Earlier today the NHL conducted conference calls in advance of the Western Conference Finals kicking off tomorrow night in Phoenix. Below is a transcript of the media questions and answers provided by Rob Scuderi, Jarret Stoll, Willie Mitchell (Kings) and Shane Doan, Mike Smith, Keith Yandle, Dave Tippett, Don Maloney (Coyotes)…
First up, the Kings:
Q: Rob, you have been preparing and talking about this series for a while. You’re finally on the road practicing in the building, it’s the day before the game. Does it finally feel normal?
SCUDERI: Yeah, I think I can’t speak for everyone, but just for myself. It’s nice to just get back to the routine a little bit. While the season is still going on, you want to keep it going on, you don’t want too long a break. It’s nice to have a bit of recuperation time. But after seven days, I think we’re all pretty much ready to play.
Q. Willie, when you decided to sign with the Kings a couple years ago you had offers from other teams. You saw a lot of promise in this team in L.A. Obviously right now they’re living up to what you saw in this team.
MITCHELL: Absolutely. You get older in your career, you want to be somewhere where there’s a good group. Yeah, we spoke about that before. I think it’s a great young team. We’re starting to play to our ability. Obviously have a shot here. One of four teams left for a crack at it all. Enjoying it. It’s been a lot of fun. I think we’re seeing our core group and our young players start to mature and that’s why we’re sitting here.
Q. Jarret, can you talk about the challenge you face with their net minder, how you try to break through when a goalie is that strong?
STOLL: Yeah, he covers a lot of net. He plays big. He’s very athletic, too. He’s obviously a good athlete. We’re going to have to shoot as many possible shots at him, get second-chance opportunities, make him work, make him move side to side. It’s going to have to be a pretty good shot to beat him clean. He’s pretty much like our goaltender. Everybody knows that. We have to make it hard on him. Like any good goalie, make him work a lot, make it tough by getting a lot of shots, be around the crease, get all three guys ending up at the crease, you know, be hungry.
Q. Willie and Rob, can you both touch on the balance that you have on the blueline. Everybody talks about Quick, rightfully so, but the balance that is there.
SCUDERI: I think each pair has their own chemistry. We had that for a while. Since the pairs have been set like this, each guy understands how to play with each other. When you look almost beyond that, you can see we have a good mix of different types of defensemen. Mitchie and I kill penalties, try to shut down other top players. Then we have Drew, who’s my number one guy who can pretty much do anything and do it very well. We have some guys that can PK, some guys that can just do power play, whether it be secondary or be on the first unit. I just think it’s a good mix and a good group.
MITCHELL: Same thing. He covered it all. I think we all feel, I guess, really comfortable with each other, really trust each other back there. For the most part we’ve had our pairings together for a long time now. I think each pairing has a lot of trust for each other, the ability to get the job done. When you play in front of a good goaltender like we have, it allows us to trust what we’re doing as well in front of him. When you do that, you’re in a pretty good spot and you usually limit the other team’s chances. As a group, we collectively do that, like Rob said, through committee, everyone bringing their own personal strength and identity to our core. Hopefully we can continue to do that.
Q. Trying to get something through the net now, Tippett described it trying to make it muddy in front of the net, mud winning out, do you see that on film with these guys?
MITCHELL: I think this time of year it’s just what it is. It’s tough to get pucks in the net. They do it. We do it. You look at the other teams left, everyone at this time of year is prepared to do anything at all costs to limit chances on your own net and get in front of pucks. This time of year, you talk to most teams, what do you do? Every team that’s left, what do they have? Great goaltender. No one’s left without a great goaltender. You have to try to get pucks to the net or to traffic around the net. From there that’s usually when you get the broken coverage, create some second-chance opportunities. That’s how you’re going to have to score with the great goalies that are left so far.
Q. (No microphone.)
SCUDERI: I think it’s been more at a premium since we’ve had the rule changes. A lot of freedom on the offensive players, a lot of talented guys can get their shots off. Instead of hooking or holding them so they can’t get them off, it’s put your stick in position and possibly get a block. If you can’t get your stick on the puck, you’re trying to block the shot. I think it’s a product of the rule changes more than anything else.
STOLL: I think good puck movement, good passing, slapping pucks around in the offensive zone gets guys out of position. Every coach’s emphasis is on lanes, lanes, lanes, making sure you’re in the lanes. You don’t see a lot of shots being blocked anymore where guys are sliding and laying themselves flat on the ice like eight, nine, 10 years ago. You’re seeing guys up in the lane, it’s very hard to get it by them. I think that’s maybe a big difference.
Q. About the balance on the defense. From a forward’s perspective, is it almost to the point that it doesn’t matter what pair is on the ice because there is that balance there, they’re all different, but they’re all similar in a way?
