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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Part 1 of my Q and A with Coach Rob Sumner

Hunnex: Coach – First off, how was your summer? How did you spend your time this off-season? Did you get a chance to play a little golf? Did I hear that you had another addition to the family? Were you able to visit all/most of the boys at some point during the summer?

Sumner: Summer has gone very well. I have been very busy trying to adjust to such a full scale organizational move. The only down side is that in the current market, I have not yet been able to sell our house. I am writing these answers to your questions on Monday August 18 so if I am a little short and direct with some of my answers its because I’m pretty busy putting the finishing touches on some of my planning for the season. I do love to talk hockey so I hope my answers help fulfill what you are hoping to accomplish. So sticking with your line of questions, I golf quite rarely and quite poorly. My pattern seems to be to golf once a year with our goalie coach Paul Fricker (who is very good). The addition to our family was just over a year ago, although it seems like yesterday. My boys are Reid (3), and Will (1), and any free time I have is spent being a dad, which couldn’t be better. I did my ‘tour’ this year in mid July. A little later than I normally would go but that’s just how it fit this year. It actually turned out well because I was able to include Hewson and LeBlanc in my travels.

Hunnex: The Schedule… You guys play a lot of road games in the first half of the season and a lot of home games in the second half. My take is that it is extremely smart from an organizational stance and that you have to play 36 on the road and 36 at home no matter what... but clearly the schedule puts you guys in a tough spot in the first half of the year and potentially a great spot in the second half of the year assuming the team doesn’t surprisingly fall far off the pace in the Conference. How do you feel about the composition of the schedule? Is this the type of group where a lot of road games early on provide an opportunity to come together? Or does spending most of 2008 in a suitcase provide some unusually difficult circumstances?

Sumner: The schedule is challenging. It’s easy to look ahead at the second half and get big eyes but the reality is that we have to play the first half and we have to play it first. With that being said, we will take it a step at a time and not let it overwhelm us, nor will we use it as an excuse during tough times as they arise. We have been a good to very good road team over the last few years, so it’s just about being focused and ready for the challenges ahead.

As far as the type of group we have? We don’t completely know that yet. I do know that the core of returning guys are good players and will take on bigger roles within our team but we also have a mix of guys that are experienced in the league who I don’t know very well and who don’t know me. There will be tremendous opportunity for several players if they are ready to grab it. I like several of the new young players we have coming in, and I see a couple of them really being able to help us right away. Ideally we have the type of group that is ready to go right from the start where time together on the road proves to be beneficial.

Hunnex: While the team fell short in the playoffs, it was a tremendously successful off-season for player development with Jackson, McKenzie, Olson, Scott and Holloway all signing Professional Contracts. How proud are you to see that so many players are leaving Seattle and moving on to the next level? Talk about the impact of those losses… especially the potential loss of Thomas Hickey and Greg Scott who did not sign until July and was expected to be the teams top returning scorer?

Sumner: I am very proud of the players moving on and the success our organization has seen helping our players realize their dreams and goals. I will talk about the impact to our lineup of players moving on but first I want to address the term “fell short” in playoffs. I don’t think we fell short, and don’t get me wrong, I know as good as anyone the importance of winning but I loved our team’s attitude right to the end. Our goal going in was to give our best, and not in a general sense but to actually give what each guy can every night, no matter what. We went up against a very good Tri City team that was healthy and playing well. We were far from healthy, and our injuries were to top end guys. I don’t bring this up as an excuse, instead I just want to express that I was really happy with how hard we played right to the end, our guys were mentally tough even though our play wasn’t good enough to beat that team under the circumstances.

As far as the impact of players moving on, we’ll choose to dwell on the players we have here instead of the players we don’t. We lose excellent players in every possible position but we lose them in a very positive way…they’re turning pro. So instead of our next wave of guys viewing it as losses to our lineup, I would imagine they will view it as opportunity along the lines of “…if those guys got signed playing hard for our team, so can I”, and if we have guys coming in with that kind of attitude, we’ll be a healthy group.

Hunnex: With the loss of so many players from last season to the professional ranks, you are obviously looking for all of the players to have improved over the summer and step up their games. What players in particular are you expecting to take their game to the next level and fill the shoes of some of the departed players?

Sumner: I am going to choose to avoid this question in detail. Instead of giving a vague answer that doesn’t really answer your question, I will just say this…I have had one on one meetings with guys and our mutual expectation is very clear with each individual. For me to hand out roles before they are earned would be unfair. I don’t think our guys would want to play on that kind of team. We have some very ambitious players so the opportunity available is very well recognized by most or even all.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of my exclusive Q and A with Coach Rob Sumner before training camp begins.

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