On Wednesday morning after Allen lost to Fort Wayne 3-2 in overtime and was eliminated from the Kelly Cup playoffs, I started the blog with the following sentence. Last night was a disappointing ending, to a disappointing game, to a disappointing series, to a great season for the Allen Americans.
Thursday morning I had a chance to sit down with coach and general manager Steve Martinson to talk to him about that final game, the series, the 2020-21 season, the 2021-22 season and other topics.
Question: What are your thoughts on the final game in Fort Wayne?
Answer: The most frustrating thing is we had a two goal lead in the game. They were pressing because they were behind and I thought our forwards should have been able to generate more offense. It was a combination of lack of communication, poor changes and turnovers that cost us.
Q: What are your thoughts on the series with Fort Wayne?
A: We had multiple times in the series where we went from full possession of the puck to a turnover to a goal. The frustrating part is many were unforced turnovers. It is one thing if you are pressured but too many times in the series we made bad decisions with the puck, which ended up with their guys in good scoring positions. The defensive breakdowns were uncharacteristic and cost us against Fort Wayne.
Q: It was a disappointing ending but you have to be pleased with the season overall?
A: We accomplished some good things during the regular season under difficult circumstances but it is hard for me to be pleased after the way it ended.
Q: With the loss of an affiliation with the Wild, more players getting opportunities in Europe and the AHL back to normal how much more of a challenge will recruiting be this off season?
A: It is a given there will not be as many players available. You have the players going to Europe but another big factor is most of the US college seniors are staying in school because they didn’t play this season, so you have that whole group of players not available.
I will be recruiting on the fact we were leading the league in offense and offense will get you noticed. Having the Defenseman of the Year the last two seasons, who led the league in scoring, will help in recruiting. There are a lot of benefits when recruiting players to Allen. We have an offensive and entertaining style, we have a goalie coach and skating coach, very nice housing, a major airport, a winning tradition and great weather.
I will sign players as soon as I can (July 9) but a lot of players will be waiting to see if they get AHL deals.
Q: Do you have any future considerations trades that have to be settled by the July 5th deadline?
A: No, all have been taken care of.
Q: You hear rumors every off season about the possibility of Chad Costello returning to Allen. Is there anything you can share regarding Chad?
A: All I will say is there is a possibility Chad will return.
Q: You just signed a contract extension, how long is that extension?
A: One year
Q: What are your thoughts on an affiliation for the 2021-22 season?
A: The key to an affiliation is getting one that will help Allen. You don’t want an affiliate that only sees the ECHL as a place to park some players until they have injuries or call ups. The last two seasons I was involved in who our affiliate was signing as their depth guys and that is key.
Before COVID the plan was for Iowa to send us nine players. The same things I mentioned in recruiting players helps when talking to potential affiliates. We have a skating coach, goalie coach, a major airport, a nice place to live and a history of developing players which all helps. From an on ice perspective, our affiliates have been happy with how we have developed their players.
There are NHL teams that need affiliates and I am trying to find one that will send the most good players to us. Unlike many ECHL coaches who are looking for a job with their affiliate, I am not looking for a job so I am not afraid to ask them for what will help us.
Q: Is there anything you learned this season that will change your approach to the 2021-22 season?
A: When we were winning championships we had a core group of players whose primary goal was winning a championship, along with rookies and players looking to move up to the AHL. I think we need a bigger group of those guys that want to stay in Allen and win.
Q: What players that spent time in the AHL this season will you have the rights to next season?
A: Frank Marotte, Turner Ottenbreit and Will Lochead.
Q: How many players off the Allen roster do you think will go to Europe?
A: I don’t know the exact number but it will be a lot. I know of several in addition to the five (Register, Lancaster, Mackin, Butcher, Paterson) that have been officially announced. We also have players whose rights go back to other teams in the ECHL, like Mackin and McAuley. They signed with teams that opted out of the 2020-21 season before signing with us.
Q: What are you most looking forward to this summer away from hockey?
A: The traits I have as a person go well with what I do as a job. I am not the kind of guy looking for a new thrill or adventure. When we are in Rockford, I tell people and I am dead serious, if I can’t get there in my boat, don’t invite me. I like the simple life of being on the river with the family. I like that our kids and their friends are always at our house, taking out the boat. We have bonfires several times a week. A the same time I think about hockey all day, every day and that is just the way I am built.
Q: Having played for the Montreal Canadiens what do you think winning the Stanley Cup would mean to your former team and Canada?
A: Obviously there is a ton of excitement. The newer younger fans haven’t seen the domination the older fans have. So for them to see the team win will be amazing. The fan base there is all in and almost everyone is all in. It is like the Packers in Wisconsin, almost everyone is all in.
Q: Minnesota Wild Assistant GM Tom Kurvers died this week. He is always described as a smart and genuine guy. I know you have been friends for a long time. When did you first get to know Tom.
A: I met Tom at a conditioning camp in northern Minnesota. I had signed with the New York Rangers and Tom Kurvers and George McPhee were there. Tom was just out of college and I gave him a ride back to the Twin Cities after the camp. We would skate together in the summer and he would come out to Lake Minnetonka (where I lived) and we would spend time on our boat. His first date with his first wife was out on the boat with us. He came to our wedding reception that we had back in Minnesota after we got married. After Tom got hired by the Wild a couple of years ago we got reacquainted and talked strategy all of the time. He was a great guy and will be missed.