We continue our ‘Five questions with…’ series with San Antonio Rampage head coach Ray Edwards. (The San Antonio Rampage are the Phoenix Coyotes’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate) In his first full season as head coach of the Rampage, Edwards has led the team to the second best record in the AHL (20-7-1 41 points) with a team stocked not only with Phoenix Coyotes prospects but talented depth players as well.
Q: What is one player you consider to be under the radar for the Rampage this season?
Probably Matt Beaudoin and now he’s out with a foot injury. He’s led our team in scoring. He’s a relentless worker. He’s been on an American League deal the past couple of years. He started off in the East Coast league (ECHL) a few years ago. He was a big part of Texas’ team last year when they went to the finals. With us we put him in a situation where he’s been able to score goals and he’s leading our team in points before he got hurt the other night. I don’t think a lot of people are talking about him because he’s a new signing. He wasn’t a guy we drafted or anything like that but he’s definitely a guy we’re gonna miss him out of the lineup, I can tell you that.
Q: Even though the Rampage is one of the best in the AHL right now, what is the one thing that the team needs to work on and how do you keep them focused with the winning they’ve done this season?
Well listen, we like where we are record wise, but we understand that it’s a long season and you go through different issues as the year goes on. We’re going through a little bit of an injury bug right now so our depth is going to have to step in and do a job. Our penalty kill isn’t where we want it to be it’s gotta continue to get better. It’s at the bottom end of the league so that’s an area we’ve got to focus on. We’d like to continue to get better keeping the puck out of our nets it’s an organizational philosophy that we want to defend. We gave up nine goals in two games here this past weekend. That’s an area that we want to stay on top of. (We just want) to continue with the identity. That’s working….and that’s real work. Making sure that we’re above average in that category every night. Our guys understand what the difference between work and real work is. We need to continue to focus on those things.
Q: When Oliver Ekman-Larsson was down with the Rampage this season what were some of the things you made sure he focused on during each game?
There’s a couple of things and it was all sort of ‘without the puck’ stuff. His game with the puck is pretty good but without the puck as a 19 year old playing in North America after being in Europe for years, it’s a different game. So we focused a lot on getting back quicker, understanding what was coming up for a forecheck we were dealing with, obviously our defensive zone responsibilities, using his stick, putting his body in the right places, making sure he was getting his body between their guy and the net, defending the net, just being stronger on battles, winning races, winning puck battles, just his overall compete level without the puck. His game with the puck as you see I think he got 8 points in 10 games, he does an amazing job moving the puck and doing some stuff on the power play. He has to continue to get stronger and understand that his play away from the puck is going really be what separates him from all the great players.
Q: Going in to this season this is probably the deepest the Coyotes have ever been top to bottom. Fans have seen the depth in action on the Coyotes this season. Can you talk a bit about how the depth on the Rampage this season?
It came in huge. When we started the year, we didn’t have Picard in the lineup. Over the course of this season I think we’re well over 100 man games lost in injuries. Now we’ve got Beaudoin and Tikhonov out and we’ve been able to stay at the top. That’s a credit to the work in the summertime, the guys that we’ve signed to create that depth. Credit to the guys in Vegas (The Las Vegas Wranglers, the Phoenix Coyotes’ ECHL affiliate). We’ve used a number of those guys in different situations here to get us through and we’re going to need to continue need to do that. At the end of the day, there’s going to be times with Phoenix where they lose people. They lost Shane (Doan) for a long time there and they’re able to get through it there on the right side and win a bunch of games because of the depth. I think as the season wears on, especially in January and February it gets tough and we’re going to have a number of guys that here now with us that will probably see time with them (the Coyotes). The critical part with them is that they don’t miss a beat when they lose people when we have the same situation here. We lost a couple of guys now and we don’t want to miss a beat and call some guys up from Vegas. We want to make sure we continue on with the success regardless of who is in the lineup. Credit the Scouts for getting the right people in here for management for getting them on board and now we’re sort of reaping the rewards of the depth we have in the organization.
Q: What’s it been like to coach the Rampage this season in your first full year?
Well, it’s no different than last year when I took over. I obviously enjoy the challenge, we have a really good group here led by a great leadership group. It makes it a lot easier. Obviously when you have success, it’s a lot more fun. The Coaching staff we put together is excellent, our training staff is as good as there is in the league. The environment we have here has been really good. The culture that we believe is in the right direction. We’ve been enjoying it. When you win, it’s a lot of fun. We’re enjoying that part of it right now. What we’re trying to continue to do is make sure that we get better and enjoy the process here of developing these guys.