Oct. 1, 2012
• Watch Eaves News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves spoke about the team's first official day of practice, new and current athletes and the start of the season at his weekly news conference at Camp Randall Stadium Monday.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above and a complete transcript of Eaves' remarks can be found below.
Question: What's it like your first official day of practice, and then you play a game that night?
Eaves: We've not done it before. It will be a little new experience for all of us. Our discovery has been the fact that, having these -- we have two hours a week. So our process has been to split our time into three practices, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The kids go on the ice with skating instructors and have a warm-up. They go do skating drills. The ownership process has been good. The coaches will come on for 40 minutes, and Coach Snyder will come on the bench and do a conditioning skate. So it works out pretty good. I'll tell you one thing, I've never seen 40 minutes go by so fast. It seems like 40 minutes, and we're looking at the clock, and we have to get off the ice. At least we've been able to get to most of our systems and plant seeds and remind guys of what their jobs are. There's actually ten practices before our first game, as we mapped it out. I think, what it has done is highlighted this first game. These practices actually have a meaning and a purpose because our very first official day, we play at 8:00 that night. So I'm interested to see how that pays off. I think the attention has been raised to a higher level because of the fact we have that carrot there. We're playing our first date. So we need to be ready. We need to stay focused, even the brief time we have as players and coaches has been very well received, and there's been a good attention level.
Question: Mike, I don't know if you can answer this question at this point, but if you look at where this team has ended up at the end of the season, since '06, where you build up and win the title in '06, build up and get back in ten. Where do you think this team might be if you plotted that out on a graph given the personnel you've got coming back.
Eaves: If you look at history, you would say these are the two years we need to harvest our crop, so to speak. That's what we need to do. We start further down the spectrum certainly than we were last year in power play and specialty teams and all our team play. We've had young men play in situations they probably weren't ready for last year, they probably haven't done now. As we said last year, we liked our team. If we can pick up somewhere along that spectrum closer to where we ended last year, we're looking to get off to a much better start.
Question: Mike, of these little snapshots of practice you've had, have they allowed you an opportunity to assess what you have in your freshmen?
Eaves: Yes. There's no question. They have been able to jump in there and give us a glimpse of what they're capable of. The interesting thing about this type of year as opposed to last year or the year before, our freshman class and our sophomore class, they're so big. Now we have two forwards and two defensemen and a goalie and a young man that's kind of going between defense and forward. So they're able to go to the back of the line and watch several times as to how things are being done and have a better idea when it comes to up to their turn. So their learning curve and their process, they have better examples in front of them before they have to actually jump in there. But because of that fact, we're able to see how they fit in and what kind of skills they have.
Question: Mike, you mentioned some guys having to be put in situations to do things they might not have been ready for last year. Who are some of the guys that will benefit from that? Whether it's taking a big jump or just be more consistent this year?
Eaves: I can take a look at anybody who was in our sophomore, freshman class last year. Woodsy, Navin, Rumps, Pedersen -- all freshmen thrown into pretty significant situations right away. I think, by the end of the year, they had achieved significant growth, and you could see some success in what they were doing.
Question: As far as the goaltenders, obviously, that was a big question, going into last year. That's only going to help them. We saw Rumpel really kind of mature in the second half last year, would you agree with that?
Eaves: No question. I think part of that maturation was the fact that he knew that Mr. Pedersen was right off his shoulder every day in practice, and the games he got to play, he played very well. So as a coach and as a coaching staff, we would like to have that kind of situation in every position -- goaltending, defensemen, and forwards. I think we do have that this year much more than compared to last year.
Question: Mike, every NCAA Tournament team that you've had has had a marquee focus, whether it's Blake Jeffrey, Joe Pavelski, any one of those guys. Where does Mark Zengerle fit on that graph in terms of comparison and where he can fit for your team?
Eaves: If you look at his numbers in freshman and sophomore years, those are pretty dynamic numbers. I think last year you take a look at the forwards that were in the league, he was kind of lost in the -- maybe the lower third of those top echelon forwards, and I think that's something he's very much aware of. I think he comes in with a target on his back. I think he welcomes that. He wants to be that guy. He has an ability to be that guy. I think Mark will just kind of pick up where he left off. He's a guy that produces points and wants to produce points and will carry a big load for us this year in that fashion, just as he has his freshman and sophomore year.
Question: Do you have any puck rushing defensemen out there that can fill Justin Schultz's shoes?
Eaves: Not to that degree, but I like our core in terms of from top to bottom. There's a real good, solid base. Obviously, we don't have that magic that Justin provided us. I think on our power play, we're going to give Mr. Lee an opportunity to play that. He's played that part as a -- when he played junior hockey. He skates well enough backwards that I don't think that he's a liability. Certainly not the first time we've done that here. We had Andrew Droty back there as a forward playing defenseman. And he has good vision. He has good skills. I don't think he has quite the magic shot that Justin had. Not many people do, but I think he'll be able to fill that role for us a little bit. No, there's not been one young guy that's jumped up. I think as people mature, we'll get closer to having a Justin Schultz in there, maybe from a guy like Mr. Schulze because he skates very well and sees the ice. So we're hoping that someday he might provide some of that.