With the Rockies Christmas break in full swing, and the team not playing again until January, The Echo took some time to sit down with first-year coach and general manager (GM) Marc Ward to ask him about his experiences thus far, and what he envisions for the club moving forward.
“Does that tape recorder have 10 hours of battery?” Ward joked, when asked what he’s learned this season.
The Rockies, despite their poor record, have shown massive signs of improvement lately. A double overtime win against Creston kicked off a stretch of close games that unfortunately didn’t translate into success in the final two games of the season against Fernie.
“I’ve learned a lot this year, both on the GM and the coaching side,” Ward said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. You have to be more strategic with your speeches, and what you teach, and you have to stay even keel—you can’t get too high, or too low because it’s a long season, and there’s a lot of games.”
At this point in what is a decidedly rebuilding year, with 16 games remaining for the Rockies, the playoffs become more and more distant with each loss.
Not too many people probably expected the Rockies to compete this year, but all the same it would be easy to become disheartened by the number of losses.
“My message to the team (over the break) is to rest, and to think about exactly what you want to get out of the last part of the season,” Ward said. “How badly you want to come to the rink, and how badly you want to play, but you also have to look a little to the future as well. The playoff light is slowly dimming, but the guys have to realize that they’re not only playing for this team, but they’re also playing to hopefully get noticed, or move up a level. They all have aspirations of doing that, but you have to work hard where you are, and not look too far ahead—you need to ensure that you are continuing to develop.”
For the remainder of the season player development will continue to be the focus, as it has been for much of the season so far.
Ward still believes that the team can put together some more wins this year, but says what he really wants to see is the team continuing to get better.
“We have 16 games left, and I really just want to see us battle—I know we can put some more wins together if the guys are willing to,” he said.
“I just want to continue to develop these guys… every one of them has developed in some way, and I want to keep working hard and begin planning for the spring.”
The spring is when some major changes may come to the Rockies, as Ward will have had a full season to evaluate his players, and put into place the system and environment he wants to see. Despite the ups and downs of this season, Ward says that he is confident that next season will bring concrete results.
“I see us being very, very good in the future—this first year is all growing pains up and down—and it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but I know we have a great program in place and I know we have good kids,” he said.
“However, there’s definitely going to be a different look next year, we know exactly what we want—certain guys will hopefully come back, other guys won’t, but we’re going to recruit hard, and we’re going to win next year.”