2013 Calder Cup: Drew MacIntyre remembers Toronto from 2006, Dallas Eakins won’t change what works

The Toronto Marlies have nearly doubled their average attendance since their first post-season appearance in 2006- Image courtesy of Christian at TSGPhoto

TORONTO– Drew MacIntyre remembers the first time the Toronto Marlies made the post-season, and it wasn’t a pretty site down at the Ricoh Coliseum.

The 29-year-old goaltender was a member of the 2006 Grand Rapids Griffins that eliminated the Marlies in their first-ever appearance in the Calder Cup playoffs. Originally a back-up to Jimmy Howard, who was called up by the Detroit Red Wings after Game 3 of that series, MacIntyre earned the final two victories of the first-round matchup to move his club into the second round.

Back then Toronto was in its first season after relocating from St. John’s and attendance in the post-season averaged just over 3000 people a game. This year with the Marlies, MacIntyre has played in front of a crowd hovering just above 6000 fans a game.

“Ridiculous. Night and day,” said MacIntyre about the change of atmosphere at the Ricoh Coliseum. “I remember when we used to play in Toronto it was family and friends. So many guys would get tickets for friends and family. To come back and see the way the organization is run now, I compliment them. They’ve done an amazing job to turn it around.”

With 13 pro teams under his belt, MacIntyre has some experience when it comes to seeing how hockey clubs are run. The biggest reason he believes as to why the Marlies have improved their attendance is because of how the players are treated by the club. By giving them an NHL-like environment, quality talent has come to the city over the last two seasons and improved the product on the ice.

“They are (world class),” MacIntyre said about the Marlies organization. “I was in Manitoba and it was similar, just the way we got treated like an NHL team. Great people are the biggest thing. They go above and beyond. They treat their players great. If you took the people away and replaced them it would make a difference. But they have perks to make players want to come and play (too).”

Unlike the majority of AHL clubs, the Marlies have an NHL-calibre training facility and getting new equipment on demand has never been a concern. They are also one of the few clubs that supplies pre and post-game meals to their players and have the luxury of using the Leafs chartered plane if need be.

Head Coach Dallas Eakins understands that even if he draws up the world’s greatest play, it doesn’t mean it will work. The players on the ice need to use their own awareness to understand every situation and adapt when needed. Playing every game from a text book just doesn’t work.

“You have to (adapt),” said Eakins. “I can draw up a play but there are five other skaters wearing a different color. That play looks nice when there’s no one else on the ice, so you have to have your players react. We’re always going to prepare for ‘here’s what we’ve seen, here’s how to conquer it’, but in the end they are going to run into adversity every shift and will have to make adjustments.”

Eakins is also a firm believer in doing what brought you success. With the Grand Rapids Griffins as second-round opponents, the coach knows his next matchup will have more skill and less of a physical presence then their first-round series against the Rochester Americans. While matching lines and getting the proper face-off man, almost always Mike Zigomanis, is important, he’s not going to experiment because of who the Griffins are.

“I think it’s a real danger as a coach to just be worried about the other team,” said Eakins. “It takes you off kilter of what you do. I’m more concerned with how we play. Are we executing our systems?  Whatever it is,  I need to know what the other team’s doing and I’ll make slight adjustments, but to throw your whole everything out the window to adjust to a team is a great concern and I don’t want to go down that road.”

Greg Scott felt the pressure and was set back earlier in the season because of the NHL lockout. After a career-high 21 goals last season, expectations were that he would assist the team’s offence, however he was primarily used only as a penalty killer and fourth liner. But heading into the Grand Rapids’ series he’s been one of Toronto’s hottest players. He scored five goals in three games against the Rochester Americans in Round 1 and has 12 in his last 20 outings.

“With how the lockout was, I think everyone had their minutes dwindled a bit because our team was stacked,” said Scott. “Once it ended I was like, ‘okay here’s your chance for a second season almost. I’m just trying to play the best I can. I’ve always loved playing offence but defence is fun too and I just want to fit in the lineup wherever I can.”

KYLE CICERELLA

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One Response to 2013 Calder Cup: Drew MacIntyre remembers Toronto from 2006, Dallas Eakins won’t change what works

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