Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Insider Interview...Kevin Kaminsky

"The Killer" talks about the RiverKings season thus far, recruiting and the Texas Brahmas

The beginning of Kevin Kaminsky’s second full season as head coach of the Mississippi RiverKings started with a 6-3 loss to the Tulsa Oilers, a 5-3 win over the Wichita Thunder and then a 5-2 loss to the Amarillo Gorillas. Follow that up with two consecutive wins against the league champion Texas Brahmas, a 4-3 loss to the Thunder, a 5-4 win over Tulsa and a 2-1 loss to the Mudbugs and you get a picture of the roller coaster ride the season has been thus far. But as the original "Killer", Jerry Lee Lewis sang, "Life has its little ups and downs."

The RiverKings will face the Brahmas once again tonight at the Desoto Civic Center in Southaven, Mississippi. I spoke to "Killer" recently about changes in the league, recruiting, the RiverKings season thus far and the Texas Brahmas. Here is our conversation.

Q: I wanted to talk to you about the change in the make up of the league, specifically the change from divisional play to the two conference system. Do you see any advantage or disadvantage to this?

A: Not really, there’s only so many spots available anyway and I guess this makes it so the top five teams get in (to the post-season). I’m fine with it; I like it either way. It doesn’t matter to me. You’ve got to play your best hockey to get in all year long. You have to have that consistency, that desperation every night.

Q: Probably the biggest change to affect the RiverKings this season is the absence of the Oklahoma City Blazers. Did their decision surprise you?

A: Oh for sure. Oklahoma is a great city to go into first of all and obviously the tradition that they had there with the Blazers, either one of the buildings was awesome, and their fan support was amazing. It hurts our travel as well. That’s like losing a Montreal Canadiens or Boston Bruins or Toronto, you know, the original six. Not seeing Dougie Sauter behind the bench…it feels empty not to be going in there. I know for us, when I was in Youngstown and now in Mississippi , we had a great rivalry with Oklahoma City and they’re definitely going to be missed, for sure.

Q: Some different things happening to start the 2009-10 season…Amarillo, nobody would have expected them to be at the top of the league, Tulsa had a big win to open their season, Allen is indefeated…does any of that surprise you, the way things have started out?

A: You know what, no, I don’t see them being a big surprise. I knew all along this summer while recruiting that whatever’s going on in Europe, they’re not paying the players as much as they used to and guys are staying back here in North America. It’s making hockey a lot more competitive and you have parity in the league now. I guess it’s just like the salary cap in the NHL; every team is good. On any given night, anybody can be anybody and obviously it shows in Amarillo. I think Amarillo’s got some great players. Nimmo, Guenther and that whole cast. Instead of just one line, everyone has depth now. They’ve got two lines that can score and a third line that can chip in as well and grind it out. Everyone is complete, so you’ve got to bring you’re a game every night.

Q: You touched on that parity and two things I’m wondering how it affected you in thwe off-season with recruiting – people not going to Europe and with three teams out of the CHL, was recruiting any easier or was it just as competitive?

A: Recruiting was very competitive. You know like with the East Coast League, they recruit but they have…I think they kind of know they’re going to get their prospects eventually down from the NHL to the American League to the East Coast League because they’re all affiliated, so I think as players in the league get a little bit older, that are nearing their 200 games, they kind of maybe get squeezed out a bit and they start coming over here, because we do have the one extra vet than the three there in the Coast. But yeah, recruiting was very challenging again as it always is, but I think for myself, I mean I stick to my people that I know and try and use the buddy system as much as possible – if the player has a buddy that’s playing in the Coast, or coming back from Europe – you know, you ask them if they have any guys or any buddy’s that are playing? It obviously worked out with Held, Campbell and the Makway situation – they were looking to go overseas but I eventually got Campbell done and Held and Makway soon followed. It was tough but I tried to prioritize and get the guys I wanted. There was a lot of guys out there that I would love to have but I couldn’t have either.

Q: It’s early here in the season and you had a two-game series against the league champion Brahmas and you guys did really well against them. What are feelings on this Brahmas squad, based on what you’ve seen so far?

A: I think they’ve got a very, very good squad. Obviously their goaltending with Jaeger and the Kid Palmer, showed some great promise in the shootout loss, but you know, I think they have great leadership back there with McLeod and Minard and Kinnunen. That Kinnunen kid is one of the top defensemen in the league. He’s a great skater and he moves the puck well. And then they have all the firepower up front; Cameron, Jacobsen, Deitsch and Cruthers, I mean he had, I think, 36 goals in the Coast, so I mean they’re good. I think they’ve got some great speed, they finish their checks, they’re well coached, I think they’re well disciplined plus they know how to win. They won it all last year. I know Dan’s going to get the best of them every night. We’re fortunate to get the four points playing against them this weekend.

Q: With the team that you have in place, do you feel you have a team that’s going to carry you into the playoffs?

A: Well, I would like to think, you know, we’re a little bit banged up right now but I feel with our veterans, Landmesser and Makway back there doing a great job with the power play, defensively, and then you’ve got Dumont and Severson who’ve been around. They’ve won championships; Severson’s played in the NHL and the American League. He knows what it takes. And then you’ve got Held and Campbell, Chaumont, Jarman, you know, we’ve got the firepower there too and obviously it showed tonight with our power play. And then we’ve got the grinders and guys who can be physical and chip in as well with, you know, Smitty, Stoddard, Margeson and then we’ve got a couple of guys out right now – Summers and Lackner back on the point, so I feel we have some great depth as well.

In the first weekend, we were lacking the work ethic, we were losing one-on-one battles and last year, we got voted for the hardest working team in the league and that wasn’t the case over the (opening) weekend. So this week in practice and video, it’s showed. So far this weekend, I think everyone has realized that we’ve got to step it up a bit and man, I’m proud of these guys; proud of how they responded to playing the Brahmas and when they look at it again, those teams, the three teams we played last year, they never made the playoffs. That’s just the depth in the league; you’ve got to come to compete every night, you can’t just play like this against good teams, you’ve got to play like this against teams that never made the playoffs because everyone’s got that depth, everyone has a great line-up this year, so every game counts. You need to scratch and claw for every two points or a point that you can get every night.
Photo Credit: Robert Keith

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