Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"They Said It" with Odessa Jackalopes Head Coach Paul Gillis

Despite having very strong regular seasons the last 2 seasons, the Jackalopes have stumbled to the different DFW Teams in back-to-back years. Back in 2009, it was a big time battle between the Jackalopes & the Texas Brahmas were the Brahmas went on to win in 7 games and eventually beat the Colorado Eagles for the CHL Presidents Cup Championship to win it for the first time in their history.

Then last season it was the Allen Americans who had one of the strongest expansion teams in league history where after finishing 2nd in the Southern Conference, stunning the Jackalopes who finished with 101 points. And many people had them easily making the Presidents Cup Final before Allen took them out before losing to the Rapid City Rush in 6 games in the Final.

In this edition of "They Said It," the league asks the Jackalopes Coach about his reputation in Minor League Hockey, Sebastien Thinel winning a League MVP in recent years leadership and it's impact and facing some new teams in the Southern Conference.

Here's a look at the records of how the Odessa Jackalopes have done the last 3 seasons.

2007-2008 Season

Regular Season: 32-25-7 71 PTS, 3rd Place in Southwest DIV, 4th in Southern Conference

Playoffs: Play In Round, defates Austin 2-1; Conf SFS Lost to Laredo 4-0

2008-2009 Season

Regular Season: 39-19-6 84 PTS, Southwest DIV. Champions, 2nd in Southern Conf.

Playoffs: Conf. SFS Defeat Laredo 4-2, Conf. Finals Lost to Texas 4-3

2009-2010 Season

Regular Season: 48-11-5 101 PTS, 1st in Southern Conference

Playoffs: Conf. SFS Defeat Texas 4-2, Conf Finals Lost to Allen 4-3

Here's the Odessa Jackalopes Edition of "They Said It" on the Central Hockey League Website.

The Jackalopes have had two extremely strong seasons during each of the last two years but have fallen short of earning a trip to the Finals, what are your thoughts as what has held your team back from taking that next step?

Well they were two different individually different games in each of those games we made some fundamental mistakes early and got ourselves into trouble with a bad start and had to fight back continually the rest of the way. You just can't do that, especially late in the postseason or good teams will beat you. Those are two individual games where we didn't succeed, but we will continue with our same philosophy to get better with every game, move forward and try to get over the hump this year. But the bottom line is we didn't play well enough to win in those games and the other team did.

The Chemistry on your team seems to be among the best in the league, how has your core group of players been to coach?

Our core group has been great to coach. The one thing we believe in is our making sure we bring in good people that have a team first attitude. That's something we really take into consideration when recruiting and because of that we've had very few problems over the years with the players. That always starts with your core players and the leaders on your team.

Sebastien Thinel has won a CHL MVP and was in the running last season, what kind of force can he be for your team when he gets going?

I think he has already has his game going. He's been one of the best in the league over the last three years, he's been a force day in and day out, and he has a deep impact on this org. both on and off the ice. He comes ready to practice and ready to play everyday and the success he has had over the course of his career come directly from the work he's put in.

Joel Martin had a tremendous run in net last season, was he more then you expected last season or were you confident he could put those type of numbers?

I was definitely confident that Martin could have the season he did last year. I've seen him play before with Kalamazoo, and had to coach against teams he has played on. When he came in last year I knew the level he was capable of playing at and there was no question in my mind what he was capable of.

Your team has tremendous leadership, how does this impact the younger players on your club?

It's very important for our older players to take the lead to make sure our team plays hockey the proper way. We as a coaching staff lean on our older players not only for input but to lead the way on and off the ice with how they behave in the community and how they perform on the ice. Your veterans and leaders are always a huge help to us as coaches.

The South or Berry Conference has inherited the Mudbugs, Riverkings and Oilers, how different will this be competing with some new faces in the conference?

The league is getting more competitive every year. The quality of players, coaches, and teams is steadily improving with each season, so that makes things tougher. Not just with the new teams in our conference, but the new teams overall. The more teams there are to play, the harder it becomes to win a championship. We won't see Mississippi this year in the regular season, but could face them come playoff time so there are always going to be changes and adjustments that need to be made by every team over the course of a season.

The Jacks will be the first opponent for the Quad City Mallards, a team you coached to a championship previously, how will that game be and will it feel any different for you then just a normal game?

The Game will not feel any different. For me it will be a normal Saturday Night Game and a game that we're all trying to win.

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