Wolves embracing change

Wolves embracing change
Courtesy of Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

Change isn't new to Michael Davies. Now entering his fourth season with the Wolves, Davies is playing for his fourth head coach and in a third NHL-parent system.

"Yeah, another year, more new faces again, new coaches," said Davies, a native of Chesterfield, Mo. "You’ve got to prove yourself again. It’s good though. It creates a lot of competition."

The Wolves open their 20th season tonight in San Antonio with a new (old) coach and new NHL partner, the St. Louis Blues. John Anderson, who guided the franchise to four league championships from 1997-2008, returns behind the bench. The Wolves hope to rekindle the glory he orchestrated during his first stint. (For more on that, read my article in today's Chicago Tribune.)

Anderson maintained a residence in Glen Ellyn during his foray into the NHL that included two seasons as head coach of the defunct Atlanta Thrashers, and two years as an assistant in Phoenix. Despite his familiarity with the organization and the area, it's still not quite the same for Anderson.

"It’s really very similar to me, but really, I don’t know any of the players," Anderson said. "So I guess you could say it’s completely new."

The players didn't know what to expect from him, either. Nobody on the current roster was around before Anderson left in 2008, of course.

But Anderson has a solid reputation, especially in the AHL and with the Wolves, where he won more than 500 regular-season games and had a .636 winning percentage. He also had a .636  (105-60) win percentage in the postseason.

If nothing else, Anderson has generated excitement within and without the organization. The players have liked what they've seen so far.

"I’m still getting to know him, but he seems pretty laid back," said veteran Keith Aucoin, who signed a free-agent deal with the Blues in the offseason. "He knows the game, and you can just tell by breaking down his systems that he’s on top of his game. He definitely seems like a players’ coach and a coach that is going to be fun to play for."

The Wolves are carrying 31 players on their opening-day roster, including three goalies -- Jake Allen, Matt Climie, and rookie Jordan Binnington. Six of them saw time with the Wolves last season (Climie, Davies, Eric Kattelus, Nathan Longpre, Tim Miller and Brent Regner).

The extra bodies are already proving their value as four players start the season out with injuries. Cody Beach, Alexandre Bolduc, Cade Fairchild and Tyler Shattock are all out. While the big roster is a benefit now, it's not something Anderson likes.

"It’s hard on the players who don’t play. It’s hard on me telling them," Anderson said. "When you have to tell them they can’t play, it’s not a good feeling."

 

 

 

 

 

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    Paul LaTour enters his fourth full season covering the Wolves for the Chicago Tribune. A freelance writer based in Aurora, LaTour previously worked as a sportswriter for the Naperville Sun after similar jobs in Texas and Colorado. On Jan. 18, 1968, his mother went into labor at a high school hockey game in Duluth, Minn., and gave birth to him early the next day. He's been hooked on hockey ever since.

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