Point By Point Analysis of Michigan State Hockey Coach Tom Anastos & His Thoughts on Spartan Hockey!

Anastos and Spartan Hockey were the focus of the entire June 2012 Spartan Nation Magazine. Anastos and Spartan Hockey were the focus of the entire June 2012 Spartan Nation Magazine.

Tom Anastos is entering his second season as head coach of the Michigan State hockey team. A former Spartan hockey player, MSU assistant coach to Ron Mason, and Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) commissioner, Anastos knows and loves hockey. The coach recently sat down with the media for an hour, discussing recruiting, the program’s move to the Big Ten from the CCHA, and the team itself. His major points are summarized below.

  • Anastos strongly believes that recruiting is critical to a program. He shares the
    sentiment of the football staff that recruiting work is never done. Anastos
    emphasized this point by allowing his assistant coaches to miss games last
    season to recruit future Spartans.
  • Anastos especially wants to gather talent from Michigan and surrounding states. As
    with the Spartan basketball program, most recruiting is done within a five
    hour drive from East Lansing. So Anastos wanted to restore MSU’s local
    recruiting clout right away. “We thought it was important to re-establish
    some presence at a high level in Michigan and in other parts of the
    country.” And although Anastos will draw from other parts of North America
    if the opportunity arises, “Our priorities are here in Michigan and that’s
    where we spent a lot of time. I think we’re having success.” The goal of
    prioritizing Michigan was not only to establish ties, but to spread the
    Spartan brand. “It wasn’t just in making connections, but it was, in a big
    way, becoming as visible as possible.” Now, as Anastos said, “People know
    when Michigan State is out there.”
  • The veteran of the college game expressed why he believes in higher education
    rather than taking the quick pre NHL money in Canada. “I can’t think of
    many reasons why you wouldn’t want to go to college… It’s been proven
    time and time again that you can be an elite player in the NHL by playing
    here [in college],” Anastos said. “At the same time, you get a good education;
    get to mature socially, etc. To me there’s no bad to it.”
  • As in college football and basketball, many have pushed college hockey
    athletes to forgo years of school to go pro. Anastos doesn’t think that
    it’s right to push a player into the pros too early: “People develop at
    different times; there are complex reasons as to when you’re ready to go.
    It’s not as simple as your hockey game.”
  • As Athletic Director Mark Hollis has stated previously, a new ice rink is not
    in the cards. Munn Ice Arena will most likely be renovated instead,
    Anastos said: “I would assume that, barring a major donation any time in
    the immediate [future], that we would be looking at a revamped Munn, which
    again I think, would be like a new arena. I think in either case, we’re
    going to have to do significant fundraising.”
  • The move of the hockey program from the CCHA to the Big Ten is closing in
    fast. The first season in the Big Ten will be 2013-14. Anastos has mixed
    feelings about the move: “There’s a bittersweet feeling about it because
    there’s a lot of history there.” But at the same time Anastos is not
    totally opposed to it: “I embrace the change, and maybe it’s time.” Being
    in the Big Ten will bring more visibility and power to Michigan State
    hockey, as Anastos pointed out. He also noted that the switch is good for
    recruiting. “That will play very prominently in our recruiting. At the
    same time, I would anticipate schools we recruit against will be other Big
    Ten schools.”
  • The self-described “fidgety” coach never stops thinking about hockey. So it
    comes as no surprise that Anastos is now thinking about changes to the
    rule book. Though he doesn’t see a 4-on-4 overtime or a shootout becoming
    a reality soon, Anastos does think that a three-quarter facemask and a
    rule allowing goals when the net is off the mooring could be introduced
    before long.
  • Anastos has also been thinking about the non-conference schedule for 2013-14 and
    beyond. He is trying to create a challenging, but balanced, schedule. “We
    are progressing through that and we’re trying to get a balance of
    nationally prominent programs… and supporting Michigan and maybe some of
    the traditional CCHA rivals.” No teams have committed on paper, but Coach
