Minneapolis, MN – The Minnesota Rink Rats addressed the media in Minneapolis, MN today regarding many questions surrounding the club's season. In attendance from the Rink Rats was their GM, Head Coach Barry Melrose as well as team captain Jay Bouwmeester. Let's take a listen:
Q: Hey GM, can you tell us what brought about the most recent move of Kevin Shattenkirk? Didn't you say before that Kevin was going to be a key piece moving forward? What now?
A: Yeah .. Kevin is a great prospect, one of the best in the WHL. He's one of those guys you know will excel into a top pairing defenseman one day. We've been looking at this year's draft and we know we need some extra help in our system, especially with Krejci and Elliott expected to make the jump next season. We basically decided to "trade down" taking a couple of prospects in exchange for Kevin who may not necessarily be as good as Kevin but can still contribute in the WHL. We'll need to address the loss of Kevin in the draft but we also need to look at bringing in some additional help up front. This deal not only helped our club build a little depth but I firmly believe that it will help out the Maniax squad as well with a top prospect like Kevin now in their system.
Q: Coach Melrose, your squad has been on a tear recently; what has brought along this most recent success?
A: I'm really proud of how well our guys have been playing. Our special teams has been playing really well as of late and all 3 lines are contributing. I like how Lombardi and Langenbrunner have been playing together on our 3rd line. Lombardi is looking really good. His hands are coming around and he's starting to put the puck in the net more. Combine this with his great speed and he looks like he'll be in our top6 sometime very soon.
Aside from that, I have to really credit our team's management. Without the moves that they have made we wouldn't be in this playoff race. They've been busy bringing in fresh talent and not giving away our future in the process with the deals that brought in Sergei Samsonov, Jamie Langenbrunner and Paul Ranger. All of these guys will be able to help our squad next season as well. Yashin has been playing great hockey all season for us and his contributions seem to be
overlooked a bit.
Q: Coach Melrose, what do you need to do moving forward to make the playoffs and then make an impact in the playoffs?
A: We're going to need everyone to contribute. We're going to need to stay healthy and we're also going to need to get some breaks. We're not the most talented club in the WHL so we're really going to have to grind out every win. Miller is going to have to return to form as well. He's been up and down this season and we need him to play like he did last year in his MVP-like season.
Q: Jay, what's the mood in the locker room with all of the trades that have happened this season? Are guys nervous about being dealt?
A: No, I think everyone realizes what management is trying to accomplish and we know we need to win games. We've been told that management is really happy about the makeup of our squad right now and we don't expect anyone else to be on the move. If they do make some moves, we all realize this is a business and want to give Minnesota the best team possible.
Q: GM, is it true that you've had a discussion with your team saying no one else will be moved?
A: We have discussed this but we can't make any promises. Obviously, if something worthwhile comes up we'll pursue it. Tucker's name has been thrown out there a few times and if something comes up I can't make any promises that he won't be moved. Other than that, we've had no other discussions on any other players.
Q: How do you guys compare this year's squad with last year's playoff team?
A: (Melrose) We're better. We're upgraded pretty much at every position. We have eight 20 goal scorers on this team with a few guys having a chance to know in 30 and some approaching 20 as well. Our goaltending hasn't been as strong but hopefully that will improve and we can continue our playoff push.
A: (Bouwmeester) Yeah; I agree with coach. We have a pretty close group and I think a lot of our guys have good chemistry with their linemates. We're still a young team and we're learning but I think we're progressing as any fan, coach or GM would like. This is the best team I've played on in the Gorillas / Rink Rats organization. I think we'll just continue to get better and I can't wait to see how this team progresses.