Q&A with Andrew Archer

By Holly Gunning

Andrew Archer was a seventh round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2001 Entry Draft. The 6’4” 222-pound defenseman played four years of junior hockey with Oshawa and Guelph in the OHL. He turned pro in 2003-04, but got a late start to his season due to injury. In 29 games with Hamilton, he had one assist and 23 PIMs. Reassigned to Columbus of the ECHL on March 27th, in five games with the Cottonmouths, he has one assist and 19 PIMs.

Hockey’s Future spoke to Archer following the Columbus Cottonmouths’ 3-1 loss to the Gwinnett Gladiators on Friday.

HF: How do you feel your season is going so far?
AA: Well, I started off with a hernia, had hernia surgery, and was in Hamilton for the whole year, I’ve only been here for about four days now. It’s been up and down, it was tough to get in the lineup, I played probably every third game, and it’s tough to find a rhythm, battles with my confidence and stuff. It was tough. I came down here and things have been good so far, I think I’ve been playing fairly well, starting to get my confidence back and trying to work on the little things that are going to help me next year in Hamilton and hopefully in the future.

HF: How and when was the hernia discovered?
AA: I think I had it in the summer but I thought it was like a hip flexor injury or an ab injury or something like that. In Montreal’s camp, I battled with it the whole time, it was tough trying to battle with guys in the corners, skating. It was really sore. When I got to Hamilton, I played a period in the first exhibition game and it was just too bad, I couldn’t bear it anymore. So I saw a doctor and there was a hole in my ab.

HF: Do you have any idea when it might have first happened (in the summer)?
AA: I have no clue. Over the summer I’ll just have to take better care of my core I guess, don’t do things to put it at risk.

HF: What kind of minutes were you getting in Hamilton when you did play?
AA: I was playing a regular shift, no special teams or anything. It wasn’t too much. For me to be successful I need to slow the game down in my head. When I start running around, that’s when I get in trouble. I just need to take things for what they’re worth and slow the game down and make sure I’m thinking out there and not running around, just go from there.

HF: You were one of the younger guys, do you think that explains a lot of why it was tough to get into the lineup?
AA: Well, I came back a month and a half in. Everybody had a spot and it was tough for me to break into the lineup when you’re a first place team at the time. It was tough on me, but I’m taking this as a learning experience and it’s going to help me in the long run with my confidence. I know I can be playing there. I’m waiting to take advantage of my opportunity when I get it.

HF: What did you think was the biggest adjustment going from the OHL to pro hockey?
AA: Probably the attention to detail. You could get away with making a couple of mistakes here and there in Guelph where I played junior. In Hamilton and even here, you have to make good passes and play hard in your own end and it’s little things that cost goals so you have to be ready for anything.

HF: What do think you’ve learned this year that’s made you a better player?
AA: I’ve learned a lot. I thought I knew the game pretty well going into the season, but I found out in a hurry that there’s a lot for me to learn. Everybody says it takes defensemen a while to develop, but you don’t really understand that until you’re playing pro hockey. I think keep improving, keep making good passes and playing hard in my own end, and make sure I don’t make too many mistakes.

HF: What do you think that you do the best?
AA: I think my 1-on-1 play is probably the best for me. Obviously I can improve on it, but I think 1-on-1 I’m tough to beat. I try to take my guy hard in the corner and that’s probably my bread and butter. Obviously I need to clean that up and make sure that I eliminate guys maybe quicker off the rush instead of letting them come in the zone. I have to make a conscious effort about what I’m doing out there and make sure I know where I am on the ice. I try to pride myself on good positioning. When I get in trouble on the ice it’s because I’m out of position. So it’s usually not from skill mistakes but positional thing that I did wrong, like tonight on that 3-on-2, I took a guy to the net where I should have stayed up, it’s just little things like that. It’ll come and it’s going to help me at the next level.

HF: One time you went around the wrong side of the net there.
AA: Yeah, I got beat there, I know. Yeah, that’s tough. If I slow things down, I’ll see the puck go by the net and I’ll go to the other side instead of chasing the puck, you know? That’s when you get in trouble.

HF: You mentioned several things you want to improve on, but what’s the biggest thing?
AA: Making good decisions with the puck I think. Clean up my own end a lot better. I don’t want to make any mistakes in my own end. Not just a couple a game, I don’t want to make any. I know they happen and it’s a game of mistakes, but I just don’t want them to be when I’m on the ice.

