. Marcus Ortiz and Danny Cesarz, who came to the Mayhem last year after being mainstays with Knoxville will be in camp for Macon. Ortiz had a combined 29 points last year in which he also suited for in six games for the Mayhem. He’ll bring not only proven physicality as a forward but the experience of three seasons in the SPHL and ECHL.
Another arrival to Macon last year after being established in Knoxville, Cesarz, will also be in camp. With an excess of 170 games on the ice, his veteran experience on and off the ice will are valuable to Macon’s coaching staff.
Speaking of Macon’s championship season, Stephen Pierog, a tenacious 200-foot player, is also set to rejoin the Mayhem when they open camp. His combo of experience from an SPHL championship and stints in the ECHL with Greenville and Atlanta can’t hurt the Mayhem one bit, that’s for sure.
The infusion of leadership hardly stops here. Josh Cousineau, who is about as close to an ironman in the SPHL as they come, is on Macon’s camp invite list. Through five years with Knoxville and Pensacola, the center has played in 279 games. Cousineau was Pensacola’s captain last year, playing in all 56 Ice Flyers games, totaling 18 points with seven goals and 11 assists. Knowing what it takes to win a title? Cousineau has that attribute as well- doing so twice – once with Knoxville and again with Pensacola.
The nature of the SPHL sets up a portion of training camp rosters being new to pro hockey.
The adjustment for those new arrivals in Macon, however, should be aided by Macon’s expected veteran leadership.
Follow Brad Harrison on Twitter at @SinBinMayhem.