Here’s the third and final installment of my interview with Manchester Monarchs coach Mark Morris. He talks about players adjusting to the AHL level, the Manchester goalies, who on the team is most improved this season and his future goals in coaching.
What’s the biggest adjustments players have to make coming from Juniors, College and the ECHL to playing in the AHL?
“I would say their awareness on the ice. The transition is just so much quicker. A lot of those guys come to us as single-effort players. They take a stab at the puck and play poke-and-go hockey. They don’t realize the importance of position. They’re not aware of puck positioning and puck protection. They’re careless how they take care of the puck. They leave it exposed or dont make a good dump. They get mesmerized by the puck instead of reading the play.”
What injury kept Scott Parse out of the lineup and what are his strengths as a player?
“Scott is still trying to get up to speed. After his issues with his back for him this is like training camp, that’s how far he is behind the learning curve. I think just learning how to keep pace with the game in the AHL has been a big challenge for him. He still has a long way to go to catch up to the others.”
Talk about the young goalies youve seen. Erik Ersberg, Jonathan Quick and now Daniel Taylor.
“In the early part of this season, Ersberg proved that he was the real deal. He started stopping pucks. Then we saw an exchange of goalies back and forth. Clouts just recently has gotten to point he is healthy. We won 5-4 last night and he was fabulous. We gave up so many odd-man rushes and opportunities that he had to stand on his head to stop them. We had a giveway on the power play that he stopped on a 2-on-1 that was just unbelievable. As far as him being here, I hadnt seen him like that since I was in Vancouver. I think that hes very confident right now. He waited for his time to get in the net. Young Dan Taylor surprised everyone and has risen to the top of the chart as far as the guy who has won games for us. Right now we have three goalies, which is an awkward situation for us to be in. Cloutier’s game is on the uprsise, Ersberg has taken a back seat for the time being and Taylor is doing well. He was the goalie of the month last month and had three consecutive shutouts. Clouts alsi is the proud father of a new baby girl. A lot in his life is changing and I think hes really anxious to get back up.
Taylor probably played the most consistent of any goalie we’ve had this year. He’s a guy who started the season with no place to play. We kept him around as a practice goalie while trying to find him a spot. By default, he got in the net. I give him a lot of credit for keeping his focus. Hes a very structured kid. Seeing him just in sports development camps the last two years, to think he’d be playing as well as he is would, I would never have guessed it. He studies positioning, He’s very methodical and his confidence is at an extremely high level right now.”
Who on the Monarchs has improved the most this season?
“That’s a hard one. As of late, Lauri Tukonen has really improved quite a bit. But I have to say Matt Moulson’s game, from where he started a year ago to where he is right now, it’s pretty tough to contest that. He seems to have picked it up a step. Hes not noted as a guy who is really fleet of foot but he’s a very effecient, smart hockey player. That has been impressive for us. Lauri the last few weeks has shown dramatic improvement from where he was a year ago. Matt Ryan also has improved immensely.”
On a personal note, youve coached at different levels developing players. Is that where you think you belong or do you hope to be an NHL coach?
“I never really thought of it. Being an NHL coach is such an honor. I dont know how anybody could turn down the opportunity to do so. To date, Ive enjoyed working with this-age player. It’s probably the age I’m most familiar with. Watching these guys get better every day and be able to help them find elements of their play thats going help them reach the next level reminds me of my time working with Todd Merchant, Willie Mitchell, Craig Conroy and other prominent NHL players. Hopefully I can make an impact on these guys to make them know they have the same type of potential. It’s a good challenge to think on your feet and help some of these guys bring their games along to reach their fullest potential.”