Up until this point, general manager Chad Lang's only view of his new team has been from a distance.
Now it's time to get up close and personal.
The Regina Pats' first official gathering of the 2010-11 WHL season takes place tonight, when players and staff convene at the Brandt Centre for training-camp registration. It'll also mark the team's first official introduction to the new boss, who was hired in the off-season after former GM Brent Parker stepped down to become the club's president.
Lang contacted his players individually over the summer, but you can only learn so much on the phone. Now that they're all in town, he can begin the process of getting to know everyone -- and vice-versa -- on a more intimate basis.
"There's a lot of factors going into this camp," offered Lang, whose team is slated to hold its first workout on Saturday morning at the Co-operators Centre. "It's going to be a lot of observation in a number of different areas. I have a perception of these players from the outside, but that's what's exciting about this is getting to meet them. I really look forward to evaluating them on the ice and seeing how they've prepared in the off-season to put themselves in a position to have a chance to make this hockey club. (It's important to see) how they interact not only with their peers but with myself and the coaching staff."
Lang has spent the entire summer immersing himself in the organization and trying to get a handle on the talent at his disposal. He inherits a team that underachieved in each of the past two seasons, missing the playoffs both years.
Despite that fact, Lang has resisted the temptation to make immediate changes, electing instead to sit back and take stock of the group. For the players, it buys them some time to show their wares and reaffirm any pre-existing chemistry while Lang works towards finding the pulse of the club.
"It's a fresh start for them, it's a fresh start for me and it's a fresh start for our organization," said Lang, who met a number of the team's prospects during a spring camp that took place right after he was hired.
"(The returning players) all know there's a new face, that being myself. They have to raise the bar in order to impress me for them to have a spot on this hockey club. There's no guarantees. I just think it wouldn't be fair to the organization or the people who have put in the effort to get these players here if I just come in and blanket sweep it. I need to give them an opportunity -- and give myself an opportunity -- to get to know these individuals not only on the ice but also what type of individuals they are off the ice. Being able to spend that little bit of one-on-one time is going to be very beneficial before I make any drastic moves."
Lang has taken a wait-and-see approach to the entire organization, limiting most of his changes so far to minor tweaks. The biggest move to date has been creating a new position for a travelling scout, which went to Russ Kutzak. There had also been some preliminary talk of hiring an assistant GM or director of player development -- with alumnus Jamie Heward expressing strong interest -- but creating another management position no longer appears to be an immediate priority. Lang is still exploring the option of adding a video coach to the staff, but that's not set in stone either.
"My philosophy -- and I preach this from Day 1 -- is I want to give everybody an opportunity to at least show me what they can offer," he added. "Once I have that evaluation process filtered through then I'll make the decisions we need to make, if any, to point us in the right direction."
© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post