A Chat with Coach Christiansen

The Belfast Giants were the Elite League Champions last season. Head Coach Doug Christiansen was also awarded Coach of the Year honours. So, no need to improve on that success right?! Wrong!

Christiansen has been very busy this summer recruiting and signing top-end players for the Giants, as the club looks to defend their league title. Murph caught up with Christiansen recently to talk about the summer, and all the changes in the EIHL.

Doug Christiansen will be looking for another big year from his team. Photo Courtesy – belfastgiants.com

Murph On Ice – I know you’re busy coach, getting the Giants roster finalized, so thanks for taking the time to talk on the website.

Doug Christiansen – My pleasure Murph, thanks for having me on.

MOI – As all hockey people know – the summer can be too quiet! Not in your case though, you’ve been very busy with recruiting and of course signing imports to help strengthen the Belfast Giants. How’s the summer been from your viewpoint as a coach looking to prepare for the upcoming campaign, and how has the entire Elite League improved with all the signings we’ve seen recently?

DC- The summer has been extremely busy. I have to admit, I am kind of nervous to give Todd (Todd Kelman – Giants GM) my phone bill! I think we set a few records this summer. All joking aside, it has been an extremely competitive summer recruiting. The lack of high priced British players in Coventry and Cardiff has really increased their money available for imports. We have lost players to Cardiff and Coventry for more money than we were able to offer. They will have excellent imports.  Of course, Nottingham and Sheffield have done an excellent job this summer. Sheffield looks very well balanced and has the deepest Brit pack. They could play four lines and six ‘D’. That is great for their long term fortunes. There is no doubt they are built to win this year and will be a serious contender for every trophy. Nottingham is just stacked. They are terrifying. Corey Neilson (Panthers Head Coach) has done an excellent job recruiting. He deserves a lot of credit for the team that he has built. We will see how our roster finishes. Anytime you replace 10 imports, you are going to have some growing pains. It will be fun to coach a whole new group of players and help bring them together for a shared goal.

MOI – There’s been no shortage of top-end talent thus far in your recruiting, guys like Noah Clarke, Will Colbert and Daymen Rycroft are great additions to the Giants. What can fans at the Odyssey expect from the new guys once the puck drops in September?

DC- I think Noah Clarke will be one of the top players in the league. His skill set is outstanding. I am really excited to coach Daymen Rycroft. I have had outstanding conversations with him. He just seems to be a competitor, a leader and impact player. He is so driven. I love that in a player.  Will Colbert and Sam Roberts are two self-motivated leaders who have high expectations of themselves. They have been captains of almost every team they have ever been on. I expect them to bring professionalism and an excellent work ethic to our team. I hope the fans at the Odyssey see the hardest working team in the league. If we can out-work everyone and our will to win is second to none, the wins will take care of themselves. 

MOI – Last season was a very successful one for your club and yourself. What are you expecting from the team in the 2012-2013 season? And as a head coach, how do you keep things fresh for the returning core, and continue to win and set goals while bringing in different players?

Coach Christiansen and Murph chat in Cardiff last season after a Giants victory.

DC- There is not much of a core returning. Only seven players return from last season. The new players will inject the life. The returning players will have to prove themselves all over again.  Internal competition for ice-time will be fierce.  I expect Matt Towe to push Mark Garside, Craig Peacock, Adam Keefe etc. Nothing will be given. It will all be earned. Last season is over.  This is new team with new goals.

MOI – As mentioned before, there has definitely been some big, and interesting signings league-wide here in the UK. Which teams have you been impressed with in regards to off-season additions? And also is there any one signing that you’ve been really impressed with on another club?

DC – I touched on the teams before, but I think everyone has one eye on Braehead. With the new league structure, they could be a real contender.  

MOI – Are you a fan of the new conference system in the Elite League? And how do you see the league changing under the new format?

DC – I like it. It has helped in recruiting for sure. As long as the league winner comes from our division I think it has served its purpose of creating a more balanced league with better rivalries.

MOI – With the Continental Cup also on the radar for the Giants in October, how excited are you to have the opportunity to coach in that tournament and represent the Elite League in Germany and hopefully beyond?

DC – I cannot wait. It has been a goal of mine since I have been in the league. We are going there to win. It is our obligation to the league to put our best foot forward and help raise the profile of the league. Any time you step on the ice, you play to win. We are looking forward to the challenge.

MOI – And finally Doug, with your additional coaching duties with Team GB, how do you prepare for changing the mindset from your club to the National side when you head to Japan in November for the Olympic Qualifying tournament? What are your expectations for Team GB in that event?

DC – Our group in Japan will be tough. Japan caught us before on a day when we played poorly and they played great. They are extremely fast and skilled. I am sure it will be a great test for the team. I am excited to work with Tony Hand (Team GB Head Coach) and help him out in anyway necessary. 

MOI – Thanks again Doug, I’ll see you at the rink soon enough.

DC – No problem Murph, happy to help out.

You can follow Murph on Twitter @MurphOnIce

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