With just a handful of players lost from last season’s Muskie lineup, the black-and-gold will have the luxury of sending out an experienced hockey team this season.
But the problem is they lost an abundance of goal-scoring up front with the players who won’t be back.
In fact, the Muskies will be without their top two goal scorers from a year ago--Aaron Grynol (who recently signed with the Thunder Bay Flyers) and Frank Redford (graduation). That leaves second-year head coach Glen Edwards in search of some offensive production from his returning forwards.
“We only had two spots available on defence and three on forward, which made it tough [at training camp] because we had a lot of good kids coming up,” Edwards said after the Muskies wrapped up their training camp last week at Memorial Arena.
“But the real problem we have is that we have to replace guys like Grynol and Redford--which is a tall order,” he admitted.
Edwards said it will be imperative the team sees an increase in goal scoring from its seniors, particularly guys like David Lloyd (the team’s third-leading scorer from a year ago), Chuck Arpin, Jordan Roy, and Brad Gushulak.
Defensively, Edwards is confident the Muskies can continue to play well in their own end despite the fact they lost a pair of veteran defencemen in David Bond and captain Shane Beazley.
The Muskies have just six defencemen on their roster, to go along with 15 forwards and three goalies, but Edwards feels that’s a good number to have. But if the club runs into injury trouble during the season, the coaches have the luxury of moving Chris Kellar, who logged plenty of time on the Muskie blueline last season, back on the point.
The defence will be coached by Ken Christiansen once again while Shane Baker, also a scout with the Thunder Bay Flyers, will help out with the goalies.
Jason Kabel, who worked with the forwards last season, has elected not to return to the team due to other commitments.
Edwards said he was impressed with two new defencemen added to this year’s lineup in Sheldon Kelly and Gary Curtis, whom he feels will be a welcome addition to a blueline that includes James Asplund, Steve Baker, Jon Rogoza, and John Lloyd.
“They are a young defence but they all have a year under their belt,” he enthused. “Asplund improved and Baker came miles ahead from the start of last year.
“With our four top defencemen, and with the addition of Kelly, I’m not too worried.”
“We have four returning defenceman and I really expect a lot out of them,” echoed Christiansen. “We’re going to be young again, and I don’t know if it will be our strong point, but we should do a lot better than last year.”
Christiansen said he also was pleased with the talents of Kelly and Curtis, and felt they would be a good complement to the team’s veteran blueliners.
As for the goalies, the Muskies already have made one significant change from a year ago, releasing Adrian Indian, the club’s number-one netminder for a stretch during the early part of last season, before giving away to Mike Glueheisen in the playoffs.
Glueheisen will be back again, joined so far by rookies Blake Carlson and Jamie Booth, both of whom played last season with the Bantam B•Macs “AA” rep team.
But Edwards noted he’s still undecided if he will go with a three-goalie system or just two. He also said he hasn’t decided who will be the team’s number-one goalie until after a pre-season tournament in Warroad in November.
Coach Baker also said he was pleased with all three remaining goalies, and echoed Edwards’ sentiments that the starting spot is still up for grabs.
He added he liked the size and agility of Glueheisen, the reflex action of Booth, and the technical skills of Carlson. All three have a solid goaltending future ahead of them, he said.
Meanwhile, Edwards said he didn’t think the team would struggle nearly as much as it did last year before improving significantly after the Christmas break, when the black-and-gold looked like a much different squad.
“I think we’re more of a veteran team this year so I don’t foresee us struggling at the beginning of the season,” he said. “I think we can be a contender from day one.
“We should be better defensively and if the veterans can score some goals, [then] we should be okay,” he added.