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'New' coach looking to get young Colts back on track

Longtime assistant coach Todd Miller was named interim head coach of the city's OHL team this week following the firing of Warren Rychel

Todd Miller knows it's been a whirlwind couple of weeks for his young Barrie Colts hockey club.

While there was plenty to get to at his first practice as the new Colts interim head coach Tuesday afternoon at Sadlon Arena, Miller was looking to steady the ship and provide his young roster with a calming influence.

The flurry of changes are behind them. A busy OHL trade deadline, where six Barrie veterans were moved and five new faces arrived, is over with.

The change behind the bench, with the dismissal of Warren Rychel and promotion of Miller from assistant to interim bench boss, is also done.

The message from Miller to his team is simple: It's us from here on in. And they need to be in this together.

"We're just a family now," said the 41-year-old, who is in is 10th season with the organization. "There's going to be no more changes, we're going to just pound away here. We know where we're at and what we need to do. It's going to take every single guy here to do that. We're going to be underdogs most night, but that's something they relish.

"To challenge other teams, to let them know that we're not going to quit and we're coming. That's the biggest thing with our guys, that they're pushing the pace and playing a 200-foot game," Miller said. "Something they've got to learn and they've got to buy into is playing hard defensively. The biggest thing is staying out of the penalty box."

It's been a tumultuous season, Miller admits, from the stunning news that good friend and head coach Dale Hawerchuk had to take a leave of absence to battle stomach cancer, to stepping in with Rychel and taking over the team just days before training camp.

From a rash of injuries that decimated the lineup for two months, to a flurry of transitions that have completely changed the roster.

"This year's been kind of a whirlwind with everything that's gone on, but at the same time, everybody is doing their part and we're just excited to take a run at the playoffs here " said Miller, who joined the Colts two years after retiring from professional hockey in 2009. "We're going to take one game at a time and not look further than that."

He's confident he's more than up to the challenge of coaching an OHL club.

"I've been here quite a while now and I feel I'm capable of running this team," said Miller, who was drafted by the New York Islanders in the sixth round (138th overall) of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. "I learned from one of the best in the game with Dale Hawerchuk. It is something I'm very comfortable doing, trying to develop these young guys into good players.

"I find these kids are going to get a lot of ice time and I just got to get them to buy into what we've got to do to make sure we secure ourselves a playoff spot."

One of the first ones to the rink every day, Miller says nothing much will change with his routine. He already puts in the long hours and that will continue.

"Game plans and such I go over with the guys, I was already doing that," he said ahead of Thursday night's home contest against the Oshawa Generals. "It's more the in-game and managing the lines and managing ice time for our guys. It's going to be something now with four lines and it's going to be a little different.

"I just want to make sure they're managed right that way, but everything else, no. Everything stays status quo for me. Going over video with players and systems and even our game plans for games is going to stay the same. I'm just trying to find ways to give these kids as much information as possible."


Gene Pereira

About the Author: Gene Pereira

An award-winning journalist, Gene is former sports editor of the Barrie Examiner and his byline has appeared in several newspapers. He is also the longtime colour analyst of the OHL Barrie Colts on Rogers TV
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