Tuesday, September 22, 2009

(OLD) Interview with Ian Cole

This is old. Ian Cole gave me the opportunity to have a little question & answer session with him and I figured that I'd post it on here for you all to read. This interview occurred a week before the Blues prospects camp.
So like I said, it's a bit old.

Ian was very kind enough to grant a Q&A session with him. So, just as with the Aaron Palushaj sessions, my questions will be in italics, Ian's answers will be in bold. I hope you enjoy the read.

Q. You decided to stay at UND for another year, what were the pros and cons you had to weigh in making that decision?

A. Well yes, I have basically said I was going to stay at Notre Dame for another year, though the decision has not been made in it's entirety. It is still somewhat open for discussion and that's the mindset I'm going to have as I go into next month's development camp. As for my time-line as to when I will be leaving school and what my plan is for the completion of my degree, I have not yet decided on either and both are still very much up in the air. I really haven't thought about it all that much and I don't see the point in me making it into too big of a deal. Honestly, all I have is time and I'm not in a hurry to make the jump from college, to the professional ranks. I'm having a great time at school and I really enjoy my teammates. So I think making a personally detrimental decision that isn't completely thought out would be rash.

As far as the pros and cons go, I can't really say that there were any in particular. The way I see it is that a pro in regard would be a con in another regard, and vice-versa. For example, staying in school and getting quite a few credits toward my degree would be a huge pro, but then on the flip side I woudln't have the chance (though extremely small, as many would say) to play for the St. Louis Blues. So really it is a very complicated decision that, though I have thought about it, have not exactly put together a pro and con list.

Q. Are you planning to develop more offensive skills and round out your game, or are you comfortable going all out on being a more physical, shut-down presence?

A. "Rounding out my game" as you put it, is in fact something I have been working on for the past few years while at Notre Dame. At ND, I have been put into many great situation where I could work on, and become successful offensively. Whether it's on the first power play, any 4v4 situation, late in a game when we needed a goal, or numerous others, I can safely say that I am an offensive threat. Though I wouldn't say I would be the most offensively gifted player on the St. Louis Blues line, I do believe I could hold my own in that regard and put up some sort of numbers that could help my team win games.

Q. What kind of things will you need to work on this year to further your development to being a regular Blues defensemen?

A. Especially in an organization with copious young, talented defensemen such as St. Louis, it would be very hard to rise to the top. This is why I think being able to be more offensive would help me out in a vast way. I also feel one of the most important skills a player in the NHL can have is reading the play, making a decision, and executing that particular play that was decided on almost instantaneously and this is something that takes time playing at an elite level to develop. I think that my next year and subsequent years following that will help me in gaining this valuable skill and hopefully help me have a long career with the Blues.

Q. What is is about the Blues organization you like and dislike?

A. Really all I can say about the Blues organization is that they are absolutely fantastic. Though my experience with many of the other teams have been limited, I can safely say that there is no other team that I would want to play for. Through every situation, the Blues organization, from top all the way down, have welcomed me with open arms and have been nothing but courteous and professional.

Q. In the Blues NHL draft special produced for the NHL Network, you described yourself as a "pretty solid 2-way defensemen who's pretty solid in his own end....intense, and plays with an edge." Strength and conditioning coach, Nelson Ayotte told you to work on the small muscle right about the knee to increase your speed. Jarmo (Kekäläinen) noted that the first time he'd ever heard Ayotte say "wow" was when you walked into the room. Jarmo said of you, "He's a horse....he's confident....he's 214 lbs. He's a man now, and he's only 17. I think he can be top-4...he plays hard and he plays tough and he can move the puck and he's got a bomb for a shot."

What did you think of the special when you saw it? Did you work on that muscle above the knee and increase your speed? In the last two years of physical and NCAA/WJC playing development since that self-description and the Jarmo description, how would you assess, expan on, or qualify the accuracy of all those statements?

A. First off, I saw the special and I have to be honest, it kind of embarrassed me. What those guys said was entirely too nice and way too many people saw and a queoted it back to me. I'm really not the guy to "toot my own horn" so seeing that was nice, but also embarrassing, though it was very well put together and an extremely interesting to look at draft process. Now that muscle on the side of my knee, the vastus medialis, is something that I absolutely have been working on and I really do think that it has helped my speed.
The past two years in college have been great for me. They work us extremely hard and going to Notre Dame has gotten me in the best shape of my life in more than just the physical aspects. I definitely still think Jarmo's statements ring true and I think it was a great honor that he would even feel it necessary to say them, though I still strive everyday to push the envelope and make myself a strong player and person.

Q. With being an NHL prospect, has life been any different for you? Are there more people recognizing you, or is life pretty much the same?

A. (laughs) Good questions, but no I am not a star by any means. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, Notre Dame is still a good football and basketball school, so really no one knows the hockey players as star athletes like the football and basketball players. I see this as a good thing because I feel a little strange and embarrassed when the few people that do recognize me come up to talk or whatever. I mean, they're great people and always really nice, but I'm just not used to people recognizing me the few times that it has happened.

