Talk to enough coaches across the sporting landscape and there are two themes that repeat themselves:
Trust and consistency.
For their own peace of mind, coaches need to believe the athletes they have at their disposal can reliably execute what is asked of them. Those that can earn their coaches’ faith. Those that can’t often end up plying their trade in different locales. And those that don’t have a track record with their coach are routinely viewed as a liability.
It is a fact of life in professional sports, but one that Islanders center Michael Dal Colle is looking change.
“In Oshawa, our coach [Bob Jones] demanded we play defense first,” Dal Colle told Metro following a development camp session at Twin Rinks Ice Center at Eisenhower Park. “He [was] hired in Oshawa the first year I was drafted, so that’s all I’ve been used to.
“It was a great system for me and I think it’ll help me getting to the pros, soon.”
Being able to read and react accordingly in the defensive zone should endear Dal Colle to Jack Capuano. So, too, will Dal Colle’s offensive production as he has averaged 1.268 points in 186 Ontario Hockey League regular season games with the Generals.
Even though by nature playoffs will always present a smaller statistical sample size than the regular season, Dal Colle has produced 1.33 points in 42 OHL playoff games. That includes last spring’s run to the Memorial Cup in which he recorded 56 points in 42 games in a tournament that included first overall pick Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters.
“It was unbelievable,” Dal Colle said of Oshawa’s fifth Memorial Cup Championship overall, and the Generals’ first since 1990. “Heading into the OHL season, no one really gave us a chance. [I think] we were [picked to finish] sixth in the Eastern Conference. But [we won] the OHL, so we proved a lot of people wrong [in 2014-15]. We beat some great teams in our league, and heading into the [Memorial] Cup, we played against some great competition and kind of just rolled through. We got some lucky breaks in the tournament, and [in the Memorial Cup] format, [the team that] gets the breaks usually wins.
“It was awesome.”
Add it all together and it becomes clear why Garth Snow used the fifth overall pick in the 2014 Draft on Dal Colle. For a franchise that fervently ascribes to the philosophy of drafting and developing, Dal Colle appears to be another asset that can help on the ice or be packaged in a trade to fill a need.
“With the players we’ve drafted, our scouting staff has done a tremendous job,” Snow said during an impromptu scrum with reporters at the WPIX satellite studio inside Barclays Center prior to the Blue and White Prospects Camp scrimmage. “You can look back to the Nick Leddy deal. If we didn’t draft well, we wouldn’t have that piece to trade for a player like Nick Leddy.
“I’m very proud of our staff. What we’ve done since I’ve been here on the scouting front. The foundation of how all great teams are built [is] through the draft and sprinkle in free agents here and there. The core of your team is usually built through the draft.”
You can follow NHL writer Denis Gorman on Twitter at @DenisGorman