As the Toronto Marlies prepare for their return to action following an 11-day break, head coach Greg Moore discussed the lengthy gap in the schedule coming off of four straight wins, the addition of Nick Ritchie to the roster, Joseph Blandisi’s impact, Nick Robertson’s impressive return from a long injury layoff, and Joseph Woll’s contract extension.
At the halfway point, is there anything you have learned about yourself as a coach?
Moore: Not every team is equal from year to year. Throughout a season, you are always adapting and adjusting to what is needed at the time. It is part of what makes the job fun; it is not just a cookie-cutter concept, system, game plan, or philosophy that you pump out year over year.
You have to problem solve based on what you have as a group and as people, problem solve strengths and weaknesses within the skill set or the team itself, and always adjust. Every year, it is fun to problem solve and find what is best for the group that you have.
When the team is off for such a long period of time, do you have any concerns in terms of loss of conditioning?
Moore: I wouldn’t say you lose anything. In the long term, it probably recharges you and you get more out of it as long as you come back and you push really hard to regain where you were at before the break.
I wouldn’t say that you lose stuff. It is more the peaks and valleys of the season. Now, coming out of this, we get back to game shape, and we should be in a better spot than we were before the break.
Did it seem like the team really needed the time off after the giant road trip in January?
Moore: It was one of the longer ones of the year, but even after that road trip and after we had a couple of days off, I felt the team was in a good place energy-wise and execution-wise.
Going into the longer break, the guys really pushed through a good chunk of the season in that month to come out with some much-needed points.
What do you like about adding Nick Ritchie to a line with Joey Anderson and Brett Seney?
Moore: A lot of skill, a lot of smarts, and they move the puck really well. They read off of each other. All three of them are more give-and-go thinkers where they really rely on each other to spread the puck around.
It has looked good in practice. It will be interesting to see how it looks [on Wednesday vs. Utica].
What have you seen from Nick Robertson as he works his way back from injury again?
Moore: Consistency. Again, because of all of the work he has put in during his return to play, there wasn’t such a gap in his first game compared to what he should have looked like. He looked fairly normal as to what we are used to seeing from him.
From the first game until now, I wouldn’t say you are looking at him in practice or games where you’re like, “oh, he is finally catching up.” He looks really good, and he is just getting stronger every day.
What were some of the important things Robertson did to get to this place?
Moore: Weight room, rehab — the little monotonous things sometimes that, as an athlete, when you have a long injury, it can grind on you and you get tired of doing. He stuck with it.
He never skipped a day or a rep. He was even in the hallways every day stickhandling and getting every puck touch he can so that he didn’t feel rusty when he came back. He was just going above and beyond.
How does Joseph Blandisi complement the line with Robertson and Semyon Der-Arguchintsev?
Moore: He is a competitive, abrasive, strong player. He does a really good job at winning 50-50 pucks along the wall, finding his teammates, and getting pucks out of tight spaces. He is responsible defensively.
There is a lot of good balance there. You have a worker who can also think, play, and make plays with the puck along with two guys who have a lot of speed, good puck play, and who spread it around a lot.
There are a lot of similarities to the balance that Ritchie brings with Seney and Anderson.
Alex Biega said that with the additions of Nick Ritchie and Kyle Clifford, it is one of the deepest teams he has been a part of. What opportunity do you see when Ritchie and Clifford are sent down?
Moore: A ton of experience and leadershp. All season, we have had good leadership, and you just keep adding veteran guys who have been through a lot. The energy in the room is really good.
You have a lot of young prospects in our organization who are in their first or second year as pros. For them to have an opportunity to be around these guys and learn from them and see how they do things, it says a lot.
What was your reaction to Joseph Woll receiving a three-year extension with the Leafs?
Moore: Great person. In his time here with the organization, he has gotten better every month and every year. I am really happy and proud of him to get that deal done and [excited] to continue working with him.
With Bobby McMann’s one-year contract extension with the Marlies, what have you seen from him this year, particularly lately, that has given him that opportunity?
Moore: Well deserved. There has been a lot of growth in his game throughout the season. He has proven himself over a good course of time.
What has really made a big difference is his puck play. He is a very powerful skater and can transport the game up and down the rink pretty good. He can win 50-50 battles using his physicality. He has a tremendous shot.
Now, he is starting to make small-area plays and find open space for his teammates. His passing and his ability to see the game has really improved this year.
Is he an example of someone who has really benefited from skills development?
Moore: Absolutely. So much of the development is what you put into it. He is the type of guy who shows up every day to work hard and take advantage of all of the resources we have here. You are starting to see it compound. He has proven to be a strong athlete who can learn, apply, and grow pretty quickly.