By Brian Compton
Utah Grizzlies head coach Jason Christie knows a thing or two about winning
As a player, the 37-year-old had 13 points in 17 playoff games – earning co-MVP honors — to help the Peoria Rivermen win the Kelly Cup in 2000. In 1996, he helped the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates reach the Calder Cup Finals. And as a head coach, he guided Peoria to the Northern Conference Finals in 2001 before falling in seven games to the Trenton Titans. It was the first of four consecutive trips to the postseason for Christie’s Rivermen.
But when Peoria announced it would be joining the AHL in 2005, Christie took his 217 career victories and headed west to Utah to become the head coach of the Grizzlies. He guided Utah to the postseason in his first season behind the bench with a 36-30-6 record.
But the Grizzlies were swept by the Alaska Aces – who went on the win the Kelly Cup – in the opening round. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are still in the recovery process. With 20 games to go in the regular season, Utah finds itself at the bottom of the West Division at 19-29-5. The Grizzlies failed to take advantage of a 10-game home stand that concluded Monday, winning just four contests as they currently remain on the outside-looking-in when it comes to the postseason picture.
Christie remains confident however. He is hopeful that Utah’s two-game road trip to Idaho this weekend will help his team come together as a group as it attempts to make a playoff push.
“You tend to get stale when you’re in one place too long,” Christie said. “We’re on the road this weekend, so it’s good to shake it off. We’ve been home for so long that it’s kind of good to get on the road here. Everybody does their own thing.”
If the Grizzlies are going to make the playoffs, it’s a safe bet that forward Ryan Kinasewich (pictured) will play a major role. The 23-year-old from St. Albert, Alberta, has 59 points (29 goals, 30 assists) in 44 games for Utah this season. He believes his team needs to a little bit of soul searching down the stretch.
“We’re really having trouble playing with the lead,” said Kinasewich, who had 85 points in 60 games for the Grizzlies last year. “Everybody’s got to find a way to get that killer instinct. We’ve got to treat every game like it’s a playoff game. We’ve only got about 20 games left, so every game is kind of like do-or-die. We’ve just got to bring that killer instinct every night.”