Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former Schoolteacher Spott at Home as Marlies Prepare for Youth Movement

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former Schoolteacher Spott at Home as Marlies Prepare for Youth Movement

Article excerpt

Spott ushers in Marlies youth movement


TORONTO - Two hundred and fifty-four. That's how many steps separate the Toronto Marlies from the big-league Maple Leafs.

Steve Spott knows this, because he counted the paces from his office to Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle's at the teams' practice facility.

That's the kind of attention to detail he brings to his job as the new head coach of the American Hockey League's Marlies from his days as an elementary schoolteacher.

"That must be my teaching background," Spott said. "There'll be no balls dropped here... I pride myself in details. For me, it's knowing just how far away the Leafs are from these players. Those 254 paces are miles because of the fact that, as close as it is, it's still extremely far away and the boys have a lot of work to do before they get there."

The number 254 will be prominently displayed in the Marlies dressing room at Ricoh Coliseum, where Spott will have 20-plus new pupils after taking over for new Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins.

The Marlies are trending younger for 2013-14 after an exodus of veterans in the off-season. Gone are Will Acton (26), Tim Connolly (32), captain Ryan Hamilton (28), Mike Mottau (35), Greg Scott (25) and Mike Zigomanis (32). Moving up the depth chart are Tyler Biggs (20), David Broll (20), Josh Leivo (20), Andrew MacWilliam (23), Stuart Percy (20) and Garret Sparks (20) -- all of whom played less than 10 games with the Marlies last season.

"You're going to see more of a youthful look to our club this year," Spott said. "We're going to have a lot of new faces and probably a lot more prospects for the Leafs as opposed to some of the American League-type veterans that we've had in the past."

Spott fits seamlessly into the Marlies' makeover with his history of developing prospects into pros. He spent the past five seasons as head coach of the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers, where he helped young stars like Jeff Skinner and Gabriel Landeskog jump straight to the NHL from junior as 18-year-olds. Others, like Ryan Murphy and Radek Faksa, have become first-round NHL draft picks or highly touted prospects.

"We as a group thought Steve Spott was one of the top young coaches available," said Dave Poulin, Toronto's vice-president of hockey operations. "Our decision to replace (Eakins) with Steve fits the development piece of it... We had an excellent list of candidates. Steve stood out as someone who understood what we wanted to do. …

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