    Anastos promised that there will be matchups with perennial powerhouses.
    The Spartans will also continue to participate in the Great Lakes
  • The team will sport new uniforms next season. Both the home and away jerseys
    have a new design, though Anastos is not revealing what they will look
    like. He also noted that the squad will be introducing a new third uniform. The jersey, as requested by the fans,
    will have a vintage look to honor the legacy of MSU Hockey. The alternate uniform
    will likely be revealed at the Great Lakes Invitational.
  • Next season’s squad will again be full of fresh faces. The team will feature
    eleven new players, who will replace the nine departing seniors, as well
    as Torey Krug (who left early for the NHL). Anastos has high expectations
    for the eleven new Spartans and the rest of the team. Anastos wants his
    players to be leaders, especially the veterans on the roster. “We’re
    looking for influencers, guys who can positively influence their
    teammates.” He is a bit anxious as to who will step up as team captain,
    though he is in no hurry to name one. Anastos wants to pick the right man
    for the role, not through a player vote, but through careful observation
    and discussion.
  • Anastos took time to talk about a few players whose contributions will be key in
    the upcoming season. He had some interesting insights:
    •       Forward Anthony Hayes: An assistant captain last year for the first time, Hayes
      became an asset to the team. “He’s a blue collar player who needs to play
      hard. He became one of our top penalty killer guys.”
    • F   Kevin Walrod: Anastos didn’t have huge expectations for him last year,
      but Walrod established himself on one of the top lines. Anastos is
      wondering: Will Walrod have a year on par with last year, or will he
      improve even more?
    • F   Lee Reimer: Anastos expects more out of Reimer, an incoming junior. “As
      big of a step that he took last year, we have the expectation for him to
      take another big step this year.”
    • F   Greg Wolf: Anastos was unsure of him before last season, but Wolf proved
      himself. “We played him on a regular shift; we played him on the power
      play. I think that he’s a very capable penalty killer.” Anastos expressed
      that Wolf has to develop better endurance, though the coach loves the
      junior’s hockey skills and IQ.
    • D   Jake Chelios: Much is expected from this incoming senior. Anastos would
      like for Chelios to lead the defensive unit and the team. “We think that
      he has a lot of leadership capability. His teammates are influenced by
      him. We’re kind of anxious to see how he can embrace that kind of role,
      or if he can embrace it.” Anastos thinks that Chelios is a high end
      prospect. “We think that he has NHL written all over him. He has the kind
      of poise and moxie you can’t teach.”
    •      Goalie Will (The Magnificent) Yanakeff:  The junior net
      minder will be expected to be great next year, especially with a young
      defensive corps. “We have very high expectations. We thought that he
      stepped up last year. Physically, he’s a big time player who has big time
      skills. He matured a lot, especially mentally.”
    •       F Tanner Sorenson: The only player to come from a high school team last
      year, Sorenson faced some adversity. But he handled it well, impressing
      Anastos and the rest of the coaching staff. “He’s a very skilled player.
      He’s not very big, I think he’s 5’8 about 165 pounds. He skates real well;
      he’s got a rocket of a shot. He made a big step.”
  • Anastos hopes to see the team continue to develop in the offseason through summer
    workouts and into the fall. The tireless coach is constantly thinking of
    ways to make his team better, so Michigan State fans can rest easy knowing
    that Anastos will get all he can out of his young squad.

About Hondo S. Carpenter Sr.

View all posts by Hondo S. Carpenter Sr.
Hondo S. Carpenter, Sr. is the founder and publisher of SpartanNation.com and all of the family of services. The idea was birthed when overseas he ran into a Spartan not native to the United States who was wearing his Green and White proudly. He is dedicated to bringing you the latest and greatest information about Michigan State and Detroit Sports News every day. He resides in the Mid Michigan area. Follow Hondo on twitter here: @hondocarpenter.

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