The coach came in and, this time didn’t sit down. He said he’s not going to give us 45 minutes like he did last year because he said too much and got into trouble for saying it last year. Then he went nearly 40 minutes again, and pretty much answered every question, some of them very interestingly … except those about himself or his new contract.
On his contract:
“I’m not going to talk about myself. This is all about … if you have questions about the team and the players and stuff like that. I’ve never felt comfortable and I’m not going to feel comfortable”
On the feeling two days after Game 5:
On Gaborik saying he needs to regroup and re-think his game and get in better shape:
“Yeah, I mean, he cares. And it wasn’t a good year for him. It certainly wasn’t up to his standard. He does. However he needs to re-commit himself to make this work and to get into a better mindset — I think that starts with a mindset and that propels him onto the ice to help the team — he’ll do. One thing that’s promising to me is I saw it. The first year that he was here I saw it. He did it. And hopefully he comes back and does it again. This wasn’t him this year, for whatever reason, and we can beat it up all we want, but I saw a different player a year before. He knows that, which is the most important thing. We had a very good meeting today and he wants to get himself in a situation where he can really help the club, especially offensively.”
Said it wasn’t his injuries that effected the way Gaborik played.
“I know he cares. That’s the bottom line. When a player cares and he’s done it before and has played at a level, he’ll get back to that level.”
What was his problem this year?
“I have no idea. You’ll have to ask him. Again, I don’t want to … I know that’s a big topic here, but I’m not going to dissect it completely. Some of that belongs between Gabby and I. So all I’m tell you guys on the subject of Gabby is he knows he didn’t play up to his standard, we know, and he wants to get back to it. And I always look at players. When I see a young player improving, when he’s a young guy, it’s promising because he’s improving. When I see a guy play a a level, you know that he has the ability to get back there, and I believe Gabby will.”
On the way the team is structured, it is critical for him to get back there:
“Yes. And I think that’s a motivation for him, too. He sees that. I think we have a really good foundation, but we also need to be able to be more consistent skillfully, too. Gabby has that. I don’t want to speak out of turn with Glen, but I think if we can, and it’s there, we need to add some skill to our lineup. I think we have guys, and I always, because I get killed as far as how I’m saying it, I’m trying to be … there’s skill on our hockey club. The top-end skill, that’s something we need to add, and Gabby is top-end skill.”
Is that within the system, or does it have to come from the outside?
“I think right now, within the system, it depends on … I’ll put it to you this way. We need to look at all avenues. Because I think we’re building the right foundation. I think we had some really good growth and surprises. When you get into the real stuff of the playoffs and you play a skillful team like Washington, you can see where we need some help in that area there. So we’ll have to look in all areas.”
Who surprised him this season?
“You start with the two kids who are playing 3 and 4 on our defense in McDonagh and Sauer. McDonagh coming out of college, Michael Sauer really having an injury-prone year the prior year and stepped right into camp and played very well at a very tough position. Stepan comes out, and we forget he’s right out of college. We didn’t know if he was going to be here or in Hartford or whatever. He had a very good year. He found it a different life in the playoffs. There was a different animal there. Brian Boyle, as I said to guys all year long, I thought he was going to Hartford. He had a really good year. Anisimov struggled toward the end of the year, I thought struggled in the playoffs. But for a young man, he’s just beginning to understand what it is to be a pro, I thought he had some growth. I probably missed some guys. But we grew. It was a team that found its identity and stuck with it. And, again, we need to keep getting better, keep adding to that foundation.”
On Boyle and Prust playing more than they ever had in their careers, and how they continue to play at that level:
“They’ve got to do it again. It’s not me. It’s them. They have to do it again. That’s when you become … you know, Pruster didn’t play much in Calgary. It was probably a really good career move. It was a great deal for us. I didn’t expect some of the things out of Pruster that we got out of him. We can talk about how good players were, but you have to do it again. That’s when it’s legit. So some of these guys have to continue improving, not just do it again, but continue to improve. I look at Brian Boyle. Although he didn’t score the goals, I thought he was probably one of our most consistent forwards in the playoffs. That’s good. Pruster, it was a first time for him. At times, it was a bit of an up and down situation for him in the playoffs. It was his first time. So with these guys that have these years, and we continue to build our team, you can’t rest. You can’t give into it and say, ‘I’m here.’ You’ve got to continue to improve, and I think the type of people they are, I know they know it … but I think they feel that already.”
