New Chiefs GM putting roster puzzle pieces in place

Jason Tatarnic has a mish-mash of returnees and recruits circling in his head as he plots the course for his new junior A team.

The  walls are currently empty in Jason Tatarnic’s new office.

Eventually, he’ll hang a couple pictures — precious mementos from a Royal Bank Cup run with his 2011-12 Woodstock Slammers. He says he’ll pop by the Chiefs gift shop for a wall clock as well.

In the meantime, the only sign of occupancy is a whiteboard that sits on the floor, resting against the legs of a chair.

On it is the depth chart of the team he’s inheriting from outgoing hockey boss Harvey Smyl.

Written in blue marker are the players who may/should be returning to Chilliwack next year — guys like Jake Hand and Mason Boh — along with some names unfamiliar to fans. Tatarnic leans back in his chair, glances at the board and talks about evaluating players he’s yet to see in person.

“On Sunday I was in here for five or six hours watching video, and I did some of that before I got here as well,” Tatarnic said Tuesday morning. “I met with Harvey and got his input on last year’s players and recruits he was in discussions with, and I’ve got some recruits that I’m bringing in as well.”

Tatarnic went through a similar, if not identical situation, when he took over in Woodstock prior to the 2005-06 season.

Unfamiliarity with the previous year’s roster didn’t seem to hamper him at all as he turned a last place team into a league champion.

“I knew who was returning and knew I had some players I wanted to bring, and I got them all to training camp and made decisions from there,” he said. “I’m not going to make any decisions until I see them in person.”

In the Woodstock example, several returning vets found themselves on the outside looking in with the new coach — a cautionary tale for returning Chiefs to not take anything for granted.

Tatarnic has already touched base with most players, clearly laying out his expectations. First and foremost, before he starts evaluating skating and shooting and defensive zone coverage, Tatarnic said he’ll be looking at how players behave off the ice.

“I really stressed to them that it’s important to me to have good people in that dressing room,” he said. “I have a reputation for not putting up with any garbage, and that’s one thing I’ll be looking for all the time. I always tell them they’ll be people longer than they’re hockey players and they need to know that this is the direction we want to go. Either you’re in or you’re out.”

Tatarnic will welcome a few new players early next week as the Austin Plevy trade deadline deal is announced.

In addition to Mason Boh, the Chiefs are expected to receive three more skaters from the Brooks Bandits, who just bowed out of the AJHL playoffs.

The Chiefs are also hosting their spring camp this weekend at Prospera Centre, bringing in a number of recruits that Tatarnic is eager to see.

Out of that he hopes to get some commitments and start putting his stamp on this team.