New head coach Chuck Deutsch expects that to change.
“It has been kind of a revolving door for coaches here,” Deutsch said. “I’m the seventh coach in 12 years. That is a lot … They are going to get stability from me. I own my own company and can take off whenever I want to. I’m only 56 and I’m in decent shape for my age, and I want to put 10 years into this. I’m going to be around a while.”
Deutsch has been around hockey for much of his life, playing the sport as a child before serving as a youth coach for the better part of 18 years – coaching his two daughters in the process – and even serving as a referee for a few years.
“As soon as I could walk, I was on skates,” Deutsch said. “I wore girls figure skates that were painted black for my first few years because we were poor … It just gets in your blood and it stays in your blood. I have friends who don’t coach or anything, and we still talk hockey all the time. Once you become a hockey person, you are a hockey person until you die.”
As head coach, Deutsch plans to put a strict focus on the speed and endurance of his team, hoping his team will be able to outskate the opposition in the third period. Saying the team – since he coached some of the girls at the youth level – likes to be pushed hard in practice, he expects conditioning to play a vital role in his team’s performance this winter.
“You can have players that don’t have great physical talents like stickhandling and shooting, but if they can skate around the other team, it won’t take much of a shot to get it past the goalie,” he said. “Just a little deke.”
For the 2019-20 season, the Lightning have a unique mix of old and young skaters, which Deutsch hopes results in his seniors serving as mentors for the younger athletes.
“The dichotomy of this team is really funny,” Deutsch said. “We have a lot of seniors, one junior, two sophomores and a lot of freshmen and eighth-graders. The inexperienced girls will be in a learning process, but they will be learning from eight seniors that have been at this for five years.”
While he plans to focus on his team’s speed, he recognizes that offensive schemes may need to change when the Lightning are facing a faster team.
“As a coach, you have to learn to adapt to the teams you are playing,” Deutsch said. “Our talents are going to range from teams we will struggle with – who have beaten us in the past 7-0 or 8-0 – to teams that we have beaten in the past by that much. I like to go into games with the same mentality, but if I go into a game thinking we are a speed team and we are up against a really good speed team, we may be butting heads a bit. We may need a different offensive structure.”
Deutsch’s youngest daughter Chloe, now two years removed from playing for the Lightning, will serve as an assistant coach.
“She brings enthusiasm, along with a love of the game and a knowledge of the game. She learned from me, and she will continue to learn … She has a positive attitude and she can be my eyes for that whole locker room. I just have to treat her like an assistant and not a kid. That will take some work for me.”
He hopes to have one more assistant coach on the roster before the season begins.
Looking to the upcoming season, his goal for the Lightning is a simple one: Win more games, especially in the postseason.
“We have had 11 seasons, and we have never played in the section finals and we are in the smallest section in the state,” Deutsch said. “That bothers me … We need to get to a section final.
“To me, this looks like a team. A fast team. A smart team. I don’t know why we can’t challenge these teams.”
Ultimately though, he hopes to see his athletes improve off the ice more than on the ice. He is considering having requirements for lettering include community service.
“I want them to leave this game knowing they can handle situations (in life). I want to make them better individuals. If they become better hockey players, great.”