The Reign had a day off practice Monday, then were back at The Bank for practice on Tuesday. Afterward I caught up with Karl Taylor regarding the 0-3 weekend, possible personnel changes, and what he plans to do in practice.
Q: What is the focus between now and Friday?
A: Obviously, we just need to get back to how we play. I thought we played really well on Saturday. We had a good start Friday, didn’t have a good finish. Sunday we laid an egg, we were pretty tired but we also played poorly so we got what we deserved. It’s not always nice to say that or realize it, but our whole approach – we’ve got 22 games left. We’re technically four points out of a playoff spot. So we really want to focus on where we’re going, how we’re approaching. 50 games in the book, we’re not happy with our record. So we’re disappointed with that and where we’re at. But we want to focus on the positive, which is the 22 games left. We can reflect and worry about those 50 games later. No matter what we do, we can’t change it right now. We really want to move forward as a team and as an organization, and for some reason we’re only four points out of the playoffs, which is crazy. But we have lots of time to recover. We really want to get going. We have to focus on the next 22 games. So with regards to practice, we’re going to focus on short, intense, not long duration – so when we get to the game, we have lots of energy and there’s no excuses for anything but top performance.
Q: Isn’t this the time of year where you would typically practice shorter?
A: Usually yes, at this time of year, you’d be starting to crank down the volume out of necessity. Usually a little later than this but because of our situation, we need to do it now to make playoffs. We want to find a way to get into playoffs, make a great playoff run and hopefully erase the first 50 games. Have a decent run. Hopefully that’ll be a way to recover part of the season. We don’t want to forget what’s happened – we want to recover on a very positive note and have that including a playoff run. Hopefully the opposite of last year, where we overachieved in the regular season and underachieved a little in the playoffs. We’d like to reverse it this year. That definitely wasn’t the plan – to underachieve in the first 50 games, but we’ve definitely done that as a team, on the hockey side.
Q: So then, is the goal to expend less energy in practice so you have more for the games?
A: No, because we’ve had lots of energy in the games, we just haven’t executed well enough. To put that back on the coaching staff is unfair, the players have to take responsibility to play. Our starts have been poor. As a professional athlete it’s your job to come to the rink, prepare hard and do all the things you can control.
We’ve talked to the players about how we’re approaching the last 22 games and that’s the way we’re going after it. it’s not a clean slate, that’s not what we’re saying – we want to learn from it – but we can worry about what happens later in our reflection during the summertime and make the changes necessary so that we don’t allow that to happen again. We still want to salvage this year. We still have time, which is crazy, because based on the record, you can argue whether we deserve to have an opportunity now or not.
Q: Will there be personnel changes?
The phones are always burning and when your record indicates you’re not playing up to snuff, it burns even more. We’re trying to find the right fit. If we can bring in people we think are going to improve our play, it’s not out of panic. It’s out of need. The players have to understand that some guys are not performing up to their capabilities consistently, top to bottom. When that happens, changes happen. I’m a person that thinks long and hard and makes sure we get the right fit, not a guy that pushes the panic button and trades guys at the top of a hat. But that is an avenue to improve our team, and if we find the right fit we’ll do it.
That avenue’s been explored for a while now. It’s not like all of a sudden these guys aren’t doing it consistently enough. Everyone needs to understand the responsibility falls with me. I’m the head guy, the director of hockey ops and we are where we are today based on who I brought in. I’m responsible for how we played. It doesn’t go past me. I accept that responsibility. It’s not always the fun part of the job, but last year’s team there was a lot of praise, a lot of cheering, a lot of ‘how great everything was.’ I accepted that with full open arms during the good times. Now we’re struggling. In sports, these things happen. We don’t always enjoy them. Sometimes you learn a lot about yourself and the people around you. We are where we’re at because of me. I take full responsibility and, in the end, players need to understand that changes occur when things don’t go very well.
Q: Any transactions today?
A: No, not at this time.
Q: Do you anticipate playing with five defensemen again this coming weekend?
A: No. We anticipate having more. We’ll see how it goes. Shawn (Germain) has an upper-body injury that he’s been playing with for almost the whole season and trying to battle through it. That’s come to a head a little bit. We’re trying to work through it. last game we decided to play with five D and 11 forwards. That was a selection I made; I thought that could help us be a little more aggressive up front. Maybe get some energy after the hard travel, try to make it easier on the D, keep more pressure up ice. We could have played any system, dressed 10 defensemen and three forwards, it wouldn’t have mattered Sunday. We didn’t play very well.
Q: Might Germain play this weekend?
A: No idea. There’s always an opportunity. He’s a warrior. He’s an awesome player, a great person, and he’s battled through a lot. We’ll give him every opportunity and all the time he needs to get better.
Q: Sal Peralta rejoined the lineup last weekend; how did he look to you?
A: Just OK. He needs to do a lot more. So do a lot of other guys. I don’t want to put all the blame on him. He got back and was just OK. In a 7-0 loss, nobody’s very good.