SCUDERI: That’s totally right. They all move the puck well. They can all get up and down the ice and see the ice. When you’re out there, up front, doesn’t really matter who is out there, just maybe if Drew is out there, he’s jumping up in a play. If Marty is out there, and Slava. As a core, we’re all told to do the same things. We want to get everybody up in the play, everybody involved offensively. They all got great shots back there, so that’s not an issue. It’s a strong, strong group back there.
Q. Darryl, a week to watch lots of video. I know the teams are different if for no other reasons the playoff journeys are different. What do you expect tomorrow in Game 1?
SUTTER: They’ve been a team that’s won at home early, first games, so they got lots of energy in here with the crowd. It will be awesome, but it will be tough early.
Q. With a few days between series, what did you most want to get accomplished?
SUTTER: Yeah, I think some of the guys are banged up. Get a couple days. Especially two or three of the older guys. It was good. So now it’s the reset button. You know, always when there’s time, doesn’t matter if it’s regular season or playoffs, whatever it is, if you ever get four, five days, you’re always concerned about the emotional level of the group always. I’m sure they’re the same way as us.
Q. How important was it for you guys to come in here a day early, get a practice in here, and do you think it enables your group to get back to feeling like a playoffs series is about to start?
SUTTER: I think it’s good, first off. But I think the most important part of that is because we play an early game tomorrow, right? You get guys that haven’t maybe practiced in this building or been on the ice in this building, or not very often. That’s the most important part. I don’t think it does anything for you in terms of preparation coming in early, less than an hour over here. That was the concern. The most important part is, is because it’s an early game tomorrow.
Q. Two of your defensemen were up here, Willie and Rob. They both talked about balance on the blueline. How important has that been? Everybody talks about Jonathan Quick. The balance you have in your three pairs to enable you to get to where you are right now.
SUTTER: Touch wood, we’ve been able to use three pairs. If that’s what balance is…
Q. Darryl, is Phoenix a team that’s a little harder to target, maybe one or two players, because they maybe have such balance scoring, not one
go-to line or guy?
SUTTER: I think they’re similar to us. I still think they’re led by Shane. That’s a huge part of it if you look at shots in the playoffs. I think Vermette has three power play goals. I think they’re led by their captain big-time up front. Him along with those veteran guys is going to be huge in this series to manage them or handle them.
Q. Darryl, the Predators admitted the first two games in this building last series, they got away from who they were. What is your message to your team?
SUTTER: Well, I don’t think that we’ve gotten away from our game for three or four months, so I can’t imagine it should change now. I think the familiarity with being in the division is important, too. Most of these guys have played against each other a lot. I think they know how both sides are going to play. The coaching staff, that’s what we expect out of our group, for sure. They’re the home team for a reason, so…
Now for the Coyotes question and answers:
Q. Mike, I was looking your name up on Wikipedia.
SMITH: How many came up (laughter)?
Q. It said you’re the only goalie in history to get a shoutout, get in a fight, and score a goal in the same game.
SMITH: No, false information. I scored. I got a shutout and a win, but I never got in a fight. The Gordie Howe hat trick is out.
Q. East Coast?
SMITH: Yeah, first year as pro. I don’t like to fight (laughter).
Q. Shane, the break between games. Do you want to ride the coattails of momentum off the last series?
DOAN: I think a little bit. You’d like to. We definitely enjoyed a little bit of a break. The last series started fairly quickly. We went six games and I think we started three days later. At the same time it’s nice having the break. It’s not like anyone’s really complaining too much. They’re on as big a roll as anyone ever has been on I think in the playoffs. It would be nice to be playing maybe yesterday, but having till Sunday, it’s okay.
Q. Keith, could you talk about the goaltending match-up in this series, two hottest goalies in the league. The fact that you have the ability to get a few past Pekka Rinne, a pretty good goalie, in the last round?
YANDLE: Yeah, we faced two good goalies so far with Crawford and Rinne. We’ve been able to solve them. We know Quick is a good goalie, great goalie, playing well. We got more confidence in our net minder than theirs.
DOAN: And he’s friends with Quick.
Q. Shane, could you talk about the value of having another guy that’s been around this league for a long time, Ray Whitney.
DOAN: He’s a lot older (laughter).
Q. Just the value of him, and also the value that he’s been through already.
DOAN: You know what, it’s funny. Everybody on our team for the most part hadn’t been past the second round, I mean, other than Ray and Raffi in the past, Vermette. Those guys are the only three that have been passed. It’s been nice to talk to him. At the same time we got a pretty good veteran group of guys that are pretty comfortable. But Ray offensively has been our best player probably throughout the whole year. He’s been unbelievable in the playoffs, getting huge goals, just keeping it kind of like a businesslike approach. We all make sure we follow along.
