Recently, we've been afforded the opportunity to correspond with Tim Speltz, the current General Manager of the Spokane Chiefs. Tim was kind enough to answer a number of questions pertaining to the WHL, the NHL Entry Draft and Ottawa's selection of Jared Cowen.
Thanks to Tim and the Spokane Chiefs organization.
1. Tim, coming off a Memorial Cup win in 2008, what are your thoughts on last year's season? What impact did that Memorial Cup win have on your team in the 2008-2009 season?
Last season was very good. We won 46 games but lost a second round playoff match up to the Vancouver Giants in OT in game 7. There were 4 very good teams in our division that were capable of winning the Western Conference last year. The Memorial Cup win gave all our players confidence and we knew how to win. Our team was capable of winning again had Jared Cowen not got hurt.
2. With a healthy Cowen, what are your expectations for the coming season? Should fans expect a return to prominence? Are there any under-the-radar players who hockey fans should take notice of on the Chiefs?
We expect to have a very competitive team again this year. We still have a core group of players from our Championship team in ’08 to lead our club. Our biggest change will come in goal, James Reid is capable but relatively unknown.
3. How did your team handle the loss of Jared Cowen last year? How big of a blow was it?
Our D to a man took a huge step when Jared got hurt but it is impossible to replace a player with his dimensions on the ice and his leadership off the ice. We believe it cost a chance to repeat.
4. How did Cowen handle the adversity of his injury? What was his presence like around the team while he was injured?
Jared handled the injury like a pro and understood it was a part of the game. He was excellent when he was with our team and was an asset for us even when he was injured. He is well respected by his teammates.
5. Cowen's injury not only affected your season, but it played a part in his stock sliding on draft day. In your opinion, did the Senators get a steal in Cowen?
Yes, I think they would not have had a chance to select him at 9 had he not been injured. Jared has proved to play his best hockey on the biggest stage and his draft position would have improved playing the end of the season and the playoffs. Jared did not get the chance to shine at the biggest time of the year. He proved that the previous season.
6. Much of the prospect analysis that we've read on Cowen pertains to his ability to be a dominant shutdown defenseman in the NHL. Is his offensive game understated? What offensive assets does he bring on the ice?
Jared has very good offensive ability and that part of his game is improving the most rapidly. Jared likes handling the puck, sees the ice well, can lead the rush and does not hesitate to join the rush. He shoots the puck a ton and is accurate. His offensive ability is very much underrated at this point of his career.
7. As unfair as it may be, our readers who haven't seen Cowen play would appreciate a comparison to Cowen. Help us out a little, we've heard comparisons ranging from Adam Foote, Zdeno Chara to Chris Pronger. Based on his play and your future projections, which player(s) does he share similarities with?
Those are tough players to compare him to but if I had to chose one from that group it would be Pronger. That is very unfair to Jared to compare him to a great NHL player like Chris Pronger, but there are a lot of similarities for me. Jared has great compete and excellent mobility and is very difficult to play against. Jared is a horse who can log a lot of minutes.
8. Like any prospect, we'd imagine that Jared has to work on some facets of the game to reach the next level. In your opinion, what does he need to work on?
Probably patience with his decision making with the puck. In saying that, it is not a short coming for him and it will improve.
9. Is there any communication between an NHL club and the players junior team once a player is drafted? Did the Senators organization have any talks with you regarding Jared before the draft?
The Senators were very thorough with their communication and research on Jared. They asked all the questions they needed to so they were comfortable with Jared.
10. Bud Light Lime has taken over our country, what do we do?
Enjoy it if it’s for you.
11. While Tim McCarver may be the worst Tim in sports, who is your favourite "Tim"?
a) Tim Burton
b) Tim Wakefield
c) Tim 'The Tool-Man' Allen
d) Timmmmmmy (Southpark)
e) Other: Tim Horton