|(Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
At the end of last week, 100 Degree Hockey caught up with Texas Stars GM Scott White via phone to discuss the many offseason happenings and expectations for the coming year. Lightly edited transcript of the conversation follows below.
100 Degree Hockey: How do you feel about the team? Do you feel like you're done with the roster that you’ve got or do you have any more tweaks that you need to make?
Scott White: I think we're just gonna let it ride for now. We've answered some needs in Dallas and then we also answered some needs, from depth players, that can get called up to Dallas. I think we complemented our younger players that are moving in this season [with] veteran guys in Texas that have been around the American League and should help out a little bit.
HDH: You've got Petrovic. You've got Borgmann. You've got a lot of veteran guys. It feels very reminiscent of early Texas Stars, where you've got a significant number of guys, like Maxime Fortunus and others, coming in to help out the younger guys. Is that kind of the model you're trying to follow as much as possible this year?
White: Yeah, it's that balance where you're trying to help out the young guys, but you also need guys that can play in the NHL. And we think that Petrovic and Borgmann can play up [in Dallas], and they'll push that younger group [in Texas] like Thomas Harley, if Harley's down. It just gives Harley a partner with a little more experience. Same boat for up front.
HDH: Speaking of up front, big signing there to get Curtis McKenzie back in the fold. How did that come about?
White: Once free agency started, I reached out and just saw where he was and if he was available. We didn’t have an NHL contract available at that time, and we still don’t based on where we want to keep our count. I just kept in touch, and we started discussing things. Curtis and his wife, they just had a six month old. I don't know if Europe was in the plans, but you know, I'm sure he had some opportunities. I also knew from discussing with Curtis years and years ago how he felt about our group, our city, Cedar Park, and our organization. We gave him some security with a two-year deal, and he'll be up in NHL camp, things like that. He still wants to play in the NHL, which is great, but it's a tough go when you don't have an NHL contract to start. But you know what? If he's motivated and wants to be our best player, we're not shy to offer our best players opportunities up top.
|Curtis McKenzie in a file photo from 2014 (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)|
HDH: You mentioned that two-year deal. You've done less than a half a dozen of those total across the entire time in Texas. What is your decision factor when you are looking at a two-year versus the usual one-year deal?
White: I think it's just the timing in the player's career. And, you know, it takes out the European [question], having to re-address the scenario after the first year. Then they know where they are for two years. Most of the time those guys have families, or they’re married. That was the same thing with Travis [Morin] and Max [Fortunus].
HDH: What is the plan for the rest of the summer in terms of development camp and Traverse City tournament? [Ed. Note: Development camp rosters were released in the time since this interview, but information here is still relevant.]
White: Our development camp is going to transition right into Traverse. It's a good scenario where there'll be a tighter, smaller camp. It'll be the group that's going to Traverse, which is good for Texas staff who will be managing it.
HDH: Speaking of the Texas staff, how's the rest of the summer gone for the staff’s new additions?
White: My part of it was getting them. But I commend the guys, you know, Max, Nick Lazor, Ryan Daniels. All these guys are coming, and it's not easy. It's been a whirlwind for them, as we always like to say. When you're uprooted in the middle of a pandemic, and you’ve got to do all this stuff, kids or no kids, it’s a big task, but they got there and they’re on it. Once they got their kids situated and all that, then [Texas Stars head coach Neil Graham] took over. He got them meeting and all that and probably in the last seven to ten days, they started to ramp up a little bit and get prepared for development camp and Traverse City.
HDH: When the team started, you didn't have as much staff as now. There wasn't a video coach; there wasn't a goalie coach. What has been the process to mature and develop the staff for the AHL squad?
White: I think the biggest thing is our commitment from ownership. Mr. Gaglardi has allowed us to do these things. From day one, I’ve told the staff that their job is to develop Dallas Stars in a winning environment in Texas. We're trying to use all the tools necessary and doing our research in terms of what other teams have been doing. Maybe we weren't as quick as others, but we wanted to make sure it was the right thing for our particular group. We’ve got a lot of hands on, and you’ve got to have hands on nowadays with your prospects and with young players. They like hands on, and they like communication.
|Brian "Elvis" Garcia in a file photo from 2016|
(Credit: Texas Stars)
HDH: Speaking of staff, this will be the first year for Texas not having Head Equipment Manager Brian “Elvis” Garcia in the building. Can you talk about his departure and the decision process there?
White: For me, it was just time. That's why I decided to make the change. Elvis was a good, an excellent employee for a long time. I just felt, much like some of the other posts, with the timing, etc., of everything and how the year went last year and then how the offseason was being prepared for this year, I just felt like it was one of the tougher things I decided to happen, but I felt it was in our best interest for our organization. And that's my job is to make sure that I'm doing the right thing. And I think that I felt that the timing was proper, but nothing but good things to say about Elvis and the work he did for the organization.
HDH: In terms of the equipment role, what do you expect from that role and how do you expect Nick to be different from Elvis's time?
White: Everybody's different, you know, and Nick's done different things. He's worked in the American League before; he worked in the NCAA. I just want them to do their job, do their thing within their budget, and they treat the players well. That's the bottom line. Everybody has a business they're in, so you’ve got to be smart about it. But then again, players need things and we’ve got to make sure we get them things. That hasn't changed for years.
HDH: You mentioned Harley earlier on. With players like him and Jake Oettinger, they could play in the NHL this year, but numbers dictate they might end up in the AHL. What are you expecting from some of those guys who are right on the cusp?
White: If they're in the AHL, we expect them to be good pros and expect their games to get better. That's the rule. Hopefully we'll have some tough decisions in camp. Sometimes numbers, like you said, dictate what happens but both of those players have to perform at a high level on a consistent basis. That’s what being a pro is about and that won't change whether it's Oettinger or whether it's Thomas Harley or Riley Damiani. They have to be consistent, and they have to perform at a high level.
|Adam Mascherin (Credit: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)|
HDH: Riley Damiani’s partner in crime last year, Adam Mascherin, is no longer in the organization after moving on to Europe. What's the tale of the tape in terms of his decision to head out?
White: You know what, you'd have to ask the player that. I was negotiating with his representative at the time. We were moving along down the path to get it done. And then I think you texted me [for a comment on his departure] and it is what it was. That was Mascherin’s decision to go. It’s his call. It’s his time. It’s just a tough situation. He was close. He had a great year in the American League. I was disappointed, but you know what, we move along.
HDH: Finally, down in Idaho, they are rebuilding their roster from a year off. How's that gone and have you been able to help them to stack their roster with AHL-ECHL guys?
White: We've got some guys coming in for our training camp in the American League because we're not going to have exhibition games. So in talking with Graham and his coaches there, we just thought it was important to make sure we get our numbers up so the guys can scrimmage a lot, right up until we play on opening weekend. So we’ll carry some more numbers for a longer period of time in training camp, which I think is necessary and needed. [Idaho head coach Everett] Sheen will have some of his guys that he has under contract in our training camp, and they'll get a good long look. Most importantly, they'll get a good look, and our coaches will know who they are. At the end of the day, that's what it's about whether they get called back up with us or not. Graham can give a good read on a player for another [AHL] coach who might be looking for a player. [The opportunity] might not be with our group, but it might be with somebody else's group.