© Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Prince Albert Raiders coach Cory Clouston is working hard with his team on the new systems that he is instituting this season.
With training camp behind them and most of the personnel decisions already made, the Prince Albert Raiders are back in school.
The class is Hockey Systems 101.
Coach Cory Clouston says that now is the time that the team learns the essentials.
“This is the foundation that you’re laying,” he says. “You’re constantly reiterating good habits and you’re constantly running through the repetitions and you’re stressing the little things that you need to have done. “Throughout the season you can have little areas where you struggle at one time. Maybe it’s breaking pucks out or powerplay or penalty kill; there’s always areas where there’s a focus. But you always have to fall back on the foundation.”
The Raiders’ new bench boss faces a twin set of challenges. He has to help older players forget previous systems and to help young players learn a new one.
“They both have challenges,” Clouston says. “I would say that by the time you’re 18, 19 years old, you have an understanding and you can adapt and do different things. Sometimes when you’re young it’s just a bit overwhelming. You haven’t been put in a situation where you have a lot of structure and systems. To me, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other.”
The learning process includes a blend of time on the ice, as well as looking at video and teaching off the ice.
He says that since people have different learning styles, it’s important to teach in different ways. Ultimately, the coaching staff -- which also includes associate coach Dave Manson and assistant coach Tim Leonard -- explain to the players why they need to do things, show them what it looks like on video and physically run through repetitions on the ice.
In their first exhibition game, the veterans were sometimes moving between the old system and the new one.
Clouston wasn’t worried about the early missteps.
“We only had basically two practices and one was at 7:15 in the morning,” he chuckled. “Hopefully something stuck with them that early in the morning. Even just having one game under our belt, you could see a lot more of the things in the second game. To me, the gap between thinking and doing started to lessen. That’s a very good sign. The last two days were good practices and hopefully we see improvements as the week goes on and they carry into the games.”
The coaching staff was an integral part of training camp, Clouston says. He was impressed with the shape most players came in and their level of competitiveness. Now the next challenge is evident; it’s molding the Raiders into the new system.
He says it isn’t a major overhaul but instead a new commitment for his players.
“We’re stressing certain things and we’re making sure that everyone’s doing them, that there’s not a lot of freelancing,” Clouston says. “I want everybody on the same page. We’re really stressing things without the puck to make sure that we’re in the proper position without the puck when we’re supporting each other and we’re paying attention to the detail.”
The Raiders host the Saskatoon Blades on Friday at the Art Hauser Centre for another exhibition game, with their home opener against the Blades on Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.