CALDER CUP PLAYOFF BLOG: Saying goodbye one meeting at a time Photo: Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves
19 May 2014

CALDER CUP PLAYOFF BLOG: Saying goodbye one meeting at a time

As far as Chicago Wolves fans are concerned, the season ended Friday night in Toronto. Tired, sweaty, bearded players bucked up after the dispiriting Game 4 loss, skated through the postgame handshake line and headed to the locker room in Ricoh Coliseum to shed their Wolves jerseys for the final time as a unit.

But the 2013-14 Wolves brotherhood didn’t dissolve officially until Monday, when the players who made the trip to Toronto reported to the practice facility in Hoffman Estates for exit meetings and to clean out their locker space.

Each player filtered through a series of visits with their bosses. A trip into the coaches office for a discussion with John Anderson, Dave Allison and Scott Allen. A visit in the weight room next door with strength and conditioning coach Evan Levy. A sitdown upstairs with general manager Wendell Young. Those who are part of the St. Louis organization also met with Blues director of player development Tim Taylor.

“For the coaches, we talk about hockey stuff,” said Anderson, who hasn’t had time to shave the Fu Manchu he grew during the month-long playoff run. “Things we liked. Things that happened through the year. And then things to improve on, in our humble opinion, for them to get better as players. But we start off each meeting by asking them how they think their year went. Because sometimes you don’t always know what’s in their head. You might think you do, but you want to know what they’re thinking. Some of the answers can help you as a coach too. As much as you think you’re doing the right things as a coach, you always make mistakes. I made a couple mistakes this year in assessing some players and where they should be.”

Most players looked markedly different than Friday night in Toronto. They shaved their playoff beards and/or cut their hair. Most wore T-shirts and shorts. As they mingled between meetings, they sat in the locker room downstairs or the conference room upstairs and talked about whatever came to mind. The good times they had. The good times to come.

A few players are sticking around Chicago this summer and hoping to catch a ball game or two as part of their decompression plan. Others are heading home as early as Tuesday. Defenseman Brent Regner embarks on his 30-hour drive to Alberta. Forward Sebastian Wannstrom flies home to Sweden.

Five players shift into wedding-planning mode as they prepare for their summer ceremonies. At least two players and their wives can’t wait to welcome children into the world. Others will enjoy the single life.

How many of the 2013-14 Wolves will return to be a part of the next brotherhood? That remains to be seen. At least a few players will be in the NHL. Forward Michael Davies, after spending the last four years with the Wolves, said he’s heading to Germany to play. Some free agents will resign with the Wolves. Others will find new places to play, whether in the American Hockey League or elsewhere.

It’s a wistful time, shoveling a year’s worth of gear into a duffel bag, firing up the pickup truck and exchanging handshakes and goodbyes. But it’s an optimistic time as well. The 2014 Calder Cup is out of reach, but the hunt for the 2015 Calder Cup starts soon. Anderson, Young, and senior advisor Gene Ubriaco will take a moment to relax and then dive into preparations for next season. Actually, it’s more fair to say the preparations already have begun.

“There’s only one team that’s happy of the 30,” Anderson said. “You just want to know, ‘What do we have to do to get to be that one team?’ I have an idea of what we need to fix, but are there going to be players available to fill those voids? It’s a bit of a blank canvas right now.”