ALBANY, NY – Change was in the air this summer. Coming off a 43-win season and a trip to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, the Albany Devils saw seven of their top eight scorers leave the organization. However, the biggest impact may have come with the number of veterans who exited.
Dan Kelly and Mike Sislo were relied on for their leadership qualities during the past five-plus seasons. Additionally, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Jim O’Brien and Brian O’Neill relayed their own experience to a team including eight rookies on its Opening Night roster.
“We had a lot of quality guys that we brought in last year with O’Brien, Gragnani and O’Neill,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “We lost some guys that were not only good on the ice, but were glue-guys in the room. As a coach you are concerned are these guys going to come in and do the same thing on the ice? Possibly, but you don’t know how your room or team chemistry is going to be.”
Now just days before the start of the 2016-17 season, Kowalsky sees the offseason additions starting to make an impact on and off the ice.
Among the group are Carter Camper (28), Brandon Gormley (24), Andrew MacWilliam (26), Ben Sexton (25) and Karl Stollery (28).
“I think Tom [Fitzgerald] (New Jersey Devils Assistant General Manager/Albany Devils General Manager) has done a good job of finding replacements for some of these guys we lost last year,” Kowalsky said. “Those guys are veterans, but not to the extent that we had last year. We did lose a huge core of our veteran guys and the guys in the five-plus year pro category, but these guys coming in look like they can do the job on the ice and emerge as personalities in the room.”
Xs and Os on the ice is just one part of building a successful team. Attention must also be placed on bringing the team together. Luckily, the Devils have six overnight road trips during the first 33 days of the season. Additionally, the team has a few other team-building activities planned.