October 12, 2012

Pirates reflect Phoenix philosophy

Portland, which opens the season Saturday, will feature players picked to play a defensive style.

By Paul Betit pbetit@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The Phoenix Coyotes have finally filled the roster of its AHL affiliate -- the Portland Pirates -- with the kind of players it really wants.

2012 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7
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Don Maloney and Dave Tippett of the Phoenix Coyotes discuss matters during Round One of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft at Consol Energy Center on June 22 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

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Don Maloney
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Phoenix GM Don Maloney says he has “put a premium on character and competitiveness” in his search for players since taking over the club four years ago “because we don’t have the wherewithal to pay high-end skilled players right now.”

The Associated Press

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COMING UP FOR PIRATES

Season opener: Saturday at Adirondack, 7 p.m.

Home opener in Lewiston: Friday, Oct. 19 vs. Worcester, 7 p.m.

Home opener in Portland: Friday, Nov. 2 vs. St. John's, 7 p.m.

PIRATES ROSTER

FORWARDS: Scott Arnold, Evan Bloodoff, Alexandre Bolduc, Darian Dziurzynski, Chris Brown, Chris Conner, Brett Hextall, Rob Klinkhammer, Phil Lane, Jordan Martinook, Andy Miele, Joel Rechlicz, Brendan Shinnimin, Jordan Szwarz, Ethan Werek

DEFENSEMEN: Mathieu Brodeur, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Maxim Goncharov, Brandon Gormley, Mark Louis, David Rundblad, Michael Stone, Chris Summers

GOALIES: Chad Johnson, Mark Visentin

 

Don Maloney, who became general manager of the Coyotes four years ago when the NHL took over the bankrupt franchise, said he needed all that time to get to this point.

"When I was hired to come to Phoenix, they had a half-dozen years prior to that of very, very poor drafting and developing (of players)," Maloney said in an interview during a recent visit to Portland. "If it was not the worst (franchise) in the league, it was certainly one of the worst."

This season, 20 of the 25 players who will suit up for the Pirates, who open the season on the road Saturday, were either drafted by the Coyotes or signed as free agents coming out of college or the junior ranks.

Each is the kind of player the Coyotes need in order to play the defensive style they employ, Maloney said.

"When we came in, we really put a premium on character and competitiveness," he said.

"You certainly need ability. I think prior to us, ability was at the top of the list above character and (the will to) compete The character piece is the only way we can survive because we don't have the wherewithal to pay high-end skilled players right now."

In previous years, while waiting for the players it had drafted to come of age, the Phoenix organization has had to bring in players from other organizations to fill out the roster of its AHL affiliate.

"Last year, we had some offensive players, and that's the way they played, and we couldn't get them to buy in to our identity," Pirates Coach Ray Edwards said.

"A lot of times those high-end, high-skilled players lack the defensive details that we need in our game to have success," Maloney said. "It comes at a price. It's risk-taking versus safety.

"We want a certain amount of risk-taking, but at the end of the day we thought we made a mistake. Some people who came here just didn't fit the way we wanted to play. There's a certain way we want to play the game, it messed up the chemistry."

A majority of the young players on the team have been hearing about the Coyotes' approach to the game for two or three years now.

"These kids have been coming to (our) development camps for years, to (our) rookie camps," Edward said. "This isn't new to them. The young players have heard in development camp how we have to be as a team."

Phoenix wants the Pirates to mirror the way the Coyotes play.

"We're going to have to be a team that has to have everybody going," Edwards said. "We need 20 guys playing solid every night. We're not going to be able to get by on one guy or two guys all year."

"We're going to have to defend well, and that doesn't mean just the (defensive zone)," Edwards said. "That means the way you check, the way you forecheck, the way you handle the puck, all those things. That's our identity. That's what we've been trying to drive in here from day one."

Goaltending and defense are expected to be strengths for the Pirates, who left Friday for their season opener against the Adirondack Phantoms in Glens Falls, N.Y.

The Pirates have brought in veteran Chad Johnson, who has never posted a goals-against average higher than 2.72 in three AHL seasons with the New York Rangers organization, and rookie Mark Visentin, who compiled a 1.99 goals-against average with a league-record 10 shutouts while playing for the Niagara IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League.

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