Two Month Update
By Scott Moore
It seems hard to believe that Tom Anastos has been Michigan State's Head Hockey Coach for 2 months now. When Tom was introduced as the new leader of the hockey program back on March 23rd, it took everybody in the hockey world by surprise... including Anastos himself!
Now, two months later, things are moving. Tom has assembled his staff and has been on the recruiting trail. Yesterday the entire staff met with the media to update everyone on what's been happening. The funny thing is that it sounds like it's been an incredibly busy time, during a time when not much can happen!
Right now, there's no ice for the team to practice on, and there are NCAA rules limiting the time the coaches can demand of the student athletes. Even on the day that Anastos announced his staff decisions, the players had to attend voluntarily because they couldn't be told to be there. Still, Anastos has been meeting with the players individually, and has been watching tape put together by Video Coordinator Adam Nightingale so that when he can finally put the skates on and get on the ice, he'll have at least a working knowledge of what kind of team he'll have.
What kind of team will it be? One advantage is that it'll be a veteran group. 10 seniors on the roster means it'll be an older group with some size and strength. It'll also be a hungry group. When Anastos was asked what had surprised him the most as he talked with his players, he admitted that it was the fact that they all mentioned they hadn't won a playoff game in their time at MSU. Not a series, a game! When Anastos played at MSU, the team's CCHA playoff record was 14-2 (and the 2 losses came in two game-total goal series, which they eventually won!) The players are currently working with strength coach Mike Vorkapich and will be well conditioned for that first practice in the fall!
Anastos spoke about recruiting, which is complete for both the incoming class this fall as well as next fall. He said that he will honor the scholarship offers made by the previous coaching staff, because the school lives up to it's word. However, the early departure of Derek Grant opened a roster spot, and the current staff has filled that spot. Due to NCAA rules Anastos couldn't talk about him specifically, but the fact that he was recommended by Mike Donnelly tells me that we could have found our first "diamond in the rough".
Other information from the hour long session with the new coach...
He firmly believes that you build with defense. With two good goalies in Drew Palmisano and Will Yanakeff, and defensemen who are better characterized as defensive rather than offensive, (Torey Krug not withstanding) that will need to be the mark of the 2011-12 hockey team. Solid defense and go on the attack once they gain the puck. I think you'll even see more aggressive penalty kill play.
Anyone who was worried about his recruiting ability, stop worrying. With the neucleuses (or is that nuclei?) of the next two classes in place, the kids he'll be looking at are players he's already familiar with from his days of coaching youth hockey in the Detroit area. Recruiting will be national in nature, but focused within a four hour radius. Like Dantonio, Izzo and Merchant, Anastos wants to win the recruiting war in Michigan.
He believes in building leadership and has some very interesting ideas on how to do that.
Finally, he understands that, while the biggest key to filling Munn Arena on a regular basis is winning, (no Charlie Sheen pun intended) he also understands that there is more that can be done to get people into the building. You will see a new vibe around the hockey program this fall. Success may not come overnight, but like assistant coach Tom Newton told me after the staff was announced, "This is gonna be fun!"
If you'd like to hear Anasots' comments, you can find them here.
Until the next time, Have Fun Everyone!