Kansas City Mavericks coach John-Scott Dickson sat in his office inside Silverstein Eye Centers Arena Tuesday evening and chatted with assistant coach Kyle Hood as his two youngsters, Harlow and Welles, played video games and nibbled on a snack.
It was the perfect time for Dickson to look back on a 34-32-4-2 season that saw his team finish in sixth place and miss the playoffs for the second year in a row.
He had spent the afternoon doing exit interviews and he was pleased with the give and take between him and his players.
“It really went great,” said Dickson, who signed a two-year contract extension before the end of this season. “It was good for the guys and good for me and Hoodie. We’re relatively new to coaching and it was great to get some feedback from the players. We certainly aren’t perfect and the feedback was important.
“Even though we didn’t make the playoffs – and winning a championship is the only goal this team has every season – I felt like we were a better team at the end of the season than we were at any other time of the year. The guys we had at the end really bought into what it takes to be a Maverick, and though it’s far too early to talk about who will be back next season, you can expect the core guys to all be invitations back to play next season.”
While Dickson would never use it as an excuse, his team was ravaged by call ups to the AHL’s Stockton and injuries. Only team captain Tyler Elbrecht played in all 72 games while Hunter Smith (35 games), Justin Breton (37 games), Matt Robertson (41 games) and Troy Donnay (49 games) all missed games due to a variety of injuries.
“Injuries are a part of the game,” Dickson said. “But we did have our share this year, especially some injuries to key players. But that gave other guys the chance to prove what they could do and we have some solid performances from some of the new guys on the team.”
One new guy who enjoyed a solid season was forward Mark Cooper, who led the Mavericks in scoring with a career-best 47 points.
“Coop got it done this year,” Dickson said. “Look at what (Shawn) Pauly did in his second year (41 points). They were two guys who just continued to work hard, play hard and make a big impact. You could say the same thing about Matt Robertson (46) and Jared VanWormer (42). These guys are all heart-and-soul players – players we would like to see return next season.”
He also had to deal with a revolving door at the goaltender position as Tyler Parsons and Mason McDonald spent much of the season at the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Stockton Heat. The Mavericks used a franchise-record six goalies. Joining Parsons and McDonald, two of the top prospects in the Calgary Flames organization, were Chris Nell, property of the New York Rangers; Adam Carlson, Washington Capitals; and former SPHL goalies Kent Patterson and Mavric Parks, who won ECHL Goalie of the Week on Feb. 27.
“That’s life in the ECHL,” Dickson said, “every coach has to deal with call ups. That’s why we’re here – to help young guys climb the ladder and hopefully play in the NHL one day.”