Steve Schuster has been the voice of the Thunder for two seasons. On a completely irregular basis, we’ll conduct an interview with Schuster to gain his thoughts and insight.
All right, Steve, there’s been a lengthy layoff between our popular Q and A segment, but we’re back. The Thunder has won two straight, and I expect you to pick up your game as well. Frankly, I can’t carry this thing every time. Here we go.
KL: You recently retuned from a lengthy road trip. Take us behind the curtain. Who are the loudest players on the bus?
Schuster: The bus is pretty professional, to be honest with you. Most of the guys will either watch a movie or listen to music. I’d say that our equipment manager Brad Brundgardt probably jokes around more than any of the players. Off the ice, Andrew Davis is a very funny person and is great to be around.
KL: What do the players eat on the road: fast food? Lunchables? Do you make PB&J sandwiches for the whole team?
Schuster: Do I make them? No, that’s what we have rookies for. Seriously, I can’t say enough about the support of the Booster Club and all of their efforts to make things first class for the team. The club purchases lunch meat, snacks, fruit, etc. for EVERY road trip so that everyone isn’t stuck eating McDonald’s on the side of a random interstate. All of this comes from their own funds, so again, I can’t say enough about what they have done for us.
KL: Do any groupies on the road ever mistake you for a hockey player and ask for an autograph? Or do they see you coming and right away go, “Nah, geeky radio guy. Where’s Duda?”
Schuster: Well, there aren’t many Asian hockey players, so it’s pretty obvious when I step off the bus. A couple players asked me if I was a team doctor at the beginning of the year, which made me laugh.
KL: Speaking of autographs, I’m thinking about selling signed 5x7s of myself. How many can I put you down for?
Schuster: No. 11 NFL draft pick Jake Long? I’ll take several. Kollen Long? Ehh…
KL: What is your impression of the latest addition to the team, Mike Zbriger?
Schuster: He looks like your classic center. Fast, good hands, good vision. You can see why he has been able to score a lot of goals in his young career. I had the chance to talk with him for a couple seconds before his first game, and he seems like a very high-energy and good person.
KL: It would have been reasonable to expect that goalie Tim Boron show a little rust after missing six games with injury. However, he was solid to great all weekend. Your thoughts.
Schuster: I just think he was further along with his rehab than your typical injured player because he had practiced with the team during the last couple of weeks. Coach Bilodeau had mentioned that he probably could have played on the last road trip, but wanted to play it safe, which looks like the right decision.
KL: You referred to OK City goaltender Andy Franck as a “quiet nemesis.” An interesting description. Explain.
Schuster: Oh, it was nothing about him specifically. I just meant that he had been lights out against the Thunder over the last two years. 6-0-0 is pretty impressive against one particular team.
KL: Obviously, the Thunder has had trouble sustaining strong play. Tell us why you think the Thunder will continue to play well.
Schuster: I think it’s just a matter of finishing offensive chances. Coach has talked a lot about “real” scoring chances (anything from the middle of the faceoff circles to the crease) as opposed to just looking at the shot totals, and Wichita’s chances have been virtually equal with the opposition at the end of each game for quite some time. The difference has been finishing them off and burying the puck. If they can score just a little bit more, wins are going to pile up. The defense and goaltending have been strong, and the penalty kill has been the best in the league for almost three months. The team has proven it can hold off any offense in the league, so if they can just score a little bit more (like they did over the weekend), it’s going to be a winning combination.
KL: The Thunder needs another forward (besides Duda, Ofukany and Hanson) to start contributing regularly. Chris Shudo scored twice on Saturday. Is he the guy?
Schuster: He’s definitely got the talent. He’s probably the fastest player on the team. I really think Stan Yanchishyn could break out too. He missed a decent chunk of time due to injuries this year, but I think he could become a 30-40 point player when all is said and done. He’s got great speed, and we know how good he is in terms of the physical game. He was voted the team’s most improved player at the end of last year, and I noticed early this season that he’s gotten even better this year.