Thursday, October 9, 2014

Media Day Notes: Avoiding the Hangover, Improving on Award-Winning Season

Coach Derek Laxdal (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)
Getting ready for the season, the Texas Stars held media day on Wednesday. New coach Derek Laxdal and several players talked with the assembled media from the area, including 100 Degree Hockey.

Avoiding the championship hangover

Obviously a lot of questions to the group in general about making sure that there is no sense of entitlement among the group and asking how to manage this season's expectations after last year's successes.

Coach Laxdal has the team in the right mindset to excel again.

"I've been pretty fortunate the past few years to be in a situation where I have a championship team coming back the next season. You go from being the hunters to the hunted. We have to have that mindset as a group."

Curtis McKenzie added, "We're going to get the best effort from teams. You look at Grand Rapids last year. They were going to get every team's best effort."

With so many individual high-performers in the group, Laxdal is having to balance that just the same as any AHL coach. Having Dallas sure to pick up one or two of these players during the season and seeing what many of them did last year, it's going to be a balancing act between team and individual success.

"There's individual expectations for players trying to improve their game and get called up to the Dallas Stars. There's expectations for the organization that we want to be a strong group day by day.

"We break down the season into eight game segments, so we have small goals in place [for those]. We want to win the Calder Cup, but we have a lot of work."

Laxdal called out a strong veteran group that includes captain Maxime Fortunus, reigning MVP Travis Morin, Derek Meech, Cameron Gaunce and others as a huge reason why he believes they will contend for another cup.

"Our group of veterans has been outstanding. Usually coming back from a championship season, you get the hangover effect. Guys theink they're better than they are. Our group has been outstanding in practice and that sets the tone."

Morin, McKenzie on improving on award-winning season

How do you improve on a year where you won the AHL's MVP trophy for both the regular season and the playoffs and led the league in points? Do you have to approach the game any differently now that every other team in the league has you circled in red on their lineup chart before the game?

For Travis Morin, he's just taking it in stride. It's basically what you'd expect for the sixth-year Texas Star. Never one to make a big scene or be too outspoken, Morin is just going to focus on playing his game the same way he did last year. The big change there of course was the advice Coach Desjardins gave him in training camp to attack the play more. It made a big difference as he tacked on 32 goals and 56 points.

"It's all going to come down to team-wise how we gel and same with my linemates and the power play unit," said Morin, deflecting to his teammates. "I have the expectation of myself to go play my game and let the chips fall where they may. I will obviously be getting covered a little bit more by top lines, checking lines and top D pairs. If coaches want to play it that way, it's fine. It opens up for other lines to contribute."

Reigning AHL rookie of the year Curtis McKenzie is laser focused, it seems, after a strong Dallas camp. He's looking ot get that first NHL callup this season and knows what Lindy Ruff is expecting from him in order to get it.

"They said to make sure I come back here working really hard, making quick decisions and treat the games here as if I were at the NHL level: moving the puck quickly and working hard around the net."

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