Friday, February 5, 2010

Q&A with Wichita Falls Wildcats Head Coach Mike Flanagan

After he recently took over the Wichita Falls Wildcats after the team fired John Bowkus in mid January. Flanagan is looking to start a strong final part of the season to get the team into the playoffs and bring in a new attitude to bring a more disciplined game and bring in a new attitude of winning and high standards to a team that's been one of the big disappointments this season in the North American Hockey League.

Going into this weekend, the Wildcats are playing the Topeka Roadrunners where they look to make a statement with just under 20 games left in the regular season. If Wichita Falls is going to make it in to the Playoffs, they will need to play at a high level and get some help by beating the Springfield Jr. Blues and Texas Tornado to get into the South Division Playoffs.

In the Q&A, I asked about his experience with winning a NAHL Robertson Cup Champions with the St. Louis Bandits, the shaky goaltending situation and making changes both on and off the ice with the team.

Here's the Q&A

1. With your team just 6 points back of the Springfield Jr. Blues and 8 points back of the Texas Tornado, which team do you think will be the bigger threat towards making the playoffs?

Obviously we can't control how Texas and Springfield do in their remaining schedule so we have to get our points when we can and be in a position to claim a playoff spot. Then we do play the Tornado and Jr. Blues, we need to focus even more to catch up to the our rivals in the South Division.

2. The Wildcats are among the league leaders in penalty minutes, how big of a factor has it been towards the disappointing season? Also, I read that they has been some off ice problems with the team, if that's the case, what happen with the players involved?

Penalties are going to happen. With that being said we have to make a better effort to play a more disciplined game and not take "lazy or Selfish Penalties." We can't expect to put ourselves in a position to win hockey games when we are constantly playing short handed. Currently we are not experiencing ANY off ice problems. We made a concerted effort to change the culture of the hockey club by weeding out players that not meet expectations both on and off the ice. Players in the NAHL and in particular Wichita Falls are held to a higher standard. Players who do not meet our program's code of ethics simply will not have the privilege of wearing the Wildcats Jersey.

3. Your team has played 5 different goalies at different points during the season, including trading away Phillip Graveline to Motor City earlier this season and bringing in Erik Cinotti who's on his 3rd team this season. Will this be the biggest hurdle towards making it to the playoffs and how will you handle who starts from night to night?

We currently have three goaltenders we are happy with, Kelly Andrew, PJ Musico and Max Glaser (PJ Musico being a recent addition) and we will play whomever has the hot hand and having the best work ethic.

4. Will be their any major changes towards the team's playing style on the ice?

The biggest change we are trying to make is our commitment to a work ethic which we hope to display via an energized, disciplined style of hockey.

5. How will your previous experience which has included being an assistant coach with the St. Louis Bandits when they won the 2007 NAHL Robertson Cup Championship?

My experience in St. Louis is immeasurable. I was fortunate to be a part of an incredible staff and to work for very motivated people and players. I learned many things from the Bandits Org. People like John Cooper, Kelly Chase, John Burkart and Mike Brooks. Each of them made an impact on me because of their integrity, honesty, commitment and work ethic. They created an environment that was conducive to learning, success and of course fun. I'm grateful that they believed in me and gave me my first chance to coach in the NAHL. The Wildcats Org. is very similar in that the ownership tandem of Rick Brodsky and Roy Davoult have the same qualities and have earned their own success through hard work. They are good communicators, positive and encouraging. This is a very good org. to be involved with.

6. Your just the interim coach for the rest of the season, besides getting the team to the playoffs and bringing in a new mood to the locker room. What else you think needs to be done to convince team owners Roy Davoult and Rick Brodsky to convince them to keeping you as a long term solution?

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7. How have the fans in Wichita Falls reacted to the coaching change since you took over?

Well our first two games were on the road vs. the Texas Tornado and there was a good showing of Wildcat Fans in Frisco, Texas, which is always great to see. The following two games were at home against the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and we had a terrific crowd on the Friday Night game which was followed by an even bigger crowd the following night, which is our big Military Appreciation night. So I think overall the response has been positive. The fans here in Wichita Falls are very loyal and supportive.

8. Any final thoughts going into the rest of the regular season?

We have a huge task in front of us (making the playoffs) but we are all up for the challenge are there is an air of optimism. We are going to take it one shift, one period and one game at a time for the rest of the season.

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