After a lifeless home ice loss to the Coquitlam Express Sunday afternoon, the Chilliwack Chiefs stayed in the locker room for 15 minutes, keeping fans waiting for the postgame ‘Skate with the Chiefs’ event.
Whether they were suffering in silence or enduring a tongue lashing from hockey boss Brian Maloney, they had a lot to think about.
Not just the just-finished game, where they had just three shots in the final 40 minutes (zero in the second period) of a 4-1 defeat.
There was Saturday night too, a blown 2-0 lead against fifth place Surrey in a 4-3 defeat, the first time in 16 head to head meetings that the Eagles have prevailed.
You could hear a pin drop outside the dressing room, and inside the atmosphere was who-died depressing.
Monday morning, the players filed into Maloney’s office one by one for 30 minute one-on-one meetings.
He started by asking each player whether they still wanted to be a Chilliwack Chief.
“If they say they want to be here, then they’d better buy in to what we’re trying to do here,” Maloney said. “If they don’t want to put the work in, they won’t be here, and probably very quickly.”
Maloney believes he’s got a good group of players, teenagers who will listen to criticism and not think they have all the answers.
But he also believes they’re young and immature and they’ve picked up bad habits at lower levels.
“Right now we have a bunch of kids who are completely used to being ‘the guy’ with their former teams, or we have guys who were here last year who think that just because they put a year in, they automatically become the guy,” he elaborated. “What they forget is that there’s a bunch of fundamental things they need to learn before they can have success statistically. Realistically, on a hockey team you can’t have a bunch of 50 goal scorers. You have to have a collection of guys who, first of all, want to compete in their own zone and have a heartbeat when they get on the ice.”
Bottom line, Maloney said his charges are looking to have success without putting the work in.
“I believe that we have the players on the roster to be the best team in the league. We’re skilled enough to win hockey games, but we’re not going to win anything until we figure out what it takes to be a Chilliwack Chief. For me, that’s giving a s—t about your teammates for starters, pulling for one another, caring about the little things like blocking a shot, getting a puck out, changing with purpose and making little passes to your teammate and trusting him to do the right thing.
“There’s a bunch of things we’re not doing as a team. Right now, our guys think being a good teammate is getting the puck and going end-to-end and trying to win it in one shift. Bless their hearts if they think that’s what a good teammate is, but it’s not.”
Maloney said he’s given the team a longer leash to this point, hoping they’d figure it out on their own.
“They’ve shown us they can’t. They’ve shown us they need our help as far as direction goes,” he said. “So, we’re going to help them with that. If that’s me telling a kid exactly what kind of player he is, then so be it. If I think you’re a kid who needs to not even think about scoring a goal, and worry more about managing the puck, that’s what I’ll tell you.”
The acquisition of if Davis Murray was planned and executed before the weekend meltdown.
But the arrival of the 20 year old forward now seems exceptionally well timed.
It should shake up the locker room, and more internal competition for ice time never hurts.
“Any time you blow two games at home, you re-evaluate a lot of things, and the added experience he brings is exactly what we need,” Maloney said. “If I had any doubts about making this move, the last two games erased them.”
Murray played 164 games in the Western Hockey League for the Edmonton Oil Kings and Kootenay Ice, producing 13 goals and 31 points. Most interesting, he had 226 penalty minutes.
It was striking how little pushback there was from Chilliwack in the weekend losses, and Murray should help.
“One hundred per cent, and that’s what today’s conversations are about,” Maloney concurred before heading back into his office for another one-on-one. “I don’t care if you’re five-foot-five or six-foot-five, you have to show some signs of compete in this game.”
Murray will see his first Chiefs action Friday when the team visits the Langley Rivermen.
He’ll make his home ice debut Saturday night when Chilliwack hosts the Prince George Spruce Kings.