Thursday, September 4, 2014

Q&A With Head Coach David Quinn

We’re a month away from the Terriers’ exhibition game against St. Thomas. The ice is down at Agganis Arena and has been painted.  And David Quinn is welcoming a large and talented class of recruits who join 16 returnees focused on a turn-around season. The second-year head coach talked with The Terrier Hockey Fan Blog about  a variety of subjects, including what that turn-around will take, the role of new DHO Scott Young, his young but skilled squad, and his vision for the BU hockey program.

Q. When practice begins, what objectives will you emphasize to put BU on the path to a successful turnaround season?
A. Obviously we’ll have a lot of new faces again; so helping the ten freshmen adapt to college hockey as quickly as possible will be important. The fact that the returnees have been in our system for a year will make preparations easier and there won’t be as much uncertainty earlier on as there was last season. Obviously, we have to do a better job defensively this season and also limit the number of shots taken by our opponents. Some of the ways we are looking to do that are by improving our puck possession and doing a better job offensively.

Q. When you were Jack Parker’s assistant, BU played 27 conference games and a handful of non-conference games. Now it’s 22 conference games and the rest non-conference. What coaching and preparation challenges are presented by more games with less familiar opponents?
A. You’re seeing more games with less familiar opponents. However, non-conference games are usually scheduled over a 3-4 year period.  So, you see those teams a few years in a row and there isn’t that much turnover in your schedule. Today’s schedules put greater emphasis on non-conference games, because if you do well with non-conference games, it puts you in a much better position to make the national tournament. The teams are all tied into a video exchange where we send each other game tapes two weeks in advance.

Q. Last summer you said maintaining puck possession and a pressuring defense were strategies you wanted to implement.  Is that still your game plan? 
A. Yes, and we expect to be able to do that much better from the beginning this season. Last year, we tried to do that during the first part of the season. Then some injuries, especially the loss of Matt Grzelcyk, forced us to change our style of play in January.  That's something I’d never done before as a coach. It took a while for us, including me, to get comfortable with it; but you have to coach the team you have available. By the end of the year, we had made the adjustments and were playing well, despite losing a lot of close games. Moving ahead we want to be a puck possession team, play at a fast pace and get in people’s faces in all three zones. That’s not going to change.

Q. Is faceoff success a product of working on technique, repetition or both?
A. It’s both, without a doubt. But it’s also about having a purpose when you go into the face-off circle. Too often players at this level don’t pay attention to what their opponent is trying to do. Especially in the defensive zone, players should be able to figure out what they’re trying to run by where the other four players are situated on the ice.  Sometimes in the defensive zone, not losing a draw [a tie-up] is the equivalent of winning one. It prevents the other team from executing what they’re looking to do. Working on technique and repetition go a long way in accomplishing that [success on draws].

Q. A recent article suggests that you “aspire for the Terriers to be a blue collar, hard-working squad that is strong on the forecheck and to improve on transition from defense to offense and to break the puck out.”  #1 Do you agree with that assessment.  #2 If you do, what factors will help you achieve them? Returnee experience?  Was your recruiting, particularly on defense, aimed at improving breakouts?
A. I definitely agree; it’s how I love to coach. What will help us achieve that is the conditioning of our team, the skill level of our players and, without question, the skill level of our defensemen. Our recruiting of [four] defensemen was about recruiting players with good puck skills, who are able to make good outlet passes. You also need guys who can play defense and skate. We were fortunate to cover all of that with the guys we have coming in.

Q.  What are the common characteristics of players who fit your vision of a BU hockey player? How does that impact recruiting philosophy?
A. The first thing we need is to have players with Division 1 talent, who are committed,  who understand what it takes to be successful at our level, and who aspire to play past college, perhaps at the NHL level. Once you’ve identified those factors, the academic side of it is important. In cases of guys with talent, but who don’t fit here academically, we’ve moved on. Then there are the character and social aspects, which are important, too. 

Q. Tell us about Scott Young’s role as Director of Hockey Operations. What do the rules allow him to do and not do?
A. With the DHO function, what’s really going to help is that he’ll serve as a sounding board to the coaching staff. Besides running the day-to-day operations, he can help plan our practices and make suggestions to the coaches about what needs attention. During games, he’ll be behind the bench, helping to monitor what is happening on the ice from a systematic viewpoint - looking at our team and the opposition. While Scott can’t directly coach the players, he can tell the coaches what he’s observed. He’ll also be involved in breaking down video to prepare for games.

Q. Your incoming recruit class is loaded with talent. More than a few of the recruits are expected to be NHL entry draft selections and two others have been projected as potential first-rounders in 2015.  It’s also one of the youngest BU recruit classes in recent memory. Three of the four defensemen are ’96 birthdates as are four of the five forwards.  Can we expect this young class to be ready to contribute when the season begins?
A. It’s funny; you never know. It’s a mystery in our game. One guy who you thought may struggle, he adapts faster than another guy who you expected to adapt quickly. We certainly feel these guys have proven themselves at a high level before they got here. We feel they have the talent, the toughness and the work ethic to contribute right away. That being said, I envision us being a much better team in December and January than we are in October. These guys are ready to step in and make contributions. The good news is that no individual player is going to have to carry it all on his shoulders. They just need to concern themselves with playing to the best of their abilities and contributing the best they can. The three guys from the U-18 team have already played a half season of college hockey; so their transition should be a bit easier.