One of the Detroit Red Wings' new assistant coaches found his niche in hockey by chance seven years ago when as a business student at the University of New Brunswick, he made a motivational video to celebrate the school's 2007 CIS University Cup championship.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews talking about overcoming obstacles and getting close to winning the Stanley Cup last season:
"I don't know if at the start of the season, winning the Cup last year, if anyone picked Chicago to win again, especially with the long regular season, the traveling, the Olympic schedule, the amount of guys we had at the Olympics. All those things say we're not supposed to win again, but once we got [to the Stanley Cup Playoffs] that's what we expected of ourselves. We overcame all those things and we were very, very close again. We'd like to think that if we overcame L.A. we might have had the same fate as L.A. did against New York. I think it is reassuring that you can go through all the stuff we had to go through and have that belief in ourselves that we still can win after having won a championship last year. Hopefully we can be much more prepared for the playoffs next year."
Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz talking about how his views on line combinations and defense pairs can quickly change:
"I've been doing this a long time and I always say you're playing fantasy hockey in the summer. Here are your lines in July, and then you look at them [during the season] and say, 'What was I thinking?' On paper it looks like it will work, but then you have to go on the ice. I had some weird combinations in Nashville. A player like Joel Ward, I probably thought he was a third- or fourth-line guy, but he played on my No. 1 line a few years back with Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont. They were a good line, and never in July would I have thought of that."
Andrew Brewer was hired by Mike Babcock in late July. He's 28 years old.
"So, I've kind of given up on guessing what I'm going to be doing in five or 10 years," Brewer said during a recent phone interview.
Brewer never played at a high level. He was, as he said, usually the last guy cut from the team. His father, Perley, was a goalie coach in the American Hockey League, but Brewer said he would have had to become a fighter if he wanted to continue playing beyond the age of 16.
"I had no desire to do that, so I kind of gave it up," Brewer said.
But Brewer, who said he has always admired coaches more than players because of his father, made a video for a school project that has led him down a career path that was once just a pipe dream and into a relationship with Babcock that has to be one of the most unique in the NHL.
Brewer was hired as an assistant coach even though his job responsibilities are more as a video coach/manager of the coaching staff. He calls himself a "coach concierge," and said it's his job to make sure Babcock and fellow assistants Tony Granato, Jim Hiller and goalie coach Jim Bedard have everything they need to be better coaches.
Babcock referred to Brewer as the Red Wings' "director of coaching."
"He ran our Olympic staff," Babcock said. "He's got a real good mind. I think he's going to be excellent for us. He's already been all over me about a few things and that's great. You want people to come in and make you better."
Brewer and Babcock met through Hockey Canada in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Babcock was Canada's head coach, Brewer was Canada's manager and video coach, a position he took in 2011 after three years working as an assistant coach at the University of New Brunswick.
"We pre-scouted every other country. We pre-scouted every lineup. We knew who the fourth line right-winger was for everybody," Brewer said. "While all the coaches were working with their NHL teams on a full-time basis, it was my full-time job to prepare for the Olympics. I had a guy working with me and we worked on preparing as much information as possible so when our coaches arrived in Sochi they would have every piece of information, whatever they needed to do the best job coaching. We may have only used five percent of it, but I didn't want to be in Sochi and have coach ask for some information and not have it. So we went overboard. It's better to have too much and not use it than scramble at the last minute."
As Babcock mentioned, Brewer has already been in his ear about doing more for the Red Wings, including analytics.
Where will Martin Brodeur end up -- A) Devils front office; B) Devils backup; C) Different organization? -- @ConiglioHockey
I'm going with C for now, but eventually A. I'm expecting Brodeur to find an opening at some point during training camp or early in the regular season because of injury.
Who is going to be the Anaheim Ducks No. 1 goalie to start the season, John Gibson or Fredrik Andersen? -- @BrentFoote
It's a hard question to answer because there is no clear front-runner as of right now. I want to say Gibson only because he's been the better prospect, but Andersen played more last season and had excellent numbers (28 games, 20 wins, .923 save percentage, 2.29 goals-against average).
Is Tyler Bozak a real No. 1 center for the Toronto Maple Leafs? If not, could the Leafs trade for one? -- @SweepingTornado
I think Bozak is a solid player, but I don't think he's best-used as a No. 1 center on a team that wants to be a contender. I also don't think the so-called chemistry he has with Phil Kessel has as much to do with Kessel's outstanding numbers in the past three seasons (94 goals, 214 points in 212 games) as Kessel's talent. Bozak is a good center for Kessel, but if the Maple Leafs had any other No. 1 center on any other team I would say Kessel puts up similar, if not better numbers. Kessel is that good and players like him can adapt and play with almost anybody, particularly good centermen.
Do you think Mike Babcock signs an extension with the Red Wings now that Ken Holland signed a new deal? -- @3rdShiftHockey
I do think Babcock will ultimately sign an extension because he's happy in Detroit, has a strong working relationship with Holland, sees a bright future with some of the team's younger players (Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, etc.), and is excited about the new arena district in downtown that could be ready by 2017. He deserves to be either the highest-paid coach in the League or at least on par with the highest-paid coaches. The Red Wings can provide that type of contract for him.
Will the Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen be better or worse than last year? -- @jacko1616
Pittsburgh was 10th in goals-against (2.49) and in shots-against (28.8) last season, but I think the defense can be better even without Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen.
