The Red Deer Rebels aren’t as bad as they looked in weekend losses to the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings and Calgary Hitmen and can become a much more efficient team without making major changes.
So says Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt, who’s been around the Western Hockey League enough to know that now is no time to panic despite a 6-7-0-0 record that includes three consecutive losses.
In order to become a better offensive team, the Rebels have to be more proficient in their own end, a part of their game that was recently exposed in losses to three of the league’s top three teams — the Spokane Chiefs, Edmonton Oil Kings and Calgary Hitmen.
“When you’ve got teams like Edmonton, Calgary and Spokane hovering around you have to make sure you play a very efficient game behind your own blueline,” Truitt said Tuesday. “We’ve done a lot of video work and talked about a lot of things here the last few days. We’ve talked about cleaning up our own end and giving ourselves an opportunity that when we have full control of the puck to make clean breakouts rather than allowing teams to have second opportunities.
“If you do that you cut down shots on goal too.”
Monday’s video session was coupled with an on-ice practicum and the same schedule was planned for Tuesday.
“We had a good practice yesterday working on some things and backing it up with video, and today we’re going to do the same thing,” said Truitt. “We’re going to take another step forward. We’ve talked with the group about getting better every day and it doesn’t have to be a major leap. We just have to clean up some little things along the way that we think is going to build momentum and allow us to play a little more of the offensive game we want to play.”
Following last weekend’s one-sided setbacks to Edmonton and Calgary, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter talked about the need for more veteran leadership. That message is still on the board.
“The push has to be there from the older guys, there’s no doubt,” said Truitt. “When you have a group with some younger guys, they have to know the right way to do things and it’s up to the older guys to show the way.
“It’s not a short-term thing, it’s a long-term thing, it has to happen every day. That’s just the accountability of being an older guy in this league.”
Truitt is convinced that the Rebels’ fortunes can be reversed in short order if the players buy into the coaching staff’s plan of attack.
“The things we’re talking about are correctable,” he said. “Sometimes you get a step out of your comfort zone in order to get better and that’s what we’re expecting our guys to do. Young, old, in between . . . it doesn’t matter, we have to make sure that everyone is accountable for what they do, and video doesn’t lie.
“You’ve got to be able to make those subtle changes to your game. They are not major changes, just little changes that we have to do in order to be sharp and quick and aggressive, rather than being passive.”
l Defencemen Kolton Dixon and Haydn Fleury may both be available for duty Friday when the Rebels host the Saskatoon Blades. Dixon suffered a concussion in an Oct.. 8 meeting with the Everett Silvertips and Fleury went down with a leg injury in the second period of last Friday’s meeting with Edmonton.
“He’ been cleared for full practice so he’ll be on the ice today and again tomorrow and hopefully we’ll get him back in Friday if he’s feeling OK,” Truitt said of Dixon. “He’s been progressing pretty well and now he has the green light.”
As for Fleury . . .
“He’s day to day,” said Truitt. “With those types of injuries you just want to make sure that nothing gets re-aggravated. We want to be patient with him. If he doesn’t play the next game I think he’ll be ready to go next Wednesday (against visiting Kootenay).”
l The Kootenay Ice and Kamloops Blazers completed a major trade Tuesday, with the Ice getting forward Tim Bozon and defenceman Landon Cross, both 19, from the Blazers in exchange for 17-year-old forward Collin Shirley and 18-year-old defenceman Matt Thomas, a third-round pick in the 2014 WHL bantam draft and first- and fifth-round selections in the 2015 WHL draft.
Bozon, a third-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2012 NHL entry draft, is the biggest name in the deal.