Wild.com's Dan Myers is in Traverse City with the Wild prospects and caught up with Minnesota assistant general manager Tom Kurvers, who will also serve as Iowa's GM, to chat about the tournament itself, the rest of his summer and his working relationship with new Wild GM Paul Fenton:
Dan Myers: The Traverse City Prospects Tournament is sort of the unofficial start to the hockey season. What did the rest of your summer look like after you were hired on June 26?
Tom Kurvers: When I joined the club in late June, we were staring at free agency and that really takes all of your energy for a short time there and all your attention. Then you pull back on the throttle a bit for Fourth of July and then we had a development camp, and it was so many new faces. It really was a "get-to-know-you" week, trying to watch the players and understand them a little better.
DM: As the season approaches now, what is your excitement level like? Obviously you had been doing the same thing for Tampa Bay for many years, so how does this new challenge affect your perspective with the dawn of a new season upon us?
TK: I'm excited for the season. Going over to the practice rink the other day, and just getting a look at our players; 20 guys or so of our veteran players, they're getting into the practice facility and getting ready to go for the season. I know those players from watching them [as a scout], but I don't know them [personally]. I'll get to know those guys. They're good players and this is a good team. But that excitement, just from walking into the practice rink and watching them skate and knowing this has been a 100-point team the last couple of years, is real. This team has a big challenge ahead of it, but it's proven that it can win.
DM: You've been living in Minnesota even during your time as a scout with the Lightning, but are you really getting the ticket requests from the neighbors now?
TK: My only ticket situation so far has been that my daughter enjoys the access to concert tickets. She's taken advantage of that, so that's a fringe benefit for her, I haven't seen a concert yet. She's going to see her third show at Xcel Energy Center this week when she goes to Bruno Mars on Tuesday, so my daughter, Madison, has been very happy with my job change. You've gotta keep the children happy, that's goal number one.
DM: You were able to get a solid look at a lot of the guys you'll have down in Iowa this season during development camp in July. What have been your impressions of the group so far in Traverse City?
TK: The right word I think is compete. [In the first game of the tournament] against Detroit, I think they have four first rounders in their lineup. Arguably, they had more talent in their lineup, but our guys worked hard and competed hard and we're going to search for that in any player we sign or invite to a camp. We're seeking that out. So that win was a good start to the kinds of things that are established here that we want to see flourish here. Compete for position, compete for ice time, compete for jobs at every level that we have. These guys have showed that so far.
DM: What has your working relationship been like with Paul Fenton these first few months?
TK: Comfortable. Paul and I have had a comfortable, friendly conversation and banter for, what, 35 years now? 1983, is that number right? He shows up to the office every day happy as can be, excited about whatever lies ahead. And he listens well. If you have an idea, he wants to hear it out. He's delegating work that he used to do, which I think is a challenge for him, and I'm taking on work, some of it I have done in the past, but some I haven't in the past eight years. So we're talking through things and situations that have come up so far, and now once you get playing, those kinds of things come up every day. You're not dealing with as many issues or responses to things [during the summer] like we will starting now.
DM: Is there a new aspect of the job that you have particularly enjoyed in the couple of months you have been doing it?
TK: Coming from the scouting background, a few of the ideas of how we do that work and what the expectations are with our scouts ... having lived in this realm for 20 years, I want them to feel good about their day-to-day life and making time for the things that make their life better, while at the same time, putting in good work for us. I think the pro scouting side of it is really a good life, so if I can implement some things that will make it better for our guys, they'll enjoy the job and they'll feel like they're part of it. Being able to implement those ideas that have sort of bubbled up over the years, I want to make it better for them.
DM: Does your experience as a scout really shine through at event like this, not only watching your team, but watching other teams' prospects as well?
TK: Yeah, I can sink into it rather easily. There's comfort in it and it's what I've spent my time doing. You just kind of go on your instinct when you've done it this long. I don't want to say it's easy and I don't want to say it's second nature, you have to put your scouting hat on, buckle in and do it, but I enjoy it. I know names of a lot of prospects, especially on other teams, but I don't know the players very well, I haven't watched amateur drafts, I haven't worked in that part of it. So I'm seeing guys for the first time, and you see why some guys are selected so high, maybe why some guys slipped, or even why some guys weren't drafted and are here on a tryout. Over time, guys usually tell you all you need to know about them by how they play and their body language.
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