Wolves’ Brandon Pirri praises “detail-oriented” coach Rocky Thompson
Thompson has the Wolves on the upswing after a tough start, and Pirri thinks he eventually will end up in the NHL.
Wolves coach Rocky Thompson has had to do a lot of teaching this season. But that’s OK because forward Brandon Pirri sees that as Thompson’s biggest strength as a coach.
‘‘He’s so detail-oriented,’’ Pirri said. ‘‘He’s really good, and he’s hands-on. You don’t see a head coach staying out after practice much, working on little things with guys. He does that. He’s very good. He’s invested, and it’s really impressive to see how he cares.
‘‘He gives guys the tools to do their best, and he expects a lot out of them. But he invests his time in it, also.’’
That time has paid off for a Wolves team that has recovered from a trying November.
Despite injuries, a fluid roster and inexperience, the Wolves entered the American Hockey League’s holiday break in a playoff spot. Veterans such as Pirri have helped, but the Wolves’ younger players have grown, too.
For Thompson and his staff, that has been gratifying to see.
‘‘It’s about being patient,’’ Thompson said. ‘‘There’s lots of teaching, and our guys are starting to pick it up. It’s encouraging.’’
Thompson’s work this season can’t be hurting his stock at the next level, either.
Last offseason, Thompson was linked to an assistant coaching position under Mike Babcock with the Maple Leafs. A former assistant for the Oilers, Thompson’s name pops up on lists of future NHL head coaches. That’s not surprising, considering his reputation and work with the Wolves.
Pirri, who has spent parts of three seasons playing for Thompson, said he ‘‘absolutely’’ thinks Thompson is a future NHL head coach because of his attention to detail and the way he gets teams to mesh.
‘‘He thinks the game, and he clearly loves it,’’ Pirri said. ‘‘He puts a lot of his time into it, and you can tell. Once he gets an opportunity, he’ll do well.
‘‘At the same time, it’s not up to him, just like it’s not up to us as players to be in the NHL. He’s just got to do his thing down here, and I think he’s done a great job.’’
Another thing that’s not up to Thompson is the roster he’s handed. All three seasons he has been with the Wolves, he has had different challenges and little continuity.
Two seasons ago, the Wolves were a mix of Golden Knights and Blues prospects but still won a division title. Last season, the Wolves were loaded before losing Pirri to the Knights and defenseman Erik Brannstrom to a trade yet managed to win the Western Conference championship.
Pirri, whose season with the Knights had ended, watched some Wolves games during the first two rounds of the playoffs last spring and saw how Thompson got his team to come together and play as a unit.
That, among other things, has impressed Pirri.
‘‘He, a lot of the time, doesn’t have input on who’s on the team or who gets to play,’’ Pirri said. ‘‘He’s got to [play] with the cards he’s dealt, and he does a fantastic job of preparing guys. It just shows.’’