Which first year head coach as the toughest road ahead? Which, if any, wins the Stanley Cup first? -- @abrown047
Six teams have new coaches, but three are first-year NHL coaches: Willie Desjardins (Vancouver Canucks), Bill Peters (Carolina Hurricanes) and Mike Johnston (Pittsburgh Penguins). Of those first-year coaches, Peters will have the toughest road and Johnston has the best chance of winning the Stanley Cup first.
If you have a question you want answered in Over the Boards, send it in a tweet to @drosennhl. The Mailbag will be a weekly feature here.
Babcock said earlier this summer the Red Wings would eventually have to hire someone to be responsible for analytics. Though Brewer isn't an analytics guru, per se, he said he does dabble in the modern statistics and will be able to provide the coaching staff with that type of information.
"At the end of the day video is the same as analytics, it's information you provide to coaches to help them make better decisions with players to help the players improve," Brewer said. "I think that's part of my job. My job isn't just strictly doing video, it's bringing any information I can to make the coaching staff better, which in turn makes the team better. Whether that's information to our players, analytical evaluation of our team, or if it's evaluation of other teams, shootouts, things like that. It's whatever I need to do to help improve our coaching staff."
Brewer first started improving the staff at UNB in 2009. By sheer chance Brewer's now wife, Patricia, was a student working in gameday operations at the school in 2007 and was able to show her boss the video Brewer made to celebrate UNB's University Cup championship.
Patricia's boss liked Brewer's creation so much he decided to play it at the team's ring ceremony, where UNB coach Gardiner MacDougall saw it and first gained an appreciation for Brewer's talent.
"After that he gave me a call and asked if I would do a video for him," Brewer said. "So I did that video. Then he wanted to get into video analysis and asked if I would do that. So I became a video coach. Halfway through the season it became more and I started going on the ice for practice and started doing more, so I became an assistant coach. I just kept on saying yes to whatever he asked me to do."
Brewer worked under MacDougall for three seasons, helping UNB win two more national championships (2009 and 2011). He saw a job opening to be a video coach for Hockey Canada in 2011, applied and was selected for the job out of approximately 250 applicants.
Brewer contributed to the coaching staffs at three IIHF World Junior Championship tournaments, three World Championship tournaments and other international events, but his main priority was helping Babcock and Co. bring home another Olympic gold medal.
Now he gets to ply his trade in the NHL, seven years after making the video that changed his life.
"At the Olympics I was the sixth guy on the coaching staff, but I was still part of the coaching staff," Brewer said. "Mike, especially, treated me as part of it. He wanted it to be recognition that it's not just doing the video side of it. I think that's kind of the idea on my title with Detroit, but I understand my place. I'm the low man on the totem pole and more than happy. If it means getting the laundry every day, I'll do whatever I can to stay in the League."
Carolina eyeing Murphy, Lindholm for first PP unit
Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters is hoping the continued development of center Elias Lindholm and defenseman Ryan Murphy will help the team improve what was a woeful power play last season. The Hurricanes were 28th on the man advantage at 14.6 percent.
"That's an issue," Peters said. "We've gotta get it going better."
Lindholm and Murphy played regularly on the power play last season, but both were rookies and didn't play a full season. Lindholm played 58 games and Murphy in 48. They combined for 10 points on the power play, with Lindholm contributing four goals and three assists.
Peters said the Hurricanes didn't make any major acquisitions this summer with the idea that Lindholm and Murphy would be able to take a step forward in their careers.
"As I was preparing for my interviews with Carolina, everyone throughout hockey spoke very highly of Elias Lindholm," Peters said. "I don't know him as well as others do, but his comparables were very good. I've seen Ryan Murphy play for three years going back to when he was in Kitchener as a junior. I know what he's capable of. I know he's a puck mover. I know he's got very good vision on the power play. He's a guy I think is going to be able to help our power play, if it's not the first unit it will be the second unit."
Peters said the first unit could consist of Lindholm, Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Alexander Semin and either Murphy or Justin Faulk. Jordan Staal, Jiri Tlusty, Nathan Gerbe, Chris Terry and either Murphy or Faulk should make up the second unit.
Trotz talks 'D' pairs, Orlov no lock, forget the Pittsburgh combination
In discussing his possible defense pairs, Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz stated the obvious in saying Brooks Orpik, Karl Alzner, John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Mike Green are the locks to be in the top-six. Trotz curiously did not include Dmitry Orlov, who paired with Green last season to form what was arguably the Capitals' most consistent defense pair, at least based on possession metrics such as Corsi and Fenwick.
Orlov, who starts a two-year, $4 million contract this season, had 11 points in 54 games in 2013-14. He and Green had a 56-percent Corsi-for rating when they were on the ice together in 5-on-5 situations, according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com.
"I'm probably thinking of a Niskanen-Alzner pair and either Carlson or Green with Orpik, or a combination of those five rotating a bit," Trotz said. "In the six-seven hole, we've got Erskine and Hillen, who are more veteran, and some young guys coming up like Orlov and Olesky, Schilling and Schmidt. They all will vie for it. I really think there is going to be a lot of competition for the six through eight spots."
Even though Niskanen and Orpik were teammates with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the past three-plus seasons, they rarely were paired together. Todd Reirden, who ran the Penguins' blue line under former coach Dan Bylsma, is now an assistant coach under Trotz in Washington.
"I've got a lot of respect for Todd, and they never played them together so obviously they either had and didn't like it, or that it just wasn't the right mix," Trotz said.