For the first time in a long time, Friday was Scott Pellerin’s first day on the job. The Sound Tigers new head coach has over 850 professional games as a player and six years as an assistant coach with the Manchester Monarchs under his belt, but Friday’s practice to open Training Camp marked his first day as an AHL head coach.
“It’s great to finally get on the ice, put on a track suit with the Sound Tigers logo and watch our players skate and do their testing,” Pellerin said, following the Sound Tigers first on-ice workouts at training camp at Iceworks on Long Island. “We’ve got so much support here from the Islanders and it’s great to get started.”
Friday’s practice didn’t involve any intense battles in the corners or whiteboard sessions to implement neutral zone systems, but Pellerin still found importance in today’s on and off-ice testing.
“These guys are competing against the group, and they’re competing against themselves,” Pellerin said. “I’m really looking at how these guys improve. There is a grit factor and compete level involved too, which is something I like to watch. I think we have a very fast and well-conditioned team.”
Last season’s head coach Brent Thompson, now an assistant coach with the Islanders, often mentioned the concepts of accountability and hard work within the team’s system. That formula paid off during the second half of the 2011-12 campaign when the Sound Tigers rattled off a 29-9-0-5 run en route to the Northeast Division title. Pellerin echoes those same sentiments as core values in a successful squad.
“All of these players will be held accountable on the ice,” Pellerin said. “They have to work hard and nothing is given to them. That’s the message I will give to our guys. I’ll be truthful and I’ll be honest. If they work hard within the team structure, they’ll be rewarded and the team will benefit.”
Pellerin will be joined by first year assistant coach Doug Holewa as well as second year assistant coach Eric Boguniecki, and senses strong enthusiasm in his young staff.
“I think we’ve got a great mix of personalities on this staff,” Pellerin said. “I think our youth as a staff brings an eagerness and motivation to the rink every day. You need that and that’s what I demand. To me, Boguniecki has a great relationship with the guys and has a good sense of the group and organization.”
Pellerin knows from personal experience how important it is for a coach to have a relationship with a player on a personal level as well as a professional one.
“For the last six years that was my role in Manchester,” Pellerin said. “You get to know these players as people, and that allows you to communicate and teach in an effective way. I want to get to know them so I can figure out the best way to teach them and help them reach their goals. But as a head coach now, I also need to take that step back and be more demanding as well.”
Following his time in Manchester, which included an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2006-07 season, Pellerin has grasped the various ingredients that make up a successful hockey team. A team can have all of the skill in the world, but the proper leadership is needed to cultivate that skill.
“That leadership dynamic is so important,” Pellerin said. “It’s crucial to identify the right guys to be your leaders. They have a huge responsibility. They are relied upon in crucial situations, and not only on the ice. They’re the guys that help players who are living on their own for the first time to become true professionals. We certainly have that dynamic here.”
While Pellerin hasn’t given much specific thought on who will wear the “C” for the Sound Tigers this season, he’s confident the Sound Tigers will have a solid leadership group going forward.
“I think we’ve got some unbelievable candidates (for captain),” Pellerin said. “You’ve got leaders on the ice and leaders off the ice. Sometimes those two are different, and that’s OK. You need that as a group. You don’t have to have a letter on your jersey to be a leader.”