Q. Mike, you have yet to lose on the road. Coming in tomorrow, how do you keep home ice as an advantage?
SMITH: Yeah, no, they’ve been an outstanding team on the road. It’s obviously going to be huge for us to not think about that too much, worry about what we have to do. The first 5, 10 minutes is obviously going to be a huge part of momentum swings in the series. When you start off on the right note with a good first 10 minutes, good start, go from there.
Q. Everybody is saying how similar these two teams are. They appear to be. When two teams are alike, what can make the difference in the series?
SMITH: They said that about us and Nashville, too. I think in playoffs, every team is going to have some similarities. Everybody is going to be working hard, blocking shots. Everybody has a good goaltender. I think in that aspect, teams are similar. But we have our own identity. We’re not trying to worry too much about them, just kind of play our game.
Q. Mike, what has Barb said to you?
SMITH: Barbs (LaBarbera) is such an easy guy to get along with. I think everybody knows he doesn’t say too many bad things about anyone. It’s been a very easy transition coming here and working with a guy like him. He works super hard in practice, very easy to get along with off the ice. Obviously that relationship is huge. I’ve been with guys that haven’t had the same kind of relationship as I have with Barb, so it’s been everything I can ask for.
Q. He came up with that handshake?
SMITH: He did. I can’t take credit for that.
Q. Along those lines, timeouts, seems like you’re talking to him.
SMITH: We’re talking about golfing (laughter). No, like I said, he’s an easy guy to be around. He’s calming to be around. When I get a chance to get a few words in with him, kind of calm myself down by being able to talk to someone like that. When you’re in the heat of the moment of the game, you’re nerves are working against you. When you get a timeout to go to the bench, get to chat with a guy like that, it’s a calming influence.
Q. (No microphone.)
SMITH: Probably not this long of one. I’ve played well in the past, but never been able to find that consistency I have this year. You know, goalies go in and out of hot streaks. Obviously you have some games where you don’t play your best. But this year I found a way to play well when I haven’t felt my best and tried to get out of slumps quicker than I have in the past. I think that’s been a big part of my success this season.
Q. Shane, coach joked after Game 2 of Nashville that he’s happy for you to do your own thing in Phoenix, nobody has to notice. Can’t fly under the radar anymore. What is it like to get more recognition now nationally?
DOAN: I’m pretty sure everyone is probably picking against us anyways again. It’s where we want to stay, pretty low-key. Here in the valley, it’s been great. We’ve enjoyed the way that it’s kind of worked out for us the last couple years here. We’ve had success as a team. It will be fun to experience. Again, I think that’s where we’ll go back to a guy like Ray, guys that have experienced it. Coming in here and talking to you guys, I haven’t done that before, it’s kind of nice.
Q. Mike, your goal in the ECHL, the reason I would want you to go back into your memory bank, to get your thoughts on it, because Jonathan Quick, when he got his first win in the ECHL, he also scored a goal.
SMITH: Really? I didn’t know that.
Q. You both have that in common. Do you remember it?
SMITH: Oh, yeah. Tough to forget. The bad thing is, once you score once, you want more, so… That feeling of obviously scoring when you’re a goaltender is like nothing else. But also can work against you, too. You’re only thinking about it when their goalie’s out. The number one job is to keep the puck out of my end. If it does go in the other end, that’s great, too.
Q. Mike, can you give us a sense of the way you are before games. Are nerves something you need to battle? Are you pretty easygoing before games? And, Shane, what is your sense of him?
SMITH: I want Shane to leave me alone anytime. He’s a pest anytime I’m around him (laughter). No, I’m pretty easygoing. I get nerves obviously this time of the season. I think everyone gets nervous before games. I don’t think I show it. I think I just try and do my thing and enjoy the moment, enjoy playing this game that we all grew up playing and dreamt of being in the NHL playoffs, just trying to take advantage of the situation. It’s been fun so far.
DOAN: Yeah, he’s as competitive off the ice as he is on the ice. We all play in a two-touch game that is pretty intense at times. Usually we’re arguing with him whether or not he’s out or not.
SMITH: Because Shane is always right (laughter).
DOAN: It doesn’t matter, every game, doesn’t matter if he’s on a roll, it’s the exact same thing. That’s one of the great things. It doesn’t matter how everything is going, he’s going to make sure everybody around him, it’s still the same. It’s nice when you have your starting goalie to be like that. We enjoy it. We have fun with him.
YANDLE: Yeah, I agree. I think Smitty is a guy, he sees the game well. He’s a goalie, but he sees the game well, as if he’s a defenseman or a player back there. You know, you can talk to him about hockey or anything before, during or after the game. It’s fun to have a guy like him around.
