1-On-1 with Jake Wagman

Tucson Roadrunners Director of Hockey Operations, Jake Wagman joined Adrian Denny, Kim Cota-Robles and Arizona Daily Star Sports Editor Brett Fera this week on Roadrunners Happy Hour. Catch Happy Hour every Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Fox Sports 1450 AM and the Roadrunners Happy Hour Podcast on the iHeartRadio app. For the complete episode, and to hear about Jake’s love of CapFriendly.com, download below.

Listen to “Forks Up or Bear Down?” on Spreaker.

Q: Josh Doan has worked so hard this season. It’s great to see him get called up. How excited are you to see him in the NHL?

It’s no secret. He’s been our best player all year. And he’s done everything the right way. He’s taken no shortcuts and he’s marinated in Tucson probably longer than we originally thought. And it was to our benefit. He’s been absolutely delightful to be part of our team and he deserves it. He’s worked hard and he’s got a great attitude. Obviously when, when your dad’s Shane Doan, you know, it might be easy to feel entitled to some things, but he doesn’t show that at all. He just has the best attitude and he’s an honest worker both on and off the ice. So I’m incredibly happy for him.

Q: What part do you have in road logistics? It seems like you were always working while we were on the road this last weekend?

Maybe I make it look harder than it looks, but I think it’s different for every case. We work closely with the Coyotes, and we have really good communication, whether it’s David Ludwig, the Coyotes Assistant GM or General Manager Bill Armstrong and our General Manager John Ferguson. We’re always talking and any time a player is needed or there’s even an inkling that something might happen we know right away and we’re able to make travel plans; transactional things happen. it’s pretty fluid. So, we’ve got it down to a good science now where nothing is too difficult. We know kind of where we’re going, and what we’re doing. Like Cam Crotty, for example, I woke up around 6:15 and I had some idea that something might happen. And then by 7:15 or 7:30, I called him. He was a little bit groggy, but he got his stuff together, got to the rink, got his gear and then headed off back to Phoenix (to make his NHL debut that night). Obviously, Doan had a little bit of time, but, it’s just about communication, just making sure that they know what’s going on in our world at all times and trying to make the process as easy on the player as possible.

Q: I’m sure Doan was offered to go straight from San Jose to Phoenix, right? He’s got plenty of resources in the valley and chose to come back to Tucson with us first from San Jose.

For sure. And, you know, I think that’s one of the greatest things about Doaner, that he just likes to be around. And our group, this is out of my three years, the best I’ve seen. Everybody gets along. There’s always little cliques and pockets. You have guys that are from Canada and the US or Europe and get different language going. But I really feel like everybody has melded well together. Obviously, you can kind of see that in our performance. Doaner is a big piece of that, he just blends into our room so well. I think he just generally likes to be around. So, yeah, I had a feeling he would kind of stick around. But I gave it to him a little bit when I saw him at the airport and said, “Oh, you’re still here.”

Q: Obviously with an away playoff game there’s a lot of logistics and hotel rooms to be booked and stuff. How does that play into how bad you want this team to succeed and have either a home playoff series or a bye round?

I think that obviously it makes my life easier. More than that, any time you get home ice, obviously it’s an advantage. I think that my three years here, I wish we could bring playoff hockey to Tucson I think our building could be so electric and alive and it seems like such an exciting thing for me. I really hope that the people in Tucson get to experience it. It’s such a unique atmosphere. It’s great for the sport, It’s great for the franchise, It’s great for the city. So, obviously, like I said, it makes my life a lot easier when we’re at home, but yeah, I want it for the city, the players, and for myself to be able to experience a home playoff game. I think that that building gets really loud.I think it would be a pretty intimidating place to play, so I like our chances. Obviously, that’s the goal to get home ice. And it bolsters our chances of doing something special and going deep. That’s what I want more than anything right now.

Q: It looks like the guys are having a lot of fun right now while playing. What’s the mindset in the locker room like right now?

Yeah, I mean, not to take anything away from a playoff spot, but I think we have felt, as a group, that we’re good enough to get there for a little while now. Obviously, when you’re going through the rigors and the dog days of the season, you never quite know what you’re going to look like, come March and eventually April, but now we have a pretty good idea of where we’re at, and where we stack up. So, the expectation, I think, is still really high. That builds every time you have a winning streak or put a few good games together against good opponents. There’s nobody that we haven’t beaten, we’ve beaten Coachella. We see that kind of as the benchmark. Obviously, we’re looking at them, and we hope we can kind of track them down a little bit at the end. We have very high expectations for this group. We understand what the makeup is, we probably don’t have as much high skill, high tempo forwards as some of the other teams, but we can definitely work harder than everybody else. I think we’ve seen that time and time again, and we outwork a lot of teams. I haven’t really thought about clinching very much. It’s something that I expect. I’m more concerned about home ice at this point. Obviously, like I said before, losing Doaner is going to hurt, but it’s just another opportunity for somebody to come in and snag that role and contribute in a different way and at a higher level than they had before. Yeah, that’s the story now, it’s home ice, it’s not a playoff spot. Obviously, you know, we want to be in the playoffs but it’s more important to me to get home ice in Tucson. So that’s the goal right now. As far as the group, I’d agree. I think we definitely have fun. We’ve tried a few different things this year. Some team building stuff whether it’s Top Golf, or went to Alcatraz in San Francisco on this last trip. The group just gets long. It’s a credit to management, in the way they draft players and sign players bring them in. We have a lot of high character people. And we try to replicate that on the coaching staff side. We all enjoy each other’s company generally. And I think that it kind of seeps into the team a little bit or at least I hope it does. We laugh a lot, we like to give it to each other. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings. It’s a long season, it’s a grind. So you have to be able to kind of decompress from time to time. And we definitely have no shortage of fun. I’m not worried about that. So it’s nice when you’re able to kind of turn it on and turn it off. That takes a special group of people. And I think we have it.

Q: Josh is our 17th player that has been called up this season. Everyone has a chance to get recalled. How is that process for you and what are you seeing?

That’s an interesting thing. I’m sure the big club probably wouldn’t always have it that way, but as the Roadrunners we’ve kind of rallied around that. Just the amount of opportunity and the possibility for each individual that’s signed to a two-way NHL contract. We’ve had a ton of guys called up, and not always the usual suspects. We had Ryan McGregor at one point go up and I don’t think a lot of people had him on their bingo card at the beginning of the year, and the testament to him. Unfortunately he’s injured right now but it was amazing, like everybody was so happy for him. He had been through some adversity in his playing career, and he came back and earned a call-up, so I think that was a big one for the group. They saw that he could do it and a lot of guys saw that and kind of went up and they said, well, he can do it and we see how hard he works and you know, why can’t it be me? So, it’s been great from that standpoint. I think guys genuinely want each other to do well, but there is healthy competition. So, I feel like that’s been a really healthy process and it’s helped propel us forward and hopefully that’s it.