Here’s the interview Don did this week with Danny Taylor, the much-traveled goalie who logged some big miles between Los Angeles and Reading near the end of last season. Don gets the scoop on what that was like for Taylor and also gets to know Taylor a little bit, going into what should be a crucial summer for him.
Hope everyone enjoys another of Don’s great interviews. I’m working on getting the Patrick O’Sullivan interview up today…shouldn’t be long. Enjoy…
Chances are that if you were traveling to and from Los Angeles to Reading, PA in March and April this year you likely encountered goalie Danny Taylor.
Taylor, 22, spent a good amount of time in the air between the two cities in late March and early April, as the Kings and their ECHL affiliate in Reading worked feverishly to get the goaltender in enough games to make him eligible for post season play for the Royals. In all, Taylor experienced no fewer than three recalls to the Kings and three reassignments to Reading in 10 days.
But waiting around in airports was nothing compared to waiting around for playing time, which is exactly what Taylor had to do at the beginning of the hockey season, as there was no open spot for him at any level, be it NHL, ECHL or for the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.
In October and November Taylor was relegated to the role of back-up, or in some instances the third goalie for the Royals or Monarchs. In Reading, Taylor found himself backing up goalies Jon Quick or Jeff Pietrsiak, while in Manchester there was the three headed monster of Quick, Erik Ersberg and the rehabilitating Dan Cloutier.
Taylor ultimately got his chance to play some games for the Royals in December, going 3-0 with a goals-against of 2.64 and a save percentage of .917. He then found his way to Manchester where he got into 23 games, posting a 13-5 record and was named the league’s goaltender of the month in January for putting together an incredible shutout streak of 190:36.
The Plymouth, England native got a sniff of the NHL game on March 29th, playing the entire third period of a 7-2 loss to the Dallas Stars. Taylor fretted in the goal crease for an agonizing four minutes before seeing his first action – a Jere Lehtinen goal on Taylor’s first shot against in the NHL – but then settled in to save eight of the 10 shots his faced.
Taylor took a few minutes to discuss his travels and experiences in all three leagues, and talks about staying mentally strong while being forced to watch other goalies getting the lion share of work in the early part of the season.
Q&A: Danny Taylor
Question: So tell me, is it Daniel, Dan or Danny?
Taylor: Well, my mother calls me Daniel when I’m in trouble, but everyone else calls me Danny. My nickname is “Tales” around the locker room.
Question: Tales? That’s pretty creative.
Taylor: Yeah, leave it to the hockey guys to put an “er” or a “y” or whatever on the end of your last name and that is your nickname for the rest of your life.
Question: Most folks out here are pretty intrigued by the odyssey you went on at the end of March and early April, shuttling between Los Angeles and Reading. How was that for you?
Taylor: Oh, it seemed long at the time, but now seems surreal looking at it, bouncing back and forth from the east coast to the NHL, and at the same time it was pretty overwhelming.
Question: Some folks were speculating that these were all just paperwork transactions, but you were literally going and back and forth, right?
Taylor: Oh yeah. In less than a week I had probably made the trip three times back and forth. I was on a lot of red eye flights that’s for sure.
Question: Wasn’t there one of those games in Reading where you barely made it there and got in for 36 seconds or something like that?
Taylor: It happened twice actually where I made it back to Reading, I’d just got there and it was probably only about a half an hour before warm-ups started and I guess L.A. and Reading had the agreement that I just needed to play one second of that game to qualify for the playoffs and I had to do that twice. The first time was just for 36 seconds and I got to the net when our team was on a 5-on-3 for two minutes and we ended up scoring so they didn’t even get the puck past the blue line. Then I came right out. Then the other time there was an icing called and there was one second left on the clock and the puck was in our zone so I went in there for a second and then I came right back out. So that was all I needed to play in the playoffs for Reading.
Question: So you just needed to get into five regular season games to qualify for the post season?
Taylor: Right. And prior to get called up I had just played in three games. So we made those trips so that I could qualify and get some extra experience.
Question: And you went 3-0 in those other regular season appearances.
Taylor: Yeah it turned out well. Those were my first three games of the season, and I was pretty rusty to start off, but I thought the team played very well in front of me. I didn’t start playing until December and the team played really strong.
Question: You really shined in those 13 post season games for the Royals.
Taylor: There were definitely some adjustments that had to be made coming down from the NHL and the American League, but I thought we had a lot of confidence, even in the dressing room. I knew a lot of the guys beforehand because I had played with them a bit. There was a lot of confidence and there was a system there that we just stuck with and I was just there to be the backbone of the team and make the big saves when I needed to. There was this big adjustment period for me when there just seemed to be a lot more scoring chances in the East Coast than there was in the NHL or even the AHL, so I really had to prepare myself mentally to be ready at all times and just battle through the games.
Question: You also had some success in American League, in fact you were named the player of the week in January, posting a shutout streak that spanned three plus games.