Q. It takes a lot of skill to play in the NHL. When you do decide to leave college, are you willing to play in the AHL before you get into the NHL.

A. I feel that doing your time in the AHL is an essential part of becoming an great NHL player. The time taken there to develop and mature into a better rounded person helps immensely in being able to handle the professional life, and I am certainly not the type of guy to make any kind of demands from an organization and would be more than happy to play wherever the Blues organization needs me.

Q. St. Louis had a big season this past year. After sitting in 15th in the west at the start of the second half of the season, then finishing 6th in the west at season's end. Did you get to watch any Blues games this year, and if so, what was your favorite moment?

A. In fact, I did get to watch a few Blues games, both in person and on T.V. I would go to the seniors house, which had the Center Ice Package, and watch the majority of the ones over there. Then there I would be the ones on Versus that I could watch in my own room so that was a plus. I actually had the opportunity to take in a game in person when they played the Blackhawks. My whole mom's side of the family lives in Chicago and all have tickets to the Blackhawk games. So I brought a teammate up and when they offered the tickets to me, I drove up. Unfortunately they lost, but it was fun to see my (hopefully) future team play.

Q. Many NHL players started playing hockey around the ages of two and three, and the main reason they pursue a career in hockey is for the Stanley Cup, is that why you chose the path that you did?

A. Well, I did start skating when I was two and playing on a team when I was 4, so yes, I did start quite early, but is that, and the Stanley Cup the sole reason that I wanted to play hockey for a career? Absolutely not. I know plenty of people that had been skating just as long as I have and as they grew up, started hating going to practice and couldn't stand being on the ice anymore. See for me, this is what I love doing. I love playing hockey. If I were to dedicate my life to anything else, I don't think I would be able to hold my love and passion for hockey has, and if I didn't absolutely love what I was doing, than I wouldn't be doing it, simple as that. I feel that you can't fully immerse yourself into something that you don't completely love doing. For some people it's socks or insurance, for others its art, dance, or music. For me, it's hockey.

Q. It's a question almost every prospect is asked and I know there are quite a few Blues fans wondering this as well. Who do you try and model your game after? Is there a certain NHL defensemen you try and emulate?

A. Well, there are obviously a few guys that I think are great players and I see what they do and try to do the same things. Obviously I haven't been doing them all that well because if i had been, I would be in the NHL already. But seriously, I do have a few defensemen that I really like. I really like how Willie Mitchell plays in his own end. He's very hardnosed and is tough to play against. I really like what Dion Phaneuf does offensively and would love to be able to do what he does. Then there is Nick Lidstrom, growing up watching him in Detroit has been a complete honor and I think he is one of the best to ever play the game.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Going To Work With Brian Burke

Once Brian Burke took over as the general manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs, you knew he'd get his work done as fast as possible.

So was it much of a surprise when Toronto turned from basement fodder to a possible playoff team just over one off-season?

It didn't surprise me either.

Burke works quickly and likes to build a tough team. He did just that this off-season by signing defensemen Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek. Trading Pavel Kubina to the Atlanta Thrashers for the hard hitting defender, Garnet Exelby. Signing a hard-nosed forward from Sweden, Rickard Wallin. Then adding the big fighter from Winnipeg, Colton Orr.

Burke also landed the Monster from Sweden, goaltender, Jonas Gustavsson.

Burke had assembled a very tough core of players who could not only beat their opponents on the scoreboard, but also beat them physically as well. But something was still missing. They needed a natural goal-scorer, and they knew just where to find one.

Toronto had been rumored to be working a deal with the Boston Bruins. Rumors had it that Tomas Kaberle and a pick would be headed to Boston, but after some confusion of the pick washed that deal and started new talks.

The Leafs finalized a deal with the Bruins that would send the Leafs 1st round pick and 2nd round pick in the 2010 NHL entry draft, as well as their 1st round pick in the 2011 NHL entry draft to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Phil Kessel.

Burke had done it. He had acquired his premiere sniper, who will be out until mid-November at best after a successful surgery on a torn rotator cuff and labrum. But this didn't stop them from re-signing Kessel to a five-year, $27 million contract.

Now Burke gets to decide on how his team will be iced this coming season. The Leafs had nine defensemen who are under one-way contracts. There are only seven spots available.

One plus for Burke is that defensemen, Ian White, can also play as a right-winger. This depth helped the Leafs last season as well. The often injured Mike Van Ryn is a big question mark as well.

This puts Burke in position to trade, which we've learned can be a fun thing to pay attention to.

Though some people question Brian Burke on his trades, his very vocal opinion, and many other things, one thing is for certain.

When you have Brian Burke as your general manager, you'll always be entertained.

Randall Ritchey