We checked in with Rampage head coach Ray Edwards to see what he has been up to this summer and got his thoughts on what to expect next season.
How does it feel to be back with the Rampage again next season?
When they told me I was excited, my family was excited. That was ultimately the goal… and hoping all along that would be the decision. We did a lot of good things last year and I learned a lot of things from last season. This is a great opportunity for us to build off the last 60 games.
What will be your focus next season?
The organizational philosophy is simple ... we have to develop players here and we have to win. They go hand in hand. If we develop players well here we should have success. With some of the moves in the offseason, assuming players we have signed will be in San Antonio, goaltending looks strong with Al Montoya and Matt Climie. We signed some veteran defensemen with Nolan Yonkman and Garrett Stafford joining the organization and I am excited for them to help us in the process of developing the young players we have coming in. We also have a good crop of young defensemen coming in as well as some guys from last year’s group that are in the mix so we will have a lot of competition in the backend for defensemen. The forwards are coming together too. There are some guys we have signed that could definitely be in Phoenix and the Coyotes are still a guy or two away from where they need to be. When it is all said and done we will have a good group down here and we have to make them better every day. We want to have a good environment for them to succeed. If we do those things I think we can win. We haven’t been in the playoffs the last two years and we need to get back there. Ultimately if we do a good job developing these players and give them an environment that they can succeed in then at the end of the season we will be competing for a championship. Both the Coyotes and the Spurs are proud organizations and have seen success in the postseason so we need to follow suit. We need to start building a history of success.
What do you think Jeff Truitt will bring to the coaching staff?
Jeff has a lot of experience. He not only has experience as a former player but also a ton of great coaching experience too. He has won a Memorial Cup as an assist coach, which is a very difficult championship to win, and took them back to the finals as a head coach. People don’t realize how tough it is just to get to the Memorial Cup let alone win one so he definitely has the experience from a winning standpoint. He’s been in the AHL for a couple of years and knows the dynamic of development and he knows the league. He understands the issues we deal with from a travel standpoint. There won’t be too many things we throw at Jeff that will stump him. He has seen everything. He played defense and will be working with the defense this year. He has developed some really good defensemen … guys like Shea Weber in Nashville. I’m excited about having a guy with such great experience. He knows the game very well; he is a hard worker and a good family guy. Those are all good traits that we looked for when putting our coaching staff together.
What do you think of Don Maloney winning the NHL’s GM of the Year award?
Don and Dave Tippett are deserving of their respective awards. No one else on earth gave that team a chance to succeed last year. It started off on the right even in training camp. Dave wasn’t there for training camp so we didn’t have a head coach but give credit to Ulf Samuelsson, Sean Burke and Doug Sulliman because they got things going. The message was very clear when we got there that this will not be a distraction and there are no excuses. The players really took it upon themselves to prove people wrong .They knew what kind of group they had and what they were capable of. Dave did an excellent job of getting the focus narrowed and getting the job done. Now the challenge is building off of that. It’s the same down here. I feel that last year we did a lot of good things but it wasn’t good enough and we have to do better this year.
What will be the Rampage’s strong points next season?
Goaltending and defense. That’s the way you build a team. That is the way I believe in building a team. That’s the way Brad and Don believe in building a team. Look at Phoenix, they have arguably one of the best goaltenders in the league and we are in a good situation here in San Antonio with Al Montoya resigning and Matt Climie joining the team next season. I think we have the makings of a top tandem. The additions of Garrett Stafford and Nolan Yonkman give us a nice core. David Schlemko will push to be in Phoenix but if he is with us he will add a lot to our team. We have a lot of guys in the mix that we may not see but we have a lot of depth which is nice.
What will be the areas to work on for the Rampage next season?
Our specialty teams were good last year but that has to be the key this year as well. It is something that we will look to continue to build on. We have to defend better. There were times last year that we defended very well but we need to keep the puck out of our net and have to be a team that keeps the goals against down. That will be an area we must improve on. We want to be known as a team that is so hard to play against and that we are relentless and never quit. We want to be a team that when opponents come in here they dread playing against us. With the group that we have going into next season we should put the puck in the net and will continue to find new and creative ways to do that. Creating offense is a neat dynamic. We will be a simple team from a structure standpoint but it’s the details within that structure. Then it comes down to the attitude, the effort and the energy and we have a leadership group that will help drive that message.
What have you been doing this summer? Any fun trips?
This summer I have spent a lot of time hanging out with the kids. We took a trip up north for three weeks. My wife and I got away for a couple of days and left the kids with her mom and dad. I also attended the development camp in Phoenix. It was fun because it was the first time I was able to run the camp so I really enjoyed that. The next six weeks will be preparing for the season and narrowing down what the group is going to look like. But of course I will continue to have some family time and do some fun things with the kids because once the season starts that part really goes away.