Friday, May 23, 2014

Stepping Away from the Coyotes

Early this morning, I informed the Coyotes that I decided to step away from the team. This was not an easy decision, but probably best for both parties. It hurts because I really wanted to help the Coyotes move forward. I did not do that. To call my only season as captain of the Coyotes a failure is an understatement. 

The truth is I cannot commit to the Coyotes, and give them what they need anymore. This season was tough because of a variety of reasons away from the ice. When I ask myself if those distractions are gone, the answer is no.

Playing on two teams is not possible for me at this time in life. I will continue skating with the Piranhas. Had I continued to play on two teams, I would not perform with the passion that I demand of myself. I chose the Piranhas because they're a significantly lower maintenance team, and can handle if in the probable scenario that I'm flaky. The Coyotes need a greater commitment, and more time away from the rink than I have.

However, that also means my expectations for the Piranhas are higher because I'm focused on just them. No double headers, no conflicts, no back to backs. Supplement my hockey requirement with my own skates, rat hockey, scheduled practices, Puck Pros, and others' scrimmages where I can pick and chose.

This is a step back for me, but will allow me to get back to having fun, and focusing on the game.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Squirrel's 2013-2014 Season Review

The 2013-2014 season for me was a disaster. Every year, I set a handful of goals for the year and I usually achieve about half of them. Last year, I hit each of them except one. This year, I didn’t hit any. These goals are not outrageous, but they do push me. Most are statistic based and I keep them to myself during the season. For example, this year a few of my goals were:
  • Don't get hurt - Play in a minimum of 17 regular season games for both the Piranhas and Coyotes. It isn't a full 20 because of the overlapping schedules.
  • Reduce Penalty minutes - I wanted to have less than 22 penalty minutes this year. While I did have less than 22, it is because I missed a lot of games.
  • 8 points on the Piranhas, 20 points on the Coyotes. I really felt that I needed to step up on the Coyotes this year in the point producing department. I also realize that the Piranhas would be in a tough spot this year because of their new division.
  • 3rd place overall for the Coyotes - It would be very difficult to take 2nd place in the division, but possible. I left it at 3rd because I knew that we'd have games where we were short handed, and we hadn't played in the summer. I expected to finish hot. The Coyotes finished second to last.
I had a total of one goal all year, and I did have quite a few assists. I didn't score my one goal until the last game of the Piranha season, but it was a beauty:

So why didn't the season go so well? As with anything, there is never just one reason. I do believe a lot of the reasons I struggled were because of off ice reasons. For example, I had family issues which created a big distraction for me. Normally, the game is my number one focus, but I can honestly say that I didn't have one game where I was fully focused. This year, I also took a leadership role with the Coyotes. That didn't go the way I wanted. I tried to believe that the reason the Coyotes were in the situation they were in was because they didn't have the leadership or opportunity to do the things they needed to. When I gave them the opportunity, or tried to inspire change, it didn't work. This created another distraction for me.

But there were distractions at the rink for me as well. One thing I tried to get the Coyotes to do was to be a little bit more self-organizing. I needed them to not have their hand held every step of the way, even if it meant growing pains. When problems would arise, I would often shortchange myself so that an individual would be happier. Probably not the smartest thing for me to do. I also feel the team didn't get to be self organizing the way I wanted them to be after 20 games.

The biggest barrier to my success though was my hip. I had a nagging hip injury that started early in October. I tried to play through it, but after a rough game in December, I needed time off. I saw a couple of doctors who gave me advice on what to do, and even though I followed their instructions, the hip is still not fully recovered. It impacted my mobility, my confidence, and my strength.

I tried to let it recover. Give it a month of no stress, I tried to skate less frequently later in the season. But this just lead to me never being in my peak condition.

I took on bigger roles on both teams this year. I'm happy about that, but the success wasn't there. The stress snowballed and it cause me to start doubting myself. I missed many easy chances on the Piranhas, including missing an empty net for a goal from five feet which I continue to get heat for.

This was by far the most difficult, and least successful season of hockey for me since I started playing. At the same time, my expectations were high as well. When I first started playing, my goal may have been to just get one shot on goal in a game in a level that is similar to what the Piranhas are in. Now I'm expecting to average a point per game from the blue line in a much lower level. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Coyotes vs. Honey Badgers

I knew this was going to be a difficult game. The Coyotes had too many players dressed, many hadn't been on the ice in a while, and our opponents had been on the ice twice a week as a team. That said, I was 100% ready, focused, and prepared to get the win.

I was immediately strong and aggressive. I clogged up their entry into our zone. I had to actually hold back as I didn't want to take a roughing penalty. Playing on the Coyotes is difficult because our opponents' individual skill levels vary so greatly. I don't want to lean on a player who can barely stand on their skates.

That hesitation would come back to bite me later. I would pinch in, and the puck would come out of their zone for a 2 on 1. I came back as hard as I could. My defensive partner got beat but it was ok because I was there to put pressure on the puck carrier. I went to knock the puck away, missed and he scored. Had I played it the way I would at a higher level, I would have attempted to bump him off balance, and the puck would have just kept sliding. I was not happy with myself.

Later that period, I would get the puck on the blue line. There was no traffic in front of the net, no forward to pass to because they all had their backs to me. I skated in a bit looking for a shooting attempt. I would be cut off. I saw the winger  with his back to me wide open. I knew I could bounce it off the wall in front of him, have the puck come back to right in front of him. So I shot it against the wall as hard as I could right in front of him. He saw this, picked it up and shot. The rebound went to the other side, where the other winger was able to easily put it in. One assist for me down.

Because of having too many guys, I basically took most of the second period off. I would play center in the third. Playing with a full bench means extremely short shifts for me, which I did. I need to slow down with the puck. I think I will handle it much better. I didn't carry it in as well as I would like.

A few shifts into the period, I fore checked in, clogged the puck along the wall, and then kicked it into the corner. Allowing my winger to dig along the wall with it. He slid it behind the net, to the other corner. I went to chase it down, but saw the other winger there ready for it. I went to just between the circle and the crease. I saw it kicked out and I was able to circle, see that no one was between me and the goalie from about 8 feet out. I shot it up and beat him top near side. One goal down in addition to my previous assist.

I liked how I played. I played hard, I saw my players open for passes, and moved the puck well. I was able to read the play very well, and make a big difference for our team, especially on the scoreboard. I would like to start carrying the puck more, but I'll start working on that in my training sessions.

The Coyotes would lose 5-4. This is a tough loss for the Coyotes.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

3 on 3 - Franklin Park

My one and only goal for the night was to have fun. I didn’t care if I scored a goal, played well, skated well, won, etc. If I had fun, the night would be successful for me. I had a great group that wanted to play, so I was fairly confident it’d work out.

I stepped on to the ice, which was soaked, and made sure that the things I focused on toward the end of the season were being done. Things such as bending my knees, staying low, and keeping my balance are were key to my improvement.

Surprisingly, I felt good when playing. I expected to be gassed, unstable, and slow. In reality, I felt as if I didn’t take any time off. This is strange because I have rust if I don’t play for a week, and not playing for a month I figured it would be exponential.

I think that my passing could have been better, and so could have my timing. Multiple times, I was told that I had more time than I realized. Thinking there’s pressure on you when there isn’t will cause you to make bad decisions. I find myself in those situations often. I believe it is a confidence issue.

Where I did well was putting pressure on others – especially if they had the puck. I was strong along the wall as I usually am, and I made sure no one got anything easy.

Anyway, everyone had a blast at the skate, including me. It was a success. I would like to set up another in the very near future.