Carle: Depth gives Denver an edge


Editor's Note: The day before the 2008 NHL draft, doctors determined David Carle had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that results in a thickening of the heart and could cause sudden death during physical activity. Carle was forced to retire from hockey but is now a student-assistant coach at the University of Denver, where he had originally signed to play. Carle is documenting the experience for ESPN.com.

Hey, hockey fans.

Saturday night was very interesting in our locker room. Our coach, George Gwozdecky, was giving his pregame speech as usual. It was all about what makes people great, especially Bruce Springsteen, and what makes teams great. He was nearing the end of the story, on the verge of delivering the punch line, when all of the sudden something happened. Out of the corner of my eye I saw orange projectile vomit. The room went silent as junior center Tyler Ruegsegger continued to vomit all over the floor and his feet. Guys were getting up running out of the room, but most began to laugh as Tyler slowly walked to the bathroom to finish what he started in the locker room.

As you may know, Tyler was not able to lace them up that night, and this put our team without two of our top scoring threats. No Tyler Bozak, who underwent surgery on his left knee in December, and no Tyler Ruegsegger. If you look around the country and find a team that loses two of its top three centers, they all of the sudden are in some pretty dire times.

Something that has been very cool to see from our team is the depth that we have in all positions. Depth is something our assistant coaches have focused on in recent years during recruiting so that when events or injuries -- like what happened last Saturday night -- take place, the team would be just fine. And just fine is what we were, winning 3-1 and completing a two-game sweep of Michigan Tech. It was easily our best and most complete game since the holiday break. Everyone stepped up and contributed on their own way in order to take a hard-fought two points from a hardworking Tech team.

Depth is something that is very important for many reasons. Obviously for moments similar to Saturday night, but depth also creates a very healthy competition among the team in battle drills. No one's spot is safe. Depth creates an atmosphere in practice that is as close to game-like as possible. When guys know that they are not in the lineup for sure, they bring it every day in practice to show the coaching staff that it should be their turn in the lineup.

Through this more intense competition, I think it creates a better sense of camaraderie throughout the lineup. Everyone is working hard together to make each other better, gaining each other's respect, and in the end, creating a closer group.

This weekend is our last bye week of the regular season. For us, it is a time to take a few deep breaths, get to work and get focused for the all-important final run to the playoffs.

Thanks, and until next time,

David Carle