Q. You guys are obviously keeping it lighthearted here. What role does humor and being able to jab at each other relieve some of the tenseness of the game coming up? Second part is, who provides the best humor in the locker room?
DOAN: I’d say Jelly (Yandle) does. He’s usually got something going on. When things are going on, he keeps it pretty lighthearted. We got a great group of guys that really enjoy each other. No one is afraid to give it to anybody. I think it makes it fun. We all enjoy it a lot.
SMITH: Especially this time of season, it can get pretty nerve-wracking. To have the group we have, to keep it light, especially before big games. It takes a lot of energy out if you’re serious all the time. It’s been a fun year. It’s been a very easy transition for me to come into this group. Obviously we have great leadership. Everyone in the locker room gets along. That’s a huge part of why we are where we are right away.
Q. Divisional rival for the first time. The style of this series going to be any different than Chicago or Nashville or closer to one or the other in the way it’s played?
DOAN: I think we’re pretty familiar with each other. I mean, we’ve had some pretty intense, physical games already. I’m assuming that it’s just going to kind of go up even more than that. We’re pretty comfortable playing each other. I don’t think there’s going to be too many surprises. They got Carter late. That’s about the only thing that’s changed since the last time we played them, three or four times when they didn’t have him. It will be a fun, intense playoff hockey. I think the third round, as a fan, I think the intensity goes up so much after the second round, because the second round, you’re happy to get into the second round, get out of the first round. Sometimes there’s a little bit of a lull. Third round, you recognize how close you are to achieving your goal. From watching it way too many times, that intensity is fun to see and will be fun to be part of.
Q. Keith, could you address, out of the All-Star break you went on a great run, That kind of turned the whole season around for you. Can you point to any particular reason why that time of the season was when everything started to click and why?
YANDLE: I don’t know if there’s something you can really just pinpoint. We came together. I remember having some meeting, Tip telling us how much the next 15, 20 games mean to our team. It was a rush to get into the playoffs. It was so tight in the west, we knew we had to play well to get into the playoffs, get the highest seed we could get. I think it was the coaching staff getting us together and pinpointing that we really needed to step up our game. I thought we did a real good job of doing that.
Q. The All-Star break preceded that. This is your longest break. Is there something to be said to be able to use that time to rest? Can you see any connection between what you were able to do, All-Star break, taking that time, to now kind of refocusing again?
YANDLE: Leading up to the All-Star break, I think we had one of the toughest schedules I know I’ve ever been a part of. That break came at a perfect time in the season. This break can work to our advantage. We also have to recognize that we’ve had time off. We have to come the first 5 minutes, 10 minutes, like I said, and get onboard and get back into the playoff adrenaline and energy out there, because both teams have had big layoffs now. It’s probably going to be a little bit of feeling out the first 5, 10 minutes. But after that, we’re going to have to really up our tempo.
Q. Coach, can you talk about the adjustments you make when you see a guy like Daymond adjust to a fourth line? How do you tweak things into what you’ve done so far in this post-season?
TIPPETT: What we try to do is put positions where they can help us win and they feel like they’re a part of what we’re doing here. We rely on everybody to do their job. We talked a little bit about this yesterday as a staff. We feel like this is as deep a team as we’ve ever had. When you have a player of Langkow’s quality of stabilizing our fourth line, we don’t call it a fourth line, we call it Langk’s line. He gives us quality minutes, a role in the game, good penalty killer. That line has chipped in some important goals for us. What we try to do is make sure players know their responsibilities, know what they have to do to help us win. It’s our job to put them in those positions to let them be successful at it. We’ve had a lot of guys that have kind of bought into that and it’s gone well.
Q. Don, might have been a few people that raised an eyebrow when you gave three years to Ray Whitney given his age. What were your expectations and thoughts?
MALONEY: I wish it was three, because it was only two. Unfortunately he’s up at the end of this year. When we looked at Ray, we had two players at that period that we thought could play in a top-six role. Ray was one of them. I think at the time people were questioning whether one year, two years. Usually when you get to 36, 37, 38, there’s a little hesitation on extending, just the way the CBA is, beyond a year. Just studying Ray, looking at his game, we watched a lot of video, how he played, who he played with, the ability to protect pucks, make plays at a competitive level, I didn’t see the risk. Even the level of contract, it was something we felt we could swing. He’s been terrific year. He’s had a terrific year. He’s invaluable from a skill base. Radim Vrbata and certainly Marty Hanzal formed our top offensive line and we’re going to need them to be good this series.
Q. To follow up on that. The value of a Ray Whitney right now as you head into the third round. Not many guys on this team have been this far. He’s the only guy that’s won a Cup. Touch on the value of what he is now to this team other than what he can give you on the ice.
TIPPETT: The one thing that Ray does for us is he’s obviously one of our top players, