A couple of quick things and I’ll come right back with some quotes from Jim Schoenfeld:
1) John Tortorella is in the building and is allowed in the building. He had to leave the lockerroom two hours before gametime (noon) according to the rules of his one-game suspension, and could return to the lockerroom when the game is over.
2) Schoenfeld said that he knows the real story about the incident in Washington, and that it wasn’t that Tortorella was doused or sprayed or anything that set him off: It was a comment about one of his players.
3) Sean Avery will play today and that was Tortorella’s decision.
Some Schoenfeld interview highlights, with a few more to come:
He will be joined on the bench by Hartford coach Ken Gernander and assistant J.J. Daigneault—the Wolf Pack was eliminated from the AHL playoffs Saturday. Gernander will handle the forwards, Daignuealt the defense, and Schoenfeld will direct traffic.
He said that he and Tortorella are “very like-minded” and that there will be very little difference. The gameplan is the same as it’s been the whole series.
On Tortorella’s mindset at the moment:
“Obviously he feels bad. He feels that he presented a distraction the team could do without. But I think it should be said that the passion, the fire and the leadership that Tortorella has brought to the team — he took a team that was dead in the water when he arrived, and without the work of John Tortorella this incident wouldn’t have happened because we wouldn’t have made the playoffs. That’s fact. So when you’re a fiery guy, there is that fine line, whether you’re a player, a coach.
“His hurt is that he created a distraction for the players. He still believes they’re going to get the job done.”
On the distraction factor:
“The ramifications of the game should be enough for the players to focus. There are always extraneous thngs that can effect you one way or another in a playoff series. And it’s up the athletes to have the mental discipline to block them out. This is just another one of those.”
I asked him if he found the irony of being behind the bench, since he was involved in the most infamous coaching playoff suspension in NHL history in 1988 with the Devils.
“To address that, I think there are 40 young men who are playing their asses off for a chance to get a crack at a Stanley Cup and the water really shouldn’t be muddied with what happened 20 years ago. It’s a little bit too long ago in the past and it really doesn’t have anything to do with (today). …
“Yeah, it’s a tad ironic. Yeah, I’ll give you that. It’s a tad ironic that people think I was holding Torts back when I was trying to push him over the glass.”
He was kidding, of course. We think. Or maybe not.
On if he changed after his suspension:
“You’re always tryng to make yourself a better person, a better coach, a better player. To analyze the events of the day, it’s kind of a day wasted. …
“But, yeah, you want to keep it in check, sure. I mean, listen, if I could rewind the tape and put the ‘erase’ button on over the course of my life, I’d have a sore thumb. There are alot of things I’d like to change, but you are who you are and maybe you needed those things to get you to this point in your life. You don’t know. We all have things we try to keep in check, and sometimes those are the things that enable us to do what we do. Sometimes we go over the edge.”
On if he feels disappointment he feels as assistant GM, that Tortorella put himself in that position:
“No. I come right back to the fact gthat this team was dead in the water before he arrived. I was here. I’m not the new guy who came in with the coach I was here. You guys were here and you wrote about it before the change was made, and that’s certainly not an indictment of the former regime because they three or four years where they did a helluva job. … that team was looking for direction at that point in time and he came and gave them that direction. This is a bump in the road.”
Just a few more, and these are good:
“I’ll tell you. I know the heart of the guy and I know the thing that triggered it. And it wasn’t any sling they threw at him, and there were many. It was something they said about one of his players. It’s easy to say ‘You’ve got to be in control, you’ve got to keep it in check, you’ve got to turn the other way, there are rules’ but there’s a certain part of your being when you’re a coach and it’s just like being a parent, and there’s certain things you’ll put up when people slander your kids, and there’s a certain line that people cross. That’s what happened with John. You could say what you want about Torts. I know the man. Call him whatever you want. He’ll tell you what to do with your horse, but he’s OK with that. But don’t get down on the people he cares about. He’ll fight for them. He will fight for them. And that’s what he did.”
On using this as motivation:
“If we need motivation, then we’re not going anywhere anyway, to be honest with you. I think our main task is to get the players to focus on teh tangible things that they have to beat a team that’s full of firepower. I know the players have a high regard for John. I know Sean Avery has a high regard for John because John cared enough to put himself in a position where he knew he was going to get criticized, because he knew it was the right thing to do to help this kid take the next step in his growth, just like you’d do for your son. I know the heart of the guy. You guys don’t yet. Once you do, I think you’ll have a way better understanding of some of the things he does and why he does them.”