Q&A with South Carolina Stingrays hockey coach Spencer Carbery
The South Carolina Stingrays finished sixth in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference with a 38-26-8 mark. The Stingrays made the Kelly Cup playoffs for an ECHL-record 19th time during the 2012-13 season, but were swept in the first round by Gwinnett in four games.
Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery talks about the Stingrays’ season that was with The Post and Courier’s Andrew Miller:
Q: It’s been two weeks since the season ended. You’ve had time to digest what happened. What are your overall thoughts on the year?
A: “I was very disappointed in the way the season ended against Gwinnett. But I don’t want it to be negative because I’m proud of the way the guys battled all season. I feel like we got the maximum out of the guys we had in our locker room. These guys put so much effort, energy, will and determination into the season. It’s not the way we wanted the season to end, but we got every ounce of ability out of them. It just didn’t end well.”
Q: The retirement of Matt Scherer, Pierre-Luc O’Brien and Johann Kroll didn’t help with the transition for such a young team.
A: No, it didn’t. You look around the league and you see teams that get off to a good start, and a lot of times it’s because they’ve got veteran guys that have played together before. Greenville is a classic example of that. It’s not true that we didn’t offer those guys contracts. They were all offered contracts.”
Q: Why do you think that things didn’t work out here for guys like Shawn Weller, Dylan Clarke, Matt Pistilli and Mike Ullrich?
A: “I have a system when I recruit. I call a certain amount of coaches, a certain amount of players that have played with them and scouts. The more research you do, the more accurate you feel about the player.
With that being said, I haven’t seen Shawn Weller play. I haven’t Dylan Clarke or Matt Pistilli play. For whatever reason, Matt Pistilli and Dylan Clarke didn’t fit into our locker room. They are not bad guys, they just didn’t fit with the guys we had in our locker room. It happens.”
Q: What happened with Weller? He was your captain and you ended up trading him?
A: “We have zero tolerance for off-the-ice incidents. You don’t get second chances for stuff like that. There was an off-ice incident and we have a zero-tolerance policy, so we had to make the trade. We get Cam Brodie and we’ve got great futures from Stockton.”
Q: Do you think your style of play is too defensive?
A: “No. Everyone wants to score goals. With the players we had, we thought we could score goals at a high level. Do we ask that players be responsible in our defensive zone? Absolutely. But the makeup of our team changed midway through the season with callups and injuries. When that happened, I had to figure out a system that would let us win games. Not how are we going to score six goals a game, but how are we going to win? That’s my job. We had to change some of our systems to fit the talent we had. Since the 2007-08 season, we’ve been in the top five in the league in goals against. This year we were first. We were 17th and 18th the last two years in goals scored. Look at the NHL — the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup and were second in the league in goals against and 28th in goals scored. Pittsburgh and Boston were first and second in the NHL in goals scored but didn’t get past the first round of the playoffs. I would love to have a team score five goals a game. We didn’t have that kind of makeup this season and, ultimately, defense wins championships.”
Q: What happened in the playoffs against Gwinnett?
A: “For the last two or three months of the season, we were in do-or-die games every night. It was like being in the playoffs for three straight months. We pushed this team as hard as we could push them, and I’d be lying if that didn’t take a toll on the team. We were the best team in the league post-lockout. I think once we made the playoffs, we relaxed. But if we didn’t push the team like we did the final three months, then we don’t make the playoffs.”
Q: So you guys were tired?
A: “That was certainly part of it. But there were other issues. We didn’t have a playoff-tested team. We basically had two guys that had played in the ECHL playoffs — Chris Langkow and Kevin Quick. Then four defensemen basically don’t play in the series against Gwinnett — Cam Brodie, Luka Vidmar, Ryan Grimshaw and Ryan McGinnis. Then we don’t get Tyler McNeely, Hunter Bishop or Matt Beca back from the American League. That’s a lot of talent sitting up in the stands or playing in the AHL. That’s not an excuse. I’ll never make excuses, but that’s what happened.”
Q: Do you recruit differently going into the next year?
A: “Yes. We need more skill up front. There’s no doubt about that. We’ll address that next season, no question about it. I think the nucleus of players we’ve got coming back for next season — Bishop, Quick, McNeely, Langkow — is exactly the kind of people and players we want. I’m excited about it.”
Q: Were you guys tough enough?
A: “There are two kinds of toughness, in my opinion. You can drop the gloves, and that’s one kind of toughness. Our guys asked Gwinnett to fight a dozen times during the series and it never happened. If they’re not going to answer the bell, then we’ve got the make life for their skill guys miserable, and we didn’t do that. That’s the other kind of toughness. That’s physical play, and we didn’t do that enough. We should have been the more physical team during the series, and we were not.”
Q: You had only two contract players from Providence here during the playoffs. Are you thinking about getting another affiliation?
A: “I expected to have more help from our affiliation. It’s something that we’ll talk about this summer. To be successful in this league, you need to have a strong affiliation and have multiple players because of the salary cap. We had 127 affiliated games this season. A year ago, we had 386 affiliated games. In 2008-09 when we won the Kelly Cup, we had 364. We’re certainly looking at adding another affiliation or finding another way to add more AHL contracted players.”