HARD WORK, DETERMINATION AND CHARACTER = NORM MILLEY
With a shortened training camp and limited opportunities to prove oneself, the Tampa Bay Lightning's coaching and management staff have made no secret about the fact that third- and fourth-line forward positions are up for grabs. Norm Milley is one player who has stepped up and made a case for himself this preseason.
As a former second-round draft pick (1998, 47th overall) of the Buffalo Sabres, Milley is no stranger to his current situation as he has found himself fighting against organizational depth in the past.
Milley has impressed so far during the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2006 preseason, putting up six points (three goals, three assists) during four days of training camp scrimmages and scoring a goal in his preseason debut against the Washington Capitals. What Milley realizes however, is that success is measured by more than just points.
"I'm hoping it will send [the message] to them that I'm a good overall player, that I can put the puck in when I have some opportunities and I want to be reliable defensively as well," said Milley. "I want to be known as an all-around complete hockey player and a player who makes the smart play."
Coming out of four stellar years with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League meant that Milley's game, and expectations of his game, has often centered on his offensive capabilities.
It is these expectations, and the process of learning to work through them, that have helped mold Milley into the player he is today. Priding himself on his work ethic and the maturity he has gained through the years, Milley feels he has put himself in a position to get a chance to play at the next level.
"Back then I was a young kid and all I wanted to do was play in the NHL, and I thought I was good enough," Milley said. "But you've got to work on all aspects of the game. Before I was all offense coming out of junior. I've learned to play in my own end now and I'm a more complete player. I think you learn that as you get older and more experienced."
With years of playing at the American Hockey League level under his belt, Milley's ultimate goal is to become an NHL regular. Playing on a line with Rob DiMaio and Tim Taylor during training camp provided Milley with an opportunity to not only showcase his skills, but to gain advice from respected team veterans.
"I thought we played really well together," Milley said of Taylor and DiMaio. "We seemed to click there early and it's great playing with those two guys, those two veterans. They make the game a lot easier, they're smart hockey players and the plays they make are making me look good out there, so it's fun."
Even though he's enjoying himself on the ice, Milley realizes he still needs to work hard if he wants to outplay his teammates and move his way up the Lightning's organizational depth chart. While he knows the decision as to whether or not he plays with the big club this season is out of his hands, Milley's main feeling is that he wants to walk away from camp knowing he left everything he could on the ice.
"I really don't set any goals for myself at the beginning of the summer," he said. "My focus is just giving 100 percent and letting the outcome fall where it falls. I really want to make this team this year. I got a sniff of it last year and it's a great feeling. I just tell myself to go out there and work 100 percent and have no regrets at the end of the day."
Judging by his performance, Milley should be able to walk away from camp with no regrets, proud of the results he had and the effort he showed. Working one's way up the depth chart may not be easy, but the important thing is to get noticed. In a camp where spots on the bottom lines have been there for the taking, one could say Milley has done just that.