In the four years since he last coached the Kamloops Storm, Ed Patterson says he learned a lot.
"I'll bet you if I was the coach I am today back (in 2009), we would have won those two championships that we lost (in 2008 and 2009)," said Patterson, who is back as head coach of the Storm for the 2013-14 KIJHL season.
"Hopefully we can get back to the final and get a chance to redeem ourselves."
That dream will begin tonight, when Patterson and the Storm open the regular season against the Grizzlies in Revelstoke. Kamloops' home-opener is scheduled for Saturday, 7 p.m., against the Sicamous Eagles at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.
In his two seasons as the Storm's head coach - 2007-08 and 2008-09 - Patterson took Kamloops to the league final, losing to the Nelson Leafs in 2009 and the Fernie Ghostriders in 2008. Those were the Storm's heydays, as the team has been up-and-down since.
While Patterson spent the past four years working at Domtar and coaching his son's minor hockey teams - along with two seasons as an assistant with the Kamloops Blazers - the Storm has finished fifth, second, second and fourth in its division, never advancing past the second round of the playoffs.
Patterson picked up new philosophies during his time in minor hockey, and gleaned a bunch of information while working alongside Blazers coaches Guy Charron, Dave Hunchak and Dan De Palma.
"I've learned a lot from minor hockey in regard to patience and development," said Patterson, whose KIJHL coaching record is 59-34-6. "I learned a ton from Guy and Dave and Dan the last couple of years with the Blazers."
Coaching junior B has its challenges, with players coming and going constantly early in the season.
Coaches have their hands full implementing systems while developing players' skills and helping them move forward in their careers. But it's nothing new to the 40-year-old Patterson, who was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1991 NHL draft and played 68 games for the Pens during a 15-year professional career.
"The WHL and NHL are development leagues - they all are," Patterson said. "If you're not developing every day, you're gone. I learned that the hard way. I went from watching the best hockey to not even playing a period.
"If you don't develop every day, whether it's minor hockey, junior A, junior B, NHL or the Western league, you're not playing anywhere."
Patterson is coming into a great situation, with the Storm boasting a veteran-laden lineup that appears to be among the strongest Kamloops has compiled since moving to town from Osoyoos in 2006.
But, as Patterson so eloquently put it: "You can look good on paper, but if you don't perform on the ice, it doesn't mean . . . you know."
Brock Balson, a former WHL and BCHL forward, has signed on with the Storm, giving a solid group of forwards another weapon. Returning forwards Blake Culbert, Ian Chrystal, Josh Rasmussen and Austin Braid will be asked carry some of the offence, as will Bobby Kashuba and Felix Larouche, whom the Storm acquired from the Golden Rockets in the offseason. Patterson said the team has seven forwards taller than 6-foot-2, and all can skate.
"I believe our bottom two lines can play for any team's top three lines," said 20-year-old defenceman Daniel Buchanan, who didn't play in Kamloops' 7-2 exhibition loss to the host 100 Mile House Wranglers on Wednesday. "We're going to try to play some offensive hockey."
Buchanan leads a solid defence corps, despite it having lost Cole McCaskill to the BCHL's Salmon Arm SilverBacks this week. Spencer Schoech, who finished last season in the BCHL, Matt Dimor, Jason Anderson and Stefan Wood give the Storm some depth on the back end.
"We've got a lot of guys who have played in the league before," Culbert said. "We've added some good guys, and there's still guys coming in. Hopefully it all turns out like it looks on paper."
The Storm's goaltending situation remains up in the air. Kamloops owner/general manager Barry Dewar said Thursday that the team is down to three goaltenders - Ben Giesbrecht, Kyle Michalovsky and Nolan Munden. Wade Moyls, the Storm's starter at the end of last season, is the odd man out at this point, but Dewar said he expects Moyls "will be back and a big part of our team."
Dewar added that Moyls didn't get on the ice enough in the offseason, and is "behind where he needs to be."
Patterson originally said that Giesbrecht and Michalovsky each would start a game on the weekend, but Michalovsky, a Kamloops product, has been called up to the SilverBacks for the weekend. Giesbrecht, a 17-year-old from Aldergrove, is likely to start both games, with Munden, a Kamloops product, to draw in as backup.
"Those two guys (Michalovsky and Giesbrecht) earned the right to play the first two games," Patterson said Wednesday, before learning that Michalovsky had been called up. "It doesn't mean they're here for the year, but they're our guys this weekend."
Patterson's biggest task will be bringing everything together. He took over from Brad Priestlay, who went 18-24-2-4 in 2012-13 as the Storm bowed out of the playoffs in the first round. Priestlay left the team for other professional pursuits.
Although it's pretty early in the season, the players can tell that Patterson is a little more fiery than the laid-back Priestlay.
"They've got two different coaching styles," Buchanan said. "Ed's more offensive . . . and Brad was a newer coach, so he was testing the waters a lot.
"Ed works us like dogs - but that's good. It will help us in the long run."