HF: How did Montreal camp go for you this year, in particular compared to previous years?
AA: My first year I practiced a little bit in main camp. My second year I played in main camp in the scrimmages. That was a lot of fun. I thought I had a fairly good camp. My third year I thought was fairly good. They want me to be more assertive in my own end. That’s something that’s going to come once I know my position better. I can start to think where I can be more aggressive, instead of trying to be aggressive when I’m running around. Learn where I’m supposed to be, and then work on that.

HF: You don’t seem to be a guy who hits a lot, is that something you want to add to your game?
AA: Yeah, obviously I want to be physical, but I don’t want to be running around out of position to make a hit. So when a hit is there, I made them tonight. I want to hit and pin and make sure that they’re out of the play. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge hit, it’s just eliminating guys and making sure they’re not going to score. I’m not a big open ice hitter, I’m not going to go run out for a big hit, but I’m going to stay in my position and make sure nobody beats me 1-on-1.

HF: What did Montreal tell you when you left camp, that they wanted you to work on anything in particular?
AA: They want me to be more assertive like I said. In front of the net, I could be a lot better that way. When the pucks is coming from the point, clear guys out and make sure there’s nobody standing there. I think I’ve been doing better with that, but I make a couple mistakes in Hamilton. Fishing for the puck or something in front of the net and they score. I should have taken the body. You always learn from your mistakes and if it happened once, it won’t happen again. That’s probably the biggest thing, own my own space and make sure no one is in my area. I’ll have more room with the puck that way and I think I have fairly good vision and I can move the puck fairly well so that will give me more space out there.

HF: And what did Hamilton say when they sent you here, did they just want you to get more ice time?
AA: Yeah, well I was left off the playoff roster. I only played 30 games there this year. They put on Komisarek and Dykhuis from Montreal. It wasn’t my opportunity I guess this year to contribute in the stretch run. But I’m going to take it for what it’s worth and not going to get down about it. I know deep down that I’m going to be there so just going to work hard here and try to perfect my game over the summer and get bigger and stronger and just be ready for next year.

HF: But you’ll go back up and be on the practice squad, right?
AA: Yeah, I’ll go back up and be on the reserve. Wednesday I leave.

HF: Did you feel like you got a fair chance when you came back from your injury to compete for a spot?
AA: Yep, I got a fair opportunity. It’s just tough to crack a lineup when everyone is playing well. I was playing well, but obviously not well enough to stick. I know what I have to improve on and that’s little mistakes that I’ve been making. Mostly mental errors, watching the puck or out of position. I have to make sure I bear down on those types of things and if those kind of errors don’t happen, I usually have a good game.

HF: Is there one veteran in particular, or maybe a couple guys in Hamilton who helped you?
AA: Yeah, there’s a lot of guys. You kind of take things from every guy. Not everyone does everything perfect or they wouldn’t be there, you know? You try to take things from different guys and pointers from coaches. The Colonel here, (coach) Brian Curran, he’s helped me a lot just in the past few days with little positional things that I’m trying to work on and they’re going to hopefully help.

HF: You’ve been playing on the power play here, were you a little surprised by that?
AA: I did last year in junior too. I worked on my shot a lot this year so I think they want me just in a shooting role. I’m just going to shoot the puck. I’m just going to take the ice time. I can’t complain. I want to improve my whole game. I want to be an all-around defenseman, a second or third defenseman who can play everything, play real hard in my own end to make sure no one is beating me out of the corners and pinning in front of my own net. If I can move the puck and jump up on the power play then that’s a bonus.

HF: Do you feel you’re at the playing weight you want to be at?
AA: Yeah, right now I’m 222, so for me that’s good. Obviously you get heavier as time goes on. It’s getting easier to put on. My first year I was this height (6’4”) and about 170 (laughs).

HF: How about your speed, do you feel like it’s where you want it to be?
AA: I have to improve on everything. I don’t think my skating is too bad, I think it’s more my quickness from the net to the corner, that type of thing, that I need to work on. My first couple steps to get going. Once I get going I’m alright. Obviously this level is a lot faster.

HF: What’s your main goal for next season, to stick with Hamilton?
AA: Well I want to probably start in Hamilton and obviously I want to be in Montreal. Nobody says you can’t do that. A buddy of mine, Gordie Dwyer, he’s helped me out a lot this year in Hamilton. He did pretty much the same thing in his first year, he was in the East Coast league and the next year by Christmas he’s in the NHL. Nobody says it can’t happen. The thing is, I know what I have to do, so it’s just a matter of me making the adjustments in my game, playing hard, playing tough in my own end, and eliminating mistakes. Montreal’s going to notice that and hopefully give me a look.

HF: If there’s a season next year.
AA: You gotta think positive! (laughs)