Gutierrez is ready to bounce back

By Jeff Dahlia

While the average 18-year-old
will indicate that they have
it all together, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Moises
Gutierrez will admit he is still searching for
the answer.

Gutierrez came to the WHL in the summer of 2002 with
lofty expectations. He was taken 31st overall in
the Bantam draft by the Kamloops Blazers. Prior to
playing his first season in the
WHL, Gutierrez played his minor hockey in Anchorage,
Alaska, where he was an all-star player all the way
through Bantam AAA.

No problem, right? Not exactly.

As many would have hoped, Gutierrez was going to be a
huge addition to the Blazers and a big-time producer.
However, before his rookie season got started in 2002,
he was struck with the injury bug.
It cost him a chance to miss the start of the season.
It also cost him an opportunity to get a comfortable
start with the league on a steady pace.

Even though he admits now, that he really wasn’t
aware of those “lofty” expectations, he said
he itched to get back on the ice and into the action
back then. Things didn’t go as planned. Playing limited minutes upon his return,
he felt that his game became very disjointed.

“It was tough for me because I got hurt right
away in exhibition,” explained Gutierrez.
“It became tough for me to adapt. I mean in a
year, if
you’re not playing a whole season, playing three
shifts a game is not playing hockey.”

Things only became increasingly frustrating for the
winger at the time.

“I think I really got out of sync with my
game,” he added. “I didn’t play much
and I lost a lot of my confidence.”

Trying to fight his way out of that hole, he put up
lackluster numbers during the 2002-03 season.
Gutierrez continued to struggle and the stretch would
continue into the 2003-04 season.

With a meager 54 points (15 goals, 39 assists) in a
total of 190 games (both regular and postseason) to
date with the Blazers, he’ll also admit that his
stats over the past three seasons won’t make
anyone take notice.

“Everyone can see that I haven’t put up
excellent numbers in the three seasons,” he
explained. “It’s hard because I felt like I
had it all when I was younger. I felt I could
stickhandle through anyone and I honestly felt that I
had great hands.”

However, the very upbeat and enthusiastic Gutierrez
knows this is a challenge. Everything in his life has
been a challenge. He continually tries to reconstruct
a mental image of what it was or what he did to get him
where he is today.

“I know what I have to do and I have the tools,
it is just a matter of putting it all together,”
he explained. “I have to get back to the basics which
got me here in the first place.”

Truer words couldn’t have been spoken. Well into the 2004-05 season with the Kamloops, a
young man who may have appeared to be lost, is now on
the verge of finding himself. He is also ready to tap
that flair that made him such a valuable player in the
past.

While his commitment to developing is unwavering, he
also credits Blazers head coach Mark Ferner for giving
him the extra opportunity on the ice this season, in
an attempt to help his confidence grow.

“This year, ‘Fernzy’ has given me a lot
of opportunity to play and on special teams,” he
expressed with pride.

To his credit, Gutierrez has turned in his highest
point total per season to date. He is starting
to gain back the confidence that helped him succeed
many of nights back in Anchorage.

He also explained that the candle still burns on in
his heart and mind and that, his drive remains
strong.

“I’m going to stick with because I am a real
positive guy,” he said about the turnaround.
“I love this. I’ll play hockey until
I’m 50
years old, if I can. I love the hockey atmosphere here
in Kamloops. I love the city, the people and the fans.

And he thinks about getting drafted by the Penguins this summer. Though he is reluctant to claim his career as complete success thus
far.

“Obviously they drafted me for a reason and I
have to show them I understand that reason,” he
explained. “It is an honor to get drafted and it
is the first step, but the real work starts
now.”

And for his Blazers, all hope is not lost. With two
full months left to play and 21 games left on their
schedule, they’re only
four points away from the last playoff spot in the
B.C. Division. Currently, that spot is held by the
Prince George Cougars, who, the Blazers will go
head-to-head with three more time this year. Two of
the three contests are on the final weekend of regular
season play.

Gutierrez is very optimistic and feels Kamloops has
what it takes to make things tough for the Cougars.
However, he also noted that it is going to take a
couple of things to get there.

“We have to take it one day at a time, one game
at a time and one shift at a time,” he explained.
We have to be a simple hockey team and chip pucks,
jump on
loose pucks and not try to be too fancy all the
time.

“I mean we don’t have a big goal scorer on
the team. Because of that, we need to simplify our
game. When we’re successful, everyone is buying
into the team concept. When we have done that, we have
shown that we can beat the best teams in the
league.“

Take it from someone who knows. He’s been there
and is on his way back. And most of all, he wants the
Blazers to be a part of that success too.

Copyright 2005
Hockey’s Future.  Do not
duplicate without permission of the editorial
staff.