I had the chance to host a Q & A session with Allen Americans coach Steve Martinson at the Allen Event Center Saturday. Thanks to everyone that came out to the event and also for those of you that couldn’t attend that sent me questions. There were a lot of familiar faces at the event and everyone is anxious for the 2015-2016 season to begin.
Before starting the Q & A session I thought it was important to recap the great season last year that ended with the Kelly Cup championship and remind everyone how fortunate Allen is to have Steve Martinson as the coach and general manger of the team.
Steve will be starting his 20th season as a head coach and has won nine championships in his previous nineteen seasons. He has close to 900 regular season wins and failed to make the playoffs just one time in his career. He has never lost a seven game series at home and just one on the road. In his three years as coach in Allen he has won three championships and is 10-0 in playoff series with five of the ten series going to a game seven.
With that said the group had plenty of questions for coach Martinson.
How was your summer?
Our time in Illinois where we have a home on the water was short this year with playoffs going until the middle of June and then having to be back in Allen for the kids to start school the last week of August. But we had a great summer and I don’t consider it over yet. We have our boat here in Texas and this weekend should have been a boating weekend but both Logan and Lily have started hockey and had games this weekend.
Can you bring us up to date on your roster for the upcoming season?
In addition to the eight players that have already been announced (Costello, Descoteaux, Gens, Gill, Pierro-Zabotel, Schultz, Stevenson, Young) most of the players from last year that have not signed elsewhere will be returning and we will have a few new players that have not been announced yet. We will have four players that will attend the San Jose Barracuda’s AHL camp and it would be great if some of them could get an AHL deal out of camp. I think our team will be tougher than we were last year as we have a few guys that have yet to be announced that are good players but also tough guys that are hard to play against.
Who do you expect to be assigned from San Jose?
We will get at least two forwards, a defenseman and a goalie from San Jose and there might be two more guys in the mix as well.
Are there still AHL free agents available to sign or will become available after AHL training camps?
Yes, but I really don’t have any money to sign additional players unless I move money but nothing is ruled out. The only guy right now that is on a no trade, no cut contract is Aaron Gens and that is because he is taking care of our cat and I am hoping he falls in love with the cat. As long as he has that cat I can’t get rid of Gens.
The one new player that has been announced is Casey Pierro-Zabotel. Can you tell us a little about the type of player Zabotel is?
He is a good all-around player that I think led the Western League in scoring and has led several ECHL teams in scoring. I was looking for someone that was good on faceoffs as that is an area where we struggled last season, especially offensive zone faceoffs on the power play. Zabotel is not overly physical but we will have plenty of physical guys this year.
Did you make a conscious decision to have a more physical team for the upcoming season?
You have heard me say many times I want a team that is big, fast, skilled and tough and you have to make sure you have a balance of players. You have to be careful in being big but not fast, all speed but not tough. You have to have a good mix with the right amount of guys that can chop the wood and those that can carry the water. With call ups and injuries during the season your mix can change but you have to make sure your best players are allowed to be the best players. We have a guy that we have not announced yet that is big, strong, tough and can play who has been playing in the AHL the last couple of years. I think right now we have a nice mix of speed, skill and toughness.
With the success you have had in Allen the last three years do you find people answer the phone quicker when you call to recruit?
Usually I don’t have to make calls as I have so many players/agents contacting me. The easiest guys to get are the high end players because they all want to come to Allen but you can only have so many of those guys. You can only have so many vets and then of course everyone’s buddy wanted to come. To make the team now a player would have to take a spot from somebody else and the only way to do that is if a player is better and cheaper.
You have mentioned you are trying to get the rights to a player or two. What does that entail?
You have to trade for a players rights. I made an offer the other day and the team usually asks for future considerations and I never trade for futures because that typically means in January you get to protect 12 players and then the team gets to pick who they want. It is just not a good way to make a trade in my mind.
Can you share anything about training camp this year?
We will be meeting next week to get things firmed up but we can’t start physicals until October 2nd which is a Friday and ice time is usually tough to get on the weekend so we might start camp on Monday, October 5th. I think we will have one preseason game here in Allen but that is still being worked on.