On Michael Del Zotto getting back to the level he was as a rookie, and being the power play quarterback:
“There’s a number of building blocks with Michael, and a number of defensemen that had pretty good rookie years ended up taking a step backwards. You accept that, and maybe change some things, and I don’t want to get into specifics, but something has to change and you embrace the process. Because it’s not an easy position to play. And I’m really anxious to see Michael, first of all get him healthy, and really anxious to see him in camp again. He’s going to get a fair whack at it again in camp and I think there’s mental maturity that goes with it. And as each player goes through the ups and downs that Michael has, I think he’ll mature. I know I use it ad nauseum, the process. But that’s what it is. These are young people. This is a young team that is still going through the process and for some of them, it’s been a little herky jerky along the way, but that’s still a process. It’s how you handle those situations.”
On being concerned, at last year’s break-up day, about Del Zotto falling off after his rookie year:
“Well, in the second half of the year he wasn’t exactly dead-on. It just had slipped a little bit. He’s got tremendous promise, and it’s something that we need. We need that offensive type guy. See, I thought his defending — he’s learning how to defend; it’s the offensive part of the game that we hope comes about. Because that’s a big part of what we need here, also, within our team, is that type of defenseman. So, as a young guy, you make a read on him, and you know, the second half of (last) year wasn’t great for him, and I’m not sure if that snowballed on him or not, but it’s been a … this kid’s 20 years old and it’s the toughest position to play and it’s a lot to ask of the amount of responsibility he got. And we took some of it away to allow him to not miss the steps in the process and hopefully he’ll respond as we start next year.”
On having a young team, and Henrik Lundqvist saying that, for the first time, he thought, “I only have so many years left” and how quickly this team can ascend:
“It depends. I don’t have a crystal ball. We’re doing it the right way. Like I said to you before, and I jumped the gun after our last game, I know we’re doing it the right way. But I don’t have a crystal ball. I think during the summer here, if there are opportunities to add some pieces, it depends what happens there. Because there’s a group of people that we definitely feel are the core, but you’re always looking to try and improve your team. I’m sure Glen’s going to be doing that during the summer, and we’ll see. If there are certain pieces added that help people, that help the club along the way, you ascend quicker. But there’s no, you just can’t put a timetable on it. You need to stay with it, though, and not get impatient with it when it isn’t working right away, because it does take time. And so we’ll see.”
I asked him if there comes a point where they say, “We’ve got a lot of kids now, we’ve laid the foundation, we’ve got a lot of second/third-line depth … maybe now we can trade some tomorrow for today.”
“It doesn’t have to be a trade, but if that right piece is there, maybe in free agency, yeah. Because I think we, and I felt we really stuck with it this year through the trading deadline. We kept our kids and the kids kept on growing, so I think our foundation has grown. If there’s an opportunity to add that piece that isn’t a kid, that will help you in a position, sure. But let’s not upset the building process of getting rid of all our kids for a ‘Maybe.’ I don’t think it has to be in a trade. It could be free agency. I haven’t looked at the free agency list (ED. NOTE: I thought about calling B.S. on him when he said that). We’ll have to look at that and that’s what we’re just starting to do now. But I agree with you. There’s timing in this stuff here. And I think as we’ve added a lot of kids this year and they’ve grown into some pretty big pieces to our team, you’ve got to look at that, maybe that top-line player, that top skilled guy. Sure, we’re going to look at that guy.”
More to come later … good stuff on Avery, on Drury, on Staal … very interesting. Then, as I said earlier, some more players.