SMALL TALK WITH THE NEW STAFF
By Jason Lockhart
(Yarmouth, Nova Scotia) A respected journeyman as a National Hockey League player, Dan Lacroix returns to the NHL with the Islanders as an assistant to Ted Nolan. It was in Moncton last season that Lacroix and Nolan coached together for the first time.
"It's been great working with Ted," said Lacroix. "It didn't take much time to learn to work with Ted. He was straight-forward in telling me what he wanted from me. And Danny (Flynn) has a great background in coaching. I learned so much from working with these guys. I think we complemented each other well and it was really fun to work with them in Moncton."
After hearing he was named new head coach of the Islanders, Nolan decided to tap into what was a successful combination with Lacroix and Flynn. Their Moncton Wildcats won the Quebec Major Junior League Championship in 2005-06 and reached the finals of the Memorial Cup the same year falling to the Quebec Remparts who they had just defeated in the Quebec Championship game.
Lacroix, Nolan and Flynn were in a special scenario from the start of the season because their Moncton squad was scheduled to host the 2005-06 Memorial Cup, thus earning an automatic bid into the four-team Memorial Cup Tournament, but that gave the coaching staff an even bigger challenge.
"We were in a special situation because we knew we'd be hosting the Memorial Cup last year, so we tried to build a winner knowing that we would be in the four team tournament from the start. A lot of work goes into preparing for a championship team. It doesn't happen over night.
"With Teddy's visibility and Danny's contacts they brought a lot of guys in on tryouts," said Lacroix. "The homework was done over the summer with recruiting, and talking to agents and players. An existing core group with guys like (Islanders Training Camp invitee) Chris Gaudet were there and they complemented each other well. We grew as a team into a family. There were a lot of things done off the ice to bring our team together knowing that we were going to be a Memorial Cup team. We didn't just want to be the host team, we wanted to be there as champions and we did that by winning the Quebec League Championship, but came up short in the Memorial Cup final."
As one of two assistant coaches, Lacroix will be the "eyes" of the coaching staff, scouting opposing teams' line combinations and systems to report back to Nolan.
"I look for the details in the game and communicate that to the players. I look for the little things that win games, and teach that to the players."
Lacroix indicated that he hasn't been to the United States in a number of years, but looks forward to returning to New York after being drafted by the Rangers in the second round of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft.
The combination of Nolan's competitive philosophy, Flynn's knowledge of the game and Lacroix's penchant for detail is the basis for a winning combination on Long Island this year.
"Our job is to bring the team to its potential and approach it the same way as last year," said Lacroix. "The coaching staff is excited to have this opportunity."