SIMPSON PROVIDES LEADERSHIP
By:_ Damon Markiewicz
When Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Todd Simpson entered training camp, it was clear that he would be considered the elder statesman of the Coyotes blueline._ Now after becoming a dad for the second time, Simpson can truly be considered the “father figure” of the Coyotes defense.
Simpson returned to practice on Thursday, September 18, two days after his new son Parker William was born._ Simpson’s wife, Effrossini, gave birth to their second child on Tuesday, September 16._ A moment in Simpson’s life he will never forget.
“It is one of those special days in a person’s life,” said Simpson._ “This is our second child and my daughter Alexandra now has a baby brother._ These are the types of occasions that don’t happen very often and when they do you want to enjoy them.”
Along with his leading role as the father of two children at home, Simpson will also try and help guide a Coyotes defensive group that is young in age, but as Simpson likes to point out, not short on experience.
“We don’t have a lot of 14 or 15-year veterans on our blueline, but we do have guys that have been around for a few years and have learned on the job,” said Simpson._ “Guys like Ossi Vaananen and Paul Mara are both 23 to 24 years of age, but they both have over 200 games played in the National Hockey League.”
Not only do the Coyotes posses two quality young defensemen in Vaananen and Mara, but they also welcome newcomers David Tanabe and Brad Ference into the mix._ Tanabe just turned 23-years-old this past August, but he too has more than 200 games of NHL experience._ Ference is 24 years of age and enters his fifth NHL season._ Simpson appreciates the experience his teammates have already gained and will continue to try and help them with their progress.
“We are going to need everyone to step up and contribute to this hockey team,” said Simpson._ “I have played with Ossi (Vaananen) and Paul (Mara) the previous two seasons and they have gone through their growing pains._ They will be a big part of our team this season.”
Simpson has never been a player that has shied away from helping his teammates and providing leadership._ In only his second full season in the NHL, Simpson was named team captain of the Calgary Flames during the 1997-98 campaign._ He knows the responsibilities that come along with wearing the “C” and is willing to help newly appointed Coyotes captain Shane Doan with his duties.
“Shane was a great choice for the captaincy of our hockey team,” said Simpson._ “He really deserves the honor. He has paid his dues with the organization and he will do a tremendous job._ Anything I can do to help him with his responsibilities, I will be more than willing to assist.”
Simpson was never drafted and signed with the Flames as a free agent on July 4, 1996. He knew he would be competing against players that were high draft choices and he would have to find a way to impress the coaching staff
._ Simpson added a physical element to the Flames lineup that made it difficult for Calgary management to reassign him to the minors.
Early in Simpson’s pro career, he knew that to be an effective defenseman in the National Hockey League, he would need to play a certain way._ Defensemen that take the body on a regular basis have to make sure they don’t get over anxious and get caught out of position._ Something that Simpson always has in the back of his mind.
“I always look to try and set a physical tone early in a game, but I want to be smart about it and pick my spots,” said Simpson._ “If I can connect with a couple of big hits early, it will hopefully get the opposing team off their game and maybe think twice about keeping their heads down.”
The 9-year NHL veteran demonstrated his strong physical play immediately in the Brick Red and White scrimmage on Sunday, September 14 when he placed a solid body check on rookie Fredrik Sjostrom._ Playing a physical style usually leads to some altercations and requires a player to stand up for himself._ The 6-foot-3, 218-pound rugged blueliner was second on the Coyotes in penalty minutes last year with 135 (PIM) and he has averaged 149 PIM over the past seven seasons.
“There will be occasions when you have to drop the gloves, but I have to make it tough for the opposing team’s forwards to attack our zone,” said Simpson._ “If I am not using my size, I am not helping the team as much as I could be._ I want my teammates to feel comfortable on the ice and realize I will support them on the ice.”_______
Since the North Vancouver, British Columbia native started skating at the age of three, he developed a strong work ethic and has earned his ice time._ Simpson provides the Coyotes with a leader that possesses unlimited desire and dedication to improving his game each year._ He has established himself as one of the NHL’s toughest defensemen the old fashioned way; he has earned it.
The Coyotes currently have_four injured players that are listed as day-to-day:_ Frank Banham (minor concussion), Martin Podlesak (bruised shoulder), Kiel McLeod (enlarged spleen) and Michael Schutte (bruised shoulder)._
TRAINING CAMP NEWS AND NOTES
FIRST PRESEASON GAME
- The Coyotes will play their first preseason game on Saturday when they travel to Los Angeles to play the Kings at 7:30 PM Arizona time._ Phoenix will travel to Anaheim on Sunday for a 5:00 PM local time start against the Mighty Ducks._ Seventeen forwards, 10 defensemen and four goaltenders will travel on the road trip.___
Head coach Bob Francis will use the two games over the weekend to help eval uate the players and eventually trim the roster down in size.
“We will use the games this weekend to provide an opportunity for the younger players to show what they can do,” said Francis._ “By September 26, we want to have our roster reduced to the point where we are practicing with the core of players we will utilize on a regular basis, including a couple of extra players.”
The Coyotes currently have 43 players remaining on their training camp roster._ The 12 players not making the road trip will skate at the ALLTEL Ice Den from 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM on Saturday and 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM on Sunday.