There has been a noticeable and measured approach by the Peterborough Petes coaching staff this season.
The Petes have put together their best first-half in 11 years, are riding a league-best eight-game winning streak and they sit second in the OHL’s Eastern Conference in points seven games above .500. Players returned Tuesday from an eight-day holiday break for practice and return to action at 7:05 p.m. Thursday when they host the Ottawa 67’s at the Memorial Centre.
Yet, head coach Jody Hull and his assistants Jake Grimes, Andrew Verner and Kurtis Foster have not got caught up in the hype. They’re quick to point out short-comings even in victories and to temper their praise. Don’t misunderstand, they are happy for the success, but they are guarded.
They’ve experienced fleeting moments of success in recent seasons, but nothing that has sustained itself. They understand only half the season is in the bank. That the team has won nothing, yet. That there is plenty of heavy lifting ahead.
“Have we played a perfect game this year? By no means,” said Hull, in reflecting on the first half. “You can never be satisfied.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves by any means. We’ve taken some big steps and we just have to continue to move forward in the right direction. I know there are going to be nights when it’s not there and you take a baby-step backwards, but it’s what you do, when those nights happen, the next night that really matters. That’s one thing that has been evident more recently with this group. Even though you get down or behind there is that belief that we can still get this done. In the past it, maybe, hasn’t always been like that.”
Part of that measured approach is to get the players to set the bar higher, beyond the expectations they might have had in the past.
“They’re playing for our organization and for the fans who come to our games, but, at the end of the day, they’re playing for each other,” Hull said.
— Peterborough Petes (@PetesOHLhockey) December 28, 2016
“They should expect it from one another. When it’s not there you’re not letting me down, you’re letting your teammates down. You see it in practice now, if a guy is not having a good practice it’s the guys who are doing the talking. The accountability is within the room now, it’s not just coming from the coaches. They’re policing themselves.”
Now that they’ve made some progress Hull has adopted the catch-phrase “Don’t let your guard down.”
“In the past when we’ve had some success the guard has been let down and all of a sudden you find yourself reeling and it’s tough to get off that,” he said. “The guys will tell you that even though we’re winning it doesn’t mean I’m taking the foot off the pedal as far as what we’re doing in practice. If practice isn’t going the way we want we’re doing something to correct it.”
The buy-in level from the players has been encouraging, says Hull.
“They just want to play hockey and worry about hockey,” he said.
When Hull came to the Petes as a teenager in 1985 he was joining a team with a proven track record where winning was expected and the veterans reinforced that to younger players. Hull believes he’s seeing that, the veterans showing a degree of leadership maybe missing in some of the franchise’s struggles since their last championship in 2006…
To read Mike Davies’ full article, visit The Peterborough Examiner online.