Just Chirp’n 18

Jan 2, 2010

Just Chirp’n #18
Dec. 31, 2009
by Michael Hissam

As 2010 opens, here’s one New Year’s resolution to suggest to El Paso Rhinos’ Coach Cory Herman:  Don’t pull the Indianapolis Colts basura.  We’re talking about the football team that apparently benched some of its first-string boys to “protect them” for the playoffs.  Take a loss or two, so what if it results in another team getting into the playoffs more or less by default, not by virtue of competitiveness, when the chips are down?  The fans shelling out a full buck for a ducat deserve that, right?

The math is pretty much there when it comes to the playoffs for El Paso.  You can just about put an “X,” a “Y” or something on the standings to say the Rhinos skate in March’s post-season play-off contests. El Paso has a 12-game (24 point) lead over second-place Boulder, with 15 games left on the regular schedule.  The Bison (42 points) have 18 left to play.  Third-place Tulsa (27 points) has 21 to go.  If the math is correct, only these teams could win it all this year in the Midwest Division of the Western States Hockey League. Fourth-place San Antonio (25 points) has 18 left on the card.  New Mexico (13 points, 18 games to go) trails the pack.

Tulsa, San Antonio and New Mexico each know they must virtually win out to even think playoffs.  Each of them needs the proverbial “help from other teams” to get there. Each faces more “ifs” than El Paso’s semi-skilled, sometimes insured motorists whenever there’s more than a quarter-inch of snow on the roadways here.

Every hockey coach wants to see what the third- and fourth-line players, and some of the guys whose “games played” numbers are in single digits, can do.  However with Herman, the grandóte 12-game lead does not mean a free ticket to the ice for those less experienced.  “I don’t believe in pulling starters,” he said. “In order to be sharp, we practice harder than we play. We play every game to win.  We work to peak at the end of the season.  I don’t look at standings and the mathematical stuff.  We play these games the same way we would play any game.  We want to ride high into the end of the season.”

Herman pointed out that the team is well rested – two weeks off after showcase and time prior to January 8 with Boulder.  There are two weekends off before the end of the regular season in February – and the coach didn’t seem to really like that quirk of the schedule.

Speaking of the showcase in December, Herman added:  “A lot of scouts have followed up with us.  A lot of good interest, that’s great!”
New Year Department:  Ask the coach what he learned in 2009?  The answer builds out from the word, “consistency.”

He explained, “The biggest thing I learned in 2009 deals with consistency.  Finding the consistency to keep the competitive edge in practice is critical.  It is what leads to the ‘recipe’ for the 60-minute game.  We played 60 minutes against Fresno (showcase victory).  What I want to learn more about in 2010 as coach is how to get this team to be more consistent.”

Herman pointed out that the route to consistency also requires him to learn from the players.  “When you are a coach, you are juggling 25 players – not robots –, each of whom reacts individually, differently to a coach.  It is my job to figure out the way to get the best out of each every single night.”

¡Feliz año nuevo, amigos.  Lo mejor para tí en 2010!