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HOLY JUMPIN!: PLAYING IN AHL IS GOOD FOR TURRIS

Tuesday, 02.17.2009 / 1:31 PM / Holy Jumpin! - a Blog by Darren Pang
By Darren Pang
There will be plenty of debate from outsiders as to what the right move was for Kyle Turris, the third overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Turris is going to be a great NHL player for many, many years to come. That is not the question.

The question is, in order for Kyle to progress, is it better for him to stay in the NHL, and not play meaningful minutes, sit in the press box and watch and learn? Or is progress accelerated by going to San Antonio of the American Hockey League, play for a team that is on a pretty good run lately, play on the power play and upwards of 20:00 per game?

There are those who will say this will be the best thing that happens to Kyle…when he looks back at it years from now.

Right now, he must be thinking many things, and going down to the AHL likely isn’t something he thinks will be one of the best things that is going to happen to him…in his lifetime!

There are those that thought, before the season, that the Coyotes would have been best suited leaving him in college at Wisconsin for another year. They wouldn’t be wrong. Nor would they be wrong in saying that the experience he is going through right now (the AHL) is the best way to develop Kyle or any other up-and-coming highly-touted prospect.

I believe it is a case-by-case, team-by-team situation that must be considered.

Wayne Gretzky is so good with young players. They will all look back years from now and really understand how he protected them, took pressure off of them and nurtured them. Some veteran, career coaches would never be that way. They may not be that patient and they may not be that secure in their jobs, in this business of winning hockey games.

Turris never thought for a minute that he would spend time in the AHL. Why would he?

If that were the case, why would he leave the University of Wisconsin?

That leaves us with this. And this is my opinion right now. This was not or would not have been my opinion two months ago. This IS the best thing for Kyle. He will be a much harder hockey player next season. He will come into camp a tougher player with more edge and less naivete. He has gone through a few tough moments this season, experiences that he would have to go through next year, if it were his first season. But it won’t be. This is. This is where the progress begins for a player that will be in this league, the NHL, for the next 20 years.

He was a healthy scratch his first game in his hometown against the team he grew up watching and dreaming about playing for, the Vancouver Canucks.

He had to be crushed. He wants to play and be a player that the coaches and his teammates will count on.

Now he gets the word he is going down to the AHL. There are many fine, young players in the AHL. It is a breeding ground, a place where stories unfold and later on in your career, they become more magnified, more fun to tell. I know. I was there. It was way more fun getting to the NHL with the guys you went to war with in the IHL (back then) or the AHL. Once you get to the NHL, it is ALL business. Every day. Every game.

We would have seen, and do get to see, the character of a person when they get sent down. Do they sulk? Do they mope around? Do they perform like they couldn’t care less? And even worse, do they go down and treat it with such a lack of respect that their peers know it? That is an insult, and no player likes to be insulted.

When I was rehabbing a torn ACL, I remember going down to Indianapolis of the IHL, with Darryl Sutter coaching. I had been in the NHL for almost three seasons. I made sure I went down there with a great attitude, helped out the young guys, and learned from Sutter. When I was in my first season of pro hockey, we were based in Milwaukee, and most of our players had only played in the higher AHL, not the IHL. Boy, did a lot of the players have poor attitudes. And we stunk because of it. I never forgot it. I swore I would never be THAT player if I went down, and I wasn’t.

So, you’re wondering about Kyle… or Kevin Porter or Viktor Tikhonov earlier?

Have no fear. They all have great attitudes and want to prove that they are NHL players.

Look at Tikhonov against Calgary. Two goals and raring to be a player. Porter is simply a great kid and is going to be a tremendous two-way player in the NHL. It will be all in good time.

Turris took this demotion the way you would expect. He wasn’t drafted third overall just based on his skill set. It is about character. It was about how much he wants it. He is oozing passion for the game, and it shows.

He scored two goals and added one assist in his first AHL game. He added an assist in his second game. In his third game on Monday, he notched two more goals and another assist. That’s the way to go down there and tell the hockey world that this is just a small bump in the road, and yes, every player is stronger for time spent in the minors. You appreciate everything about the NHL. It is the very best league in the world.



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