A five-month Missouri Mavericks offseason embraced a flurry of changes.
Players. Head coach. League. Style of play.
The revisions started in May, when the only coach the franchise had ever known, Scott Hillman, departed for Indianapolis. They bled over to the roster, which is without seven of last season’s top 10 point leaders. And they continued into October, when only two weeks before the regular season, the Mavericks announced they would be joining the ECHL for the 2014-15 season.
“It’s a transitional period for everything involved with the franchise,” said coach Richard Matvichuk, who was hired in June to replace Hillman. “But the transition so far has been great. It’s kept us busy, of course, but it’s been great.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
The true analysis of the revamped product will play out on the ice. And that begins tonight.
Ironically enough, the Mavericks open with a trip to face the Indy Fuel, an ECHL team Hillman joined in May. The Mavericks will play in Fort Wayne on Saturday.
As for the changes in style of play, Matvichuk said to except the Mavericks to bear a more aggressive look.
Why? He hopes that style will benefit the team come playoff time. The Mavericks finished atop the Central Hockey League regular season standings last year but lost in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s going to be a little different for sure,” said Sebastien Thinel, the team’s point leader last season. “.... (But) we are here for one reason, and it is to win a championship. It might be a different style of play, but we will do whatever it takes to be the top team in this league.”
The Mavericks, though, haven’t had much time to implement the changes into their scheme. Training camp started less than two weeks ago — only two days after the move to the ECHL was made official.
“I think we’re obviously a little bit behind considering the late start, but you walk around the dressing room, and you can feel the excitement among the guys,” Matvichuk said. “They see it as a challenge. They’re ready to get going.”
The Mavericks were one of seven CHL teams announced as new members of the ECHL, which will include 28 teams playing a 72-game schedule. That’s six more games than the Mavericks played last season.
The seven former CHL teams will play in the Central Division in the Western Conference.
The transition to a new league forced the Mavericks to make a couple of roster changes, too. Because the ECHL allows one fewer veteran on the roster than the CHL did, the team released Dave Pszenyczny the day training camp began. Pszenyczny was considered a veteran leader in the locker room. He signed with the Tulsa Oilers, who will be a division foe.
But the Mavericks’ retained their star forward when they resigned Thinel in July. He was a two-time MVP winner in the CHL and led the team with 94 points last season.
The team also welcomes back Andrew Courtney, who scored a team-best 34 goals last season, and veteran John-Scott Dickson.
“We have a special group of guys,” Thinel said. “Even though it’s early and we haven’t played a game yet, we feel like we have everything we need to compete in this league.”
MISSOURI MAVERICKS ROSTER
No.; Player; Pos.
21;Armand de Swardt;F