Will you be attending the San Jose AHL training camp?
Yes, I am going to San Jose on the 27th (Sunday). All the guys with the possibility of coming to us will be playing in a preseason game on Thursday of that week so I will get to see everyone in game conditions in addition to practices.
With Jamie Schaafsma gone how will you go about selecting a new captain?
I have made the selection of the captains in the past. I believe a captain at this level is different than in the NHL where long term contracts and salary disparities are very different. When I was a player I have seen where you get a lot of player turnover and you end up with players that are popular but not good captains. The captain needs to lead by example but you don’t need the Mark Messier type because the NHL is different. At our level the captain doesn’t need to be the be all end all guy. He needs to relate to the players and be a straight up, honest guy and not be afraid to come to me with issues.
What are your thoughts on the new overtime and shootout rules given the fact Allen was 3-6 in overtimes and 3-4 in shootouts last season?
I am going to a coaches meeting on Tuesday and they are going to have a test on the new rules so I plan on having some fun with that. I thought our problem in overtimes last year was some of our best offensive players were not good defensively or did not buy into how you have to play when you are playing four on four. What will help us when we switch to three on three this season is we have good offensive defensmen so we may be able to put multiple defensemen on the ice.
What do you expect out of the Central Division (Tulsa, Wichita, Missouri) this season given the fact you play 39 of your 72 games against Central Division opponents?
I think you can expect the Central Division to be pretty physical as we have good rivalries with all of the teams. Missouri should be an improved team if all of the players Bridgeport has signed to two way deals get sent to the Mavericks. There should be some entertaining games and my advice to fans is don’t show up late to games.
Do you think it hurts not having an affiliation?
I can only speak for us. The affiliations give young players an obvious avenue to move up to the AHL. A good affiliation sends you good players. The players we got at the end of the season last year (Arseneau, Crane, Abeltshauser, Rumpel) played a key role in the playoffs. If you have a bad affiliate it can be painful. I just know it works for me. Since I have been in Allen we have loaned more players to the AHL, lost more players to the AHL than anyone yet we have had more success. To be successful we need a mix of players that want to move up and those that know their time has passed but are still very motivated to win. In my book there is not a better affiliate to work with than San Jose. We talk all of the time, they paid for me to come out to their development camp and I got to sit in all of their meetings. They have been great to us and I couldn’t be happier than working with San Jose.
Any final thoughts?
We are planning on coming out with a vengeance and winning again. We want more of the same and I am excited about the team. If you remember last year between now and the start of the season I made 10 or 12 roster changes. This year I feel much better about the roster. There are a couple of issues I am trying to work out but I am looking forward to seeing our line up on opening night.
DID YOU KNOW: Coach Martinson often says his team is always the same and it is just the players names that change. Here are a few of his other thoughts on coaching:
– On the first day of camp I will tell the players what I am looking for from each of them. I say it often and it is straightforward. What is important to me is having players that work hard, are in great shape, follow the system, be a team guy, and finish checks. If you don’t do all of these things you can’t be a leader.
– I want to make sure right away players understand the type of team we are going to be. That is one that competes hard, is physical and difficult to play against.
– I would rather have a player that hits hard and is a so so fighter than a player that can fight but doesn’t hit hard.
– Sports to me is somewhat like the military. Many times you have to do things you don’t like to do because it is for the good of the team. People that have to make tough decisions need to do it without letting personal feelings get in the way. That is what I try to do.
– What you did last year as a player gets your foot in the door and maybe some positive perceptions but what happens this year is based on what you do this year. You have to earn your ice time.
– My job isn’t to make players or fans happy. My job is to win games. I have gotten rid of the most popular players in order to help the team win. It is difficult making decisions to trade or cut players as it can have a great impact on their lives but my goal is to win games and do what is best for the team.
– You don’t have to treat everyone the same but you have to be fair.
– Favorite Motto or Saying: You can’t expect to be the best if you don’t work the hardest.