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Mooseheads head coach Daigneault assesses himself at 25-game benchmark

Halifax Mooseheads head coach J.J. Daigneault watches his team during a game against the Moncton Wildcats. (TIM KROCHAK/Chronicle Herald)
Halifax Mooseheads head coach J.J. Daigneault watches his team during a game against the Moncton Wildcats. (TIM KROCHAK/Chronicle Herald)
HALIFAX, N.S. —

J.J. Daigneault is now 25 games into his first season as head coach of the Halifax Mooseheads.

The team's record is 11-11-2-1 and the longtime pro player and assistant coach recently stepped back for a moment to give an honest assessment of how he thought he was doing so far.

"We're 25 games into it but after 20 games I had a good meeting with myself," he said. "I told myself 'You have to be more patient.' I think it's something that I was lacking early in the year and in training camp. When I was trying to practise structure, breakouts and D-zone coverage I was very impatient with the lack of execution. These are junior kids. They're 16 to 20 years old and it's completely normal.

"I told myself 'You have to be more patient.' I think it's something that I was lacking early in the year and in training camp."

"I was used to coaching AHL and NHL players where the passes and the execution in practice is usually flawless so I had a tendency to be impatient when the execution wasn't there and also when I had to tell players to be in a certain position over and over again. But that's what junior hockey is. It took me 20 games and I don't know if that's quick or too long but I think I have a more positive approach right now. 

"The players that I have are the players that I'll have throughout the course of the season so those are the kids that myself as well as the coaching staff need to develop. But you take a lot of pleasure in that. You see a kid like Lucas Robinson who was a healthy scratch early in the season and who had no confidence, now he's rushing the puck, he's getting behind their D and he's making plays.

"This is a big positive. Obviously there are others as well but he's one example because early on it wasn't really pretty. He was just trying to fit into the group, get established and he's away from home for the first time. So I had to change my outlook on things and just be more patient and have patience show in by body language as well."

Halifax Mooseheads coach Jean-Jacques Daigneault talks to the officials Oct. 14, 2019, during Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown. - Jason Malloy
Halifax Mooseheads coach Jean-Jacques Daigneault talks to the officials Oct. 14, 2019, during Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown. - Jason Malloy

With a resume that features 15 years as an NHL player and 16 more as an assistant coach at the pro level, including six with the Montreal Canadiens, Daigneault certainly doesn't lack experience in the sport. But he also acknowledges there was an adjustment to being a head coach for the first time.

Again, Daigneault gave himself a frank evaluation on everything from his line combinations to the leadership vibe he was projecting, poking fun at himself that "My wife was always telling me 'You've got to stop frowning.'"

"It's not easy," he said. "To me, I think it's a process. For the kids here, they're hoping to go to the NHL or they might go to the AHL, the ones that are drafted. So for me it's the same process.

If I want to coach at the AHL level, I have to pay my dues here. I have to run my bench, I have to make some mistakes and I have to do some good stuff.

"You run your bench and make decisions, and you also have a coaching staff and everybody has to be on the same page. They also have to teach and they have their responsibilities. But it's been a lot of fun. I wake up every morning, I get in my car and I really love my job.

"To me that's what's really important, not that I didn't like being an assistant coach last year in San Antonio working for the Blues, but I really enjoy the broader responsibilites that it is to be a head coach. Part of the process is being better every day, being better in every meeting that I have and being a good teacher."

The Mooseheads return to the ice Thursday on the road against the Bathurst Titan.

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