Antoine Roussel and the Wolves are back in Abbotsford, tonight and tomorrow.
(Photo: Chris Jerina/AHL in Photos)
Tonight and on Friday the Chicago Wolves will roll into Abbotsford for their second visit to the lower mainland this season. I recently spoke with Chicago based sports-writer Paul Latour about the Crimson and Gold’s season so far. If you like what you read, follow him on Twitter twitter here.
Paul and I chatted about some of the players who Canucks fans will get to see in Abbotsford on Thursday and Friday night. We also briefly touch on how the season's gone off the ice.
Have a read after the jump!
Canucks Army: The Wolves have been having trouble putting the puck in the net lately, what’s the deal?
Latour: I don’t understand how, they get all those shots. But they hit the post, the crossbar, they can’t get it in the net. I asked them about it and they said they’re not frustrated, but I don’t know how they can’t be.
CA: Is it an issue that, other than Mancari, they don’t have an out-and-out sniper?
L: Normally Haydar can put the puck in the net more. He’s getting a bit older, and frankly he’s more of the playmaker
CA: And it doesn’t seem like any other the young guys really fit the bill either. Schroeder’s an excellent all-around player, but he’s not a sniper. It seems pretty clear that Rodin’s not one either...
L: They always talk about how they don’t need one guy... But they can’t go stretches without Schroeder or Haydar not Scoring
CA: Looking at his college numbers, Brad Hunt can clearly handle the puck, is that what he’s there for?
L: That’s one thing that they’ve really kind of lacked, especially since Tanev’s been gone. Connauton’s been only guy and they really needed someone who could do that.
CA: How would you say that Yann Sauve has come along? He hasn’t been mentioned much this year. After last year, a crazy start with getting hit by a car and being concussed, but then he rebounds to the point where he gets some NHL time, but we’ve barely heard anything this year.
L: At the beginning of the year he was having a really hard time handling the puck. I was saying that anytime there was a bad turnover, I would think ‘Sauve’s involved.’ But you know what, he has played really well lately, I’d say at least since the beginning of January. He’s a +10 which is close to the team lead. He’s been a steady hand
He’s been confident moving the puck, and he's stopped making that stupid cross ice pass.
CA: How about Polasek? Has he had a good start to his career?
L: He’d pretty much taken the spot from Erixon before he’d left. He’d been steady on that third defensive pairing
CA: He [Erixon] didn’t sound especially happy either.
L: No, he wasn’t.
CA: What about Rodin, are his struggles because he’s still lacking size, strength?
CA: It’s a strength thing, if he’s not free, if he’s not open, he’s not getting open. I hate to say that he’s still struggling with the North American-style 60 games into his season. But he’s still young and he’s shown great flashes at times.
CA: Playing with Mancari and Reinprecht says something though, doesn’t it?
L: Ya it’s not just luck that he’s playing on that line, they’ve definitely got confidence in him.
CA: What about Stefan Schneider? I didn’t know what to expect when I saw him in Abbotsford. He’s was drafted as a defenceman but he’s been converted to forward. Is he like a Byron Bitz? Do you think he's going to make it because he’s big and strong and can skate?
L: I’m not really clear on him at all, he’s been a scratch a lot. But he’s one of those guys when he’s in the lineup, he’s not a guy who makes you notice him.
CA: I noticed him killing penalties, and overall we’d have to say the Wolves are pretty organized there
L: Yes if there’s one special teams unit that’s been successful...
CA: My sense is the change from the Thrashers to the Canucks has been a good thing.
L: It’s from night to day. It’s better run, the communictation between the two organizations, the invovlement, we see Lorne Henning here quite a bit. You see Canucks coaches in, talking to players after games. I don’t know if the Thrashers knew how to get to Chicago.
CA: Canucks consciously invest in off-ice stuff for their players, I’m not surprised people are noticing.
L: The Wolves have always been a good AHL destination for free agents, they’ve always treated them as NHL level, the hotels they stay in, their travel arrangements. That goes back to when they first started as an independent team. It’s an easy match with the Canucks.
CA: What about the fans, they seem pretty happy.
L: I’ve been watching that closely. When the affilitation was announced, I’d heard 100 people dropped the booster club. I never got that confirmed. I don’t know about season ticket sales, but in straight attendance, they’re averaging 7,000 a game, top 3 or 4 in the league. But there’s not been much of a backlash.
CA: In sense that most Wolves fans are also blackhawks fans?
L: The Wolves have found themselves a solid niche where their fans are just Wolves fans. You see people with Canucks jerseys now. The fans I talk to, they want to know how the Canucks are doing. It’s definitely a different dynamic than I was expecting.
CA: When I first started doing this, I found myself thinking ‘who the heck is a Wolves fan’ but I think I’ve got a handle on the dynamic now. But it’s still true the Hawks are successful and they’re a big team...
L: Ya it definitely shows when Rockford comes to town, all the Hawks fans are there, but that’s what I was really looking for, I thought that two thirds of the building would be cheering for the road team but that didn’t happen. There was a game in January where there were 16,000 people there, but they were wolves fans there. When the Wolves scored, their fans were louder.
CA: Is part of the recent story the schedule? The 3 games in 3 days is just brutal isn’t it?
L: It’s the part of the season where the grind gets to you. It’s the sunday afternoon games that are brutal.
I know the players have voiced their displeasure with the schedule, I know they shaved 6 games off the season and elongated the season, but they dind’t get rid of the 3 in 3s because of the finances. They don’t want to play a tuesday games, they play a wednesday or a thursday once in a while. It’s a travel thing, there’s no other way to do it. You can play Chicago and Peoria and Rockford boom boom boom.
CA: How are the playoffs going to go?
L: It will be interesting to see how they do. They’ve played well against the good teams, and then they’ll play Rockford and Texas and lose to those teams. I think they’ll have a good run into the playoffs. I’ve seen them play against Charlotte and Oklahoma and play well.
They definitely dominated and played great against ‘em, but was Oklahoma out of gas?
CA: Any other signings? that might be on the radar?
L: Not that I’ve heard. That’s one thing they don’t talk much about. Who they think is going to be signing and taking roster spots. The answer always is 'we dont know what’s up.'
CA: Thanks, Paul!