Doug Christiansen - Offseason Q&AJul 3, 2019
With the 2019-20 ECHL season officially underway and training camp a few months away, Doug Christiansen and the rest of the coaching staff are preparing for training camp with a simple goal, get the Indy Fuel back to the Kelly Cup Playoffs and eventually winning a Kelly Cup. With player signings trickling in, the 2019-20 Indy Fuel roster is beginning to take shape for the upcoming season.
With two signings announced and more on the way throughout the offseason, Christiansen sat down with IndyFuelHockey.com to discuss his first season coaching in the ECHL and what he expects for the upcoming season.
Now that you have had a few months to reflect on last season and digest everything, what are a few things you are taking away from your first season coaching in the ECHL?
DC: From my end, I think that we created a culture that was about advancing players, developing players and we want to maintain that. We also want to make sure that we hit the ground running. We want to make sure that we’ve got the culture in place right away and also make sure that we’re continuously improving every week so that when we make the playoffs, we’re ready to play whoever we play; because it’s a really tough division and hopefully we’re going to make it harder for everybody else in our division.
Speaking of the playoffs, what did you take from that experience that you are bringing to Indy?
DC: I think first and foremost it’s the importance of one goal. It seems crazy how over the course of 72 games, how one goal can be the difference of being in or being out. You get into game 46 and you’re like, “well we lost 2-1.” Well, that goal could be the difference between being in or being out. So having an appreciation for every single goal matters. And every single game matters. Then, in the playoffs, recognizing how hard it is to get there. Then being able to take the lessons that every group has over 72 games, apply them on day one and get into a great start in the playoffs and hopefully, you make a long run. But you’ve got to make sure you’re ready and got to make sure you’re prepared. You have to make sure you’ve improved every week so that when you get to round one, you’re ready to go because our division is full of really good teams and teams are already reloading.
You’ve mentioned that you’d like to be a young team, how do you keep young on that mentality vs guys who are veterans and have been through that grind?
DC: Well, we obviously will have veteran leadership. I don’t think you can go completely young. I think that if you look at the growth curve of a player and their development over the course of a season. Somebody who is 23 is likely going to improve more than a player who is 33. Just because of their ability to grow and to develop into the pro game, the lessons they’re able to learn and apply, allows them to become a better player by the end of the year. So for me, having that is something I look forward to and something that can help us when we get to the later parts of the year and have really improved as a team and be able to get into the playoffs and hopefully win a championship. So for me, we want to be young, we want to be fast, we want to be hungry. But we want to make sure we have some veteran players as well.
How do you deal with losing players to Rockford and guys going up and down to AHL teams?
DC: The ECHL by definition is not a place where you have a consistent roster. You’re going to have multiple teams within a season. You’re going to have a team at the beginning of a season and look around and say, “wow we’re really good, we've got all these players.” Then all of a sudden, whether it’s injuries or call ups, the New Year hits, Christmas hits and it’s like “where is everybody?” You’re consistently teaching and consistently adjusting your roster.
I really equate it to a seafood restaurant on the ocean. You’ve got a great reputation, you have to make sure that you’ve got a great dinner, but you have no idea what’s going to come off the boat. You just have to find a way to have a fantastic dinner ready. Whether you’ve got tuna, salmon or lobster, you don’t know. At 3 o’clock when the boat comes in, you’ve only got a few hours to prepare. No matter what, you’ve got to put together a dinner that everyone’s going to enjoy. It’s not that dissimilar to us. You might find that if you lose your best defenseman on Friday night, you’ve still got to play Saturday and find a way for someone else to step up and get the job done.
How often are you in contact with Rockford and the Chicago Blackhawks?
DC: Over the course of the year it’ll be every day. It’s a daily relationship. Whether it’s a five-minute phone call or a quick text saying “hey this guy’s playing really well,” they want to know how their prospects are growing and developing and what we are doing. Then of course, at the same time, we need to know or be prepared as best we can in case we have somebody come down. I think having a steady, consistent communication really is going to help. In the summer we’re already talking on a regular basis about their needs and our needs and how we can work together to help all levels of the organization.
Will you attend Blackhawks Development Camp on the 15th?
DC: I will
Time for some rapid-fire questions:
Flying or driving?
Steak or chicken?
Steak, no question.
Beer or wine?
Bathing suit or full suit?
East coast or West coast?
Twitter or Instagram?
Favorite NFL team?
There’s only one team, The Green Bay Packers
If you weren’t coaching hockey, what would you be doing?
I’d be an agent or working in the front office of a team