DULUTH Gwinnett Gladiators head coach Jeff Pyle has talked all season about needing more consistent leadership.
He did something tangible toward that end Thursday.
Adam Berti was named captain and will be wearing the C' when the Gladiators hit the ice tonight against Toledo at the Gwinnett Arena.
Pyle also tabbed Scott Mifsud and Dan Sullivan as alternate captains. All three are forwards with at least four years of pro experience.
Similar to last season, Pyle waited to pick a captain. It wasn't until late January before he gave the "C" to defenseman Jeff Mason and now he's looking to Berti to fill that role.
"Right now, under the circumstances, he's the best guy at the right time," Pyle said. "I kind of asked him about it first because I didn't want to throw him under the bus. It's his decision. I wanted to make sure he knew that whatever decision it was, we're OK with it.
"He goes, I want to do it.'"
Berti is in his fourth pro season and played the first three under contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. The big, play-making forward has been a steady presence in Gwinnett's ever-changing lineup and leads the team in points.
Mifsud is a fifth-year pro in his second stint with the Gladiators after playing overseas from 2007-09. Sullivan is a veteran of eight ECHL seasons.
Mifsud believes this is a good move for the team, which must put together a good second half in order to qualify for the playoffs.
"It gives the team a little bit of structure and some leaders, guys to look up to," he said. "We have a pretty young team so it's an important thing to have in place.
"It's a little added responsibility, but you've just got to go about your business and hope that, especially with the younger guys, that we pick them up when they're down."
It also facilitates communication between the players and the coach. With a roster changed significantly over the last week, that stability is important.
Pyle traded for forward Mike McLean, a player he tried to sign this summer, and defenseman Nick St. Pierre last week. In order to get those players, he had to give up defensemen Scott Marchesi to Cincinnati and Aaron Brocklehurst to Reading.
Pyle also brought back Phil Youngclaus after the defenseman cleared waivers in the IHL and had the Atlanta Thrashers reassign their prospect Matt Siddall to Victoria on Tuesday.
"It's always tough decisions," Pyle said. "We needed a centerman and I had a chance to get McLean.
"We had (Matt Caruana and Matt Francis), don't get me wrong, they're both solid, two-way guys. But I needed one more guy to give us depth and luckily I did now with Carsie going up."
Caruana was recalled by AHL Portland on Thursday, his second trip to the Pirates this season. Pat Galivan (Chicago), Tom Zanoski (Lake Erie) and Chris Higgins (Syracuse) also remain in the AHL although Pyle thought Higgins might be coming back soon.
"With Gali and everybody else gone, we would have had a pretty big hole in the lineup," Pyle said. "(Cincinnati) pretty much asked for Scott. I didn't really have a choice. You have to give up something to get something. But on the other hand, with Younger coming in, it kind of filled (Marchesi's) spot."
It was a similar deal that sent Brocklehurst to Reading for St. Pierre.
"Again, I had to give him up to get Nick. "To me, we're a .500 team I had to make moves. But I'm OK with the moves. I think we've strengthened our team."
Tim Filangieri, a rookie out of Boston College, played with St. Pierre briefly at the end of last season in the AHL and spoke well of his new defensive partner.
"It's good to have Nick here and McLean," Filangieri said. "They're both pretty good players. I played with Nick last year a little bit in Syracuse. He's just a good, solid, all-around defenseman."
Which is something the Gladiators needed. Leaving opposing players open around the net has cost Gwinnett many times this season. Filangieri said that was the focus with Toledo, a top three team in the conference, coming to town for games tonight and Saturday.
"We're good when we stick to our systems get the puck out, get the puck in, get pucks to the net," he said.
"But I think the real focus, our objective in order to win the two games this weekend, is really our defensive zone coverage. Picking up the guys back there, helping out (the goaltenders). We've kind of left them to hang out to dry."