Yesterday, I had an interesting conservation with San Antonio Rampage Head Coach Ray Edwards to talk about the offseason, players coming back, looking to get to the playoffs and looking to make San Antonio a strong hockey city.
It was a conservation after he recently made him from the Interim to Full Time Head Coach a couple of weeks ago after he had a strong turnaround of 30-23-9 in 59 games coached after he took over the team just after Thanksgiving last year. Being one of the youngest coaches in the league where he's barley 40 years old and is looking to est. himself to help turnaround the Rampage org. that hasn't either won a division or won a playoff series at the very least.
With the transactions they have made like bringing in Matt Climie and Garrett Stafford, as well as keeping players like Al Montoya should make the Rampage a very dangerous team in the West Division with teams like Houston who's looking to get stronger, defending Conference Champion Texas Stars and the Chicago Wolves who won the West Division and was looking to be a serious contender for the Calder Cup before Texas knocked them out in 7 Games during the West Division Final.
San Antonio Rampage Website
Rampage Goaltender Duo of Climie & Montoya
San Antonio is setting themselves up in a strong position with Matt Climie who had a strong season for Texas and backup Al Montoya who only played 14 Games last year still had .904 SV% and a 2.65 GAA and has still proved to be a strong goaltender at the AHL Level who at only 25, is still thought as a contender to be a regular in the NHL in the near future.
Edwards likes them both and they should be a strong competition to be the starter and it will be close he said. If San Antonio is going to be a division title contender and go far in the playoffs, this will be a huge part of that which should end the team's playoff & division title drought.
The Team philosophy he told me is two fold and it's actually quite simple, develop players to play in the NHL and to win at this level. After clinching a playoff spot, the team needs to focus on not just making the postseason, but to fight for the highest seed possible to at least reach home ice advantage for the early rounds and to be the most competitive as possible.
He also mentioned that winning is a part of development where winning will become a regular thing and when players reach the NHL (In this case, the Phoenix Coyotes) that the winning should take care of it self if they work hard, play hard and keep a strong attitude in the locker room.
Edwards also wasn't surprised with the Coyotes success despite the rumors of the team's bankrucpty and possible relocation would not be excuses. Now its their turn to get back to the playoffs and have the similar success to get to the playoffs and possibly have a shot at the Calder Cup in the near future.
On Chris Brown suiting up
Chris Brown was brought up as he's currently #6 in the Hockey's Future Phoenix Coyotes Prospect Ratings. He feels that he's not going to cave in to the pressure of bringing him in on a late season ATO (Amateur Tryout Deal) to make him the first Texan Player to suit up in a pro hockey game.
He does feel they will be extra pressure from both fans & media if he has another strong season and makes the US Junior National Team this year. He wants to show that he is his strong willed and that he will make the best decisions possible for the teams.
However, he does realize that excitement and it's something that moment is coming up faster then what a lot of people realize after he saw some impressive moments at the Phoenix Coyotes Prospect Camp earlier this summer.
Edwards thinks that he should stay in school and probably wait till at least next year to make the jump, but he told me don't be surprised to maybe bring him in the form of a late season ATO Deal to see where he is in his development. If he makes the World Junior Team, that possibility would jump big time.
Turning around a culture of losing
The biggest thing that he feels that he needs to help do is turn around a culture of losing that is preserved from fans and media in the San Antonio Area. Not a single Division Title or Playoff Series Victory will do that to you.
He felt the Phoenix Coyotes did the first major step by proving everyone wrong with the Coyotes finishing 4th before losing to Detroit in the Conference Quarterfinals, now it's his turn to do it at the AHL Level.
Get the players to believe that both of these things are possible and his immediate success by going 30-23-9 in his 59 games also is starting to get everyone involved more excited in the team. It makes going to the rink better and more enjoyable when everyone in the team has a great at and looking to do a lot more winning starting next season.
With the Texas Stars doing so well in their first year and the Oklahoma City Barons joining this year. Edwards is excited about the rivalries that are building in the Southwest to help create more interest and more fans to see their hometown teams and future NHL Players.
He still has a feeling that Houston is the team's biggest rival because of how long the team has been in the league.
Even though he's starting to get pumped up about the Texas Stars in Austin coming into the league and wants to help create more interest by helping to promote trips to both Austin & Houston to see them play on the road.
Staying in San Antonio
Right now he wants to stay in San Antonio at least for a while, he wants to make the Rampage a power in the AHL and help the sport gain a stronger presence in South Texas.
Edwards does mention that after building some success, that he would maybe have a shot of coaching in the NHL. He would like to see a lot of his former players succeed in the NHL and look to win the AHL Calder Cup and build some great memories for a long time and start a new era of success for the Rampage.
Away from the Rink
He still gets a few laughs when he tells people that he coaches the Rampage, but they becoming fewer and more infrequent inbetween with the number of teams. Edwards told me that some of his friends in Canada & Northern USA are starting to get more respect when he tells him of the success of the Professional Clubs plus the rise of Junior Hockey in the in the Southwest (Especially with the NAHL).
He also wants to help make San Antonio a bigger hockey city by supporting people that will build more rinks and getting involved to people help to learn how to skate and get more people introduced into playing hockey
With Texas being a big football state, he would love to have the opportunity to see some of the bigger NFL & College Football Linemen try to skate and lug their body around. This comes from a great story he told when he was friends with some of the players with the Marshall University Football Team during his ECHL Days.
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