From his time as a Detroit Red Wings farmhand to his current status as a Red Wings farmhands mentor, Mike Knuble has seen both sides of minor league life. He definitely prefers the current method by which Detroit is developing its future.
Knuble, who is from Grand Rapids, played in the Red Wings system when the club’s farm club in the AHL, the Adirondack Red Wings, was located in Glen Falls, New York. He then felt hundreds of kilometers from the NHL, both literally and figuratively.
— Caps Clips (@CapsClips) June 20, 2020
“I know when I was in the Adirondacks way back when Detroit had 62 wins (in 1995-96),” Knuble recalled. “Nobody was going anywhere. We were (a) separate (club farm) with Tampa. Tampa was awful. They had guys going up and down left and right.
“The guys from Detroit in the Adirondacks were rotting there. It was frustrating.
“I take this story out from time to time. You don’t want to bore the guys with stories from the glory days, but there are fun times when you can remember things. We’ve all been there.”
Knuble thinks being closer to Detroit matters
Detroit being only a few hours by freeway from Grand Rapids, the players of the Griffins have the impression of being close to the NHL, literally and figuratively. This reality can help overcome the challenges that come with life in the minor leagues.
Seeing players like Chase Pearson and Turner Elson get a chance in Detroit last season is a reward for the work the Griffins coaching staff does every day.
Mike Knuble clings to the net and wins it in 2OT against the Capitals in the 2008 playoffs pic.twitter.com/vHdWn3spfS
— Coots (@YaBoyCoots) May 10, 2022
“We’d love to send them off and never see them again,” Knuble said. “Guys come and go, guys wonder why they never get called. You try to make them aware of points and things.
“That’s how you’re going to get there. The sooner you can adapt to this in the American League and display these traits, then you have a better chance of making it.
Minor League Life A Rollercoaster of Emotions
Playing in the minor leagues is literally a bad experience for some players. Others feel like they’re getting the shroom treatment – stuck in the dark, getting shit thrown at them every day.
Keeping players focused on the task at hand can be the toughest job of an AHL coach who deals with players at all levels of professional hockey experience.
“There’s a bit of a career hierarchy,” Knuble acknowledges. “There are guys who are at a turning point in their careers, that’s for sure. They have decisions to make about which direction they want to go. Do they want to keep trying in the American League? Do they want to go to Europe?
“There are guys going up, there are guys going down. There are guys somewhere stuck in the middle, coming to terms with who they are going to be.
“It’s interesting in that regard. You get all kinds of people at different levels.
Knuble tries to be both a motivator and a sounding board for players who ride this emotional roller coaster. The fact that he’s been on the same journey gives him credibility when sharing advice with these Red Wings prospects.
“I think you can relate because you’ve been in those positions before, you’ve fought the fight, as far as getting into a formation, staying in a formation,” Knuble said. “Certainly not all players are you. Everyone, they have different ways of doing things.
“Certainly having experience helps.”
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