Taylor: That was definitely one of the high points in the season for me. I guess all the stars sort of fell into place for me. The goalie coach was down in December and I got in a lot of work, along with some work with the video guy and I had the opportunity and I took it. I realized that I really needed to take every opportunity that came up because that was when Dan Cloutier was getting healthy and if I didn’t prove myself and play well, I’d be back in Reading. Definitely not where I want to spend my whole career. I want to be in the NHL, that’s for sure, so I knew I needed to take advantage of every opportunity and play well.
Question: It had to be hard to be the odd man out in the organization, kind of the goalie with no place to play for a while?
Taylor: It was definitely frustrating and one of the most difficult times in my career. Just not playing and doing everything but playing. It is pretty tough getting up mentally for practices knowing that you are not going to be playing in the games. I got through it and I bided my time and kind of worked on what L.A. has been preaching the last two years and I got through it and I think I’m a better goaltender because of it.
Question: What have they been preaching?
Taylor: There are always a lot of things to work on as a goaltender, and they talk a lot about being able to read the play and getting in better position, challenging more and just having a better understanding of the game. More specifically, stance was a big thing for me in the beginning and rebound control. Those are two big things if you want to play in the National League and that’s what I was working on in Manchester.
Question: So how did you stay sharp mentally during that rough stretch?
Taylor: That was probably the hardest part, having a good attitude and not complaining and just being a good teammate for the guys. Basically the only option I had was to do that, so I was patient and just tried to be a good teammate and work on what I needed to work on and just get through the next day. I did that for about two months and then I got a chance to play in Reading.
Question: And then you got yourself 20 minutes in the NHL against Dallas late in the season.
Taylor: I only found out about three or four minutes before the period started that I was going in and my heart was racing. Even though I was standing in the net and the play was in the other end my heart was really racing. It was just a feeling of satisfaction that I had gotten there, but then they came down and I forgot that I was playing hockey (laughs). It was definitely one of those feelings that I know I will never forget. I think I’m better for it though, knowing that it is just a game of hockey and I know I can play at that level as a full time NHLer. It was a great eye-opener. It was overwhelming at times, but I’m humble and I know it was just hockey players playing hockey.
Question: So you finally get in there, you settle in a bit and that first shot comes at you….
Taylor: (Laughs). Yeah, that first shot. I haven’t even seen it on tape yet. What a way to start off your NHL career, but there isn’t too much to say after that. It was a good shot and it definitely settled down after that. My nerves were kind of shot, so I kind off took a deep breath until the next shot came in. It was a good experience. The puck definitely moves a lot faster up there.
Question: Thankfully, the next shot came fairly quickly after that first one and with much better results.
Taylor: Yeah, I really didn’t know what to expect in my first NHL experience, but I definitely didn’t want to let in two goals in a row on my first two NHL shots (laughs).
Question: What is your mindset as you start thinking ahead to what is likely to be a very competitive training camp?
Taylor: Well, I really don’t know where I’m going to end up. My mindset right now is just getting the strongest and fastest I can be, and get my technical game as sound as it can be for the NHL level and just be prepared mentally before I get on the ice.
Question: So how is your off season going thus far?
Taylor: It has really started already with a lot of weight lifting and dry land training. They set us up with a pretty good program in L.A. I’ll probably start skating in mid June and then they have the development camp in July. It is good to have a good break, even though there is the training part. There’s just no stress.
Question: But what are you doing for fun?
Taylor: Oh for fun? Ah, golf. I love golf. Hanging out with my buddies, doing a little bit of fishing.
Question: Are you a good golfer?
Taylor: Oh, I shoot in the low 80s. I wouldn’t be a painful golfer, but I wouldn’t be the best one either. How about you?
Question: I’ve been playing for about nine months now. I can’t figure out the driver.
Taylor: Oh, I don’t even hit the thing – just the three wood.
Question: So if you weren’t a hockey goalie what would you be?
Taylor: That’s a great question. I don’t know. I probably would have gone the educational route and gotten a degree in something. Maybe I would have been a teacher, but I haven’t given it a lot of serious thought.
Question: What television show or movie do you like that you would be embarrassed to tell your teammates about?
Taylor: I’d say “The Notebook.” I also saw “Ironman” the other day and that was good, but I probably wouldn’t be embarrassed by that.
Question: Getting back to “The Notebook,” did you see it by yourself?
Taylor: No, I saw it with a girlfriend. I took her out on a little date and we saw it.
Question: Okay, we won’t take away your Man Card.
Taylor: Okay, that’s good (laughs).
Question: Hey, thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Perhaps we’ll be able to find some cool video to include with the interview.
Taylor: Hopefully it’s not that first shot on goal by Dallas that went in.
Question: Maybe we can just put up the trailer for “The Notebook.”
Taylor: Oh man. That’s no good (laughs).