ROCKFORD, Ill. - In a season of constant transition between player movement, coaching shifts and nagging injuries, Rockford IceHogs Interim Head Coach Derek King kept one goal in mind: development.
The 2018-19 season came to a close for the Rockford IceHogs last Sunday with the postseason push rolling all the way up to the final horn. A roster of 35 players mixed between grizzly vets who battled through the roller coaster of a 76-game campaign and young prospect talent who had just arrived from their college and junior teams stood at center ice to salute the BMO faithful one last time.
“I don’t think a young kid coming into the dressing room this year can say they didn’t get a fair shot of playing in big games or playing at all,” explained King during the team’s exit interview day. “We needed to win games obviously, but I was always rotating guys in and out of the lineup. Reese Johnson, (Brandon) Hagel, (Philipp) Kurashev, they were in our lineup. I could have easily sat them, go workout and watch and learn, but you’re not going to develop players like that. They have to get into the lineup.”
The fine winning/development balance teetered onto King’s plate for the first time in his career early in the season with Head Coach Jeremy Colliton’s promotion to Chicago.
“I think it was successful,” added King. “I tried not to put the winning in front of putting the kids in the lineup. I’ll get better at it and I can always get better at it. If you had an older veteran team, they might be looking at you wondering ‘what are you doing? We are trying to with this thing.’ I think anybody who is in the lineup and a pro hockey player now can do the job.”
With the season in the rear-view mirror, King now hopes his five-plus month experiences land him a permanent role with the organization and remove the “interim” tag.
“We will wait and see. I’m sure after everything is said and done and everything settles, we will talk. Hopefully we will get talking here soon so I’ll have a little guidance of where I’m going and what I need to do. There’s no real set timetable.”