Q & A with Oakville Blades Assistant Coach and GM Mike Daley

Q & A with Oakville Blades Assistant Coach and GM Mike Daley
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Clayton Theriault

Clayton Theriault is a second year journalism student at Sheridan College. He is an avid sports fan who likes to cover sports of all kinds, entertainment and charity events.

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I had the opportunity to chat with the assistant coach and general manager  Mike Daley of the Oakville Blades to discuss the 2013-14 Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) season.

Clayton Theriault: What are your expectations for the team this year?

Mike Daley:  My expectations for the Oakville Blades this year are not set too high. Our goal is to build our team for a couple years down the road. We’re applying to host the 2015 RBC Cup, which is a Canadian Junior Hockey League Championship. So right now we’re trying to put together a team of guys that can grow together with the goal of reaching the RBC Cup at that time at our apex or peak. For this year our goal is to get in to the playoffs and see what happens from there. We want to be a hard working team that can put the puck in the net and is going to do everything we can to keep the puck out of our net. We want to be the team that nobody wants to play in the first round of the playoffs.

Clayton Theriault: As assistant coach and GM what messade do you send to your players?

Mike Daley: I guess there are different messages. As a coach you’re looking at it from a game aspect. You’re trying to push the players to be their best every time they’re on the ice and shift to shift. Our motto is to be better than you were on your last shift. If you’re doing that, you’re going to continue to improve. We push the guys at all times to accomplish what they can. If they can’t look in the mirror after every game and say they gave it everything they have, then they’ve failed themselves. They’re lofty goals to set but it’s the mental aspect the kids have to understand. From a coaching perspective it’s as much physical as it is mental. From a general manager’s perspective, we’re looking at the actual make up and the build of the team. We did a complete overhaul of our team this year. We only have three returning players from last year. We brought in a local player, Ross, from the Mississauga Chargers. Ross was the captain of my midget team that I’ve coached for the last five years. Knowing the character of the players, making sure that we have a cohesive dressing room, and having guys that are willing to play for each other and play for the logo on the front instead of the name on the back.

Clayton Theriault: How do you balance between being an assistant coach and a general manager?

Mike Daley: I think they’re intertwined pretty well. You see a lot of GM’s with coaching jobs, especially in the OHL. Ultimately the coach only puts the players on the ice that the GM acquires. As a coach you want to be in control of the roster. Kevin and I are pretty in tune with that as far as the guys that we want to be part of our program. As far as getting character players, skilled players, grinders and making sure we have the balance to be a successful team. The ability to balance the GM and the coaching aspects is fairly easy from that standpoint because the GM duties happen off the ice and away from the rink; whereas, the coaching duties are directly on the ice and at the rink.

Clayton Theriault: As a GM, what does an average day look like?

Mike Daley: Right now it’s phone calls every twenty minutes. It’s pretty hectic. The build up to the season was pretty stressful trying to get a roster on the ice. The OJHL has done a really good job this year putting together a checklist of things that need to be done before the season started. The teams were looking to accomplish that and set goals and know the timelines when certain deadlines had to be met, which made it a lot easier, especially or me being a first time GM.

Clayton Theriault: What’s your favourite part about being the GM?

Mike Daley:  It’s the interaction you get to have with the kids and the other people involved in the league. From being a coach at the midget level for the last five or six years now, I really like interacting with the kids. I got in to the game of hockey after finishing playing to help these guys not make the same mistakes I did. I think a lot of natural ability and just not. The interaction, the mental aspect, talking to the kids, making sure that everything is going well for them. Helping them balance home life, school, extracurriculars and their hockey, and make sure that the focus is in the right place, and their priorities are in the right place at all times.

Clayton Theriault: Do you have a least favourite part?

Mike Daley: My least favourite part is paper work! Nobody likes to fill out paperwork.

Clayton Theriault: The Blades have only missed the playoffs once since the 2005-06 season. Why is Oakville such a perrenial postseason contender?

Mike Daley: It’s been a different model. When Gary Tune was the owner they went out and they acquired a lot of players from the Junior B level, bringing in guys that were 19 and 20 years old who were on the verge of attaining their division 1 scholarships, which made the Blades a very successful team. You take a bunch of guys that have Junior experience and put them in to a system and put them all together on the same page and it worked out really well for those guys. They had the financial backing as well to be able to do it. The business model of the league has changed quite a bit since then. The recruiting slowed and slowed and eventually they started recruiting local players. It’s finding the right players and that’s where we are right now. The goal is to build a team of local residents, mainly Oakville players. Thirteen out of our twenty roster players are from the town of Oakville or played their minor hockey here.  The outside guys are here to supplement that base. We have players that were very comfortable with our franchise; guys that we know their character and know they’re going to go through a wall for us and for their teammates. That’s how we’re continuing the expected success of the Oakville Blades franchise. That’s how you build a team that people want to come and play for.

Clayton Theriault: Who is the captain of the Blades and What qualities make up a good captain?

Mike Daley: We haven’t selected a captain as per se yet. We have a leadership group of four older players. There’s our goalie Evan Buitenhuis, Ross Sloan, Sean Perichak, Greg Campbell and Vince Palermo who we’re leaning on right now for the leadership aspect. These are guys that have been in the league and seen how things operate and understand what it takes to be part of a winning program. We haven’t selected an official captain. I don’t know when we’re going to select that. What you’re looking for in a captain depends on what type of team you have. Right now we have a team of younger guys, so we need someone that’s going to go out and lead by example. We want somebody that’s going to go out and leave it all out there. Someone that’s going to show the younger guys the work ethic required to be successful at this level. That falls on to guys like Greg, Ross and Vince; Guys that have been around the game for a little bit. It’s tougher to make the goalie a captain but there’s always unofficial ways to do it. Aside from things like the Vancouver Canucks making Luongo a captain a few years ago. It puts a lot of pressure on that player if you were to do that but we certainly rely on Evan for his leadership and the guys know that he’s going to be there to bail them out every time they make a mistake. He knows that they’re going to fight for him every inch of the ice trying to help him win games. Leadership qualities are, depending on the team, all different. We’ve got a couple of guys that are more vocal like Sloan and Palermo. Campbell is a little quieter, same with Perichak. They just go out and kind of get the job done.

Through six games the Oakville Blades are off to a .500 start with three wins and three losses. Their next game is against the St. Michaels Buzzers at St. Michaels Rink in Toronto on Wednesday Oct. 2 at 3 p.m. Their next home game is on Saturday Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m. If you would like to purchase tickets you can do so by emailing the Oakville Blades at info@oakvilleblades.ca or by calling 905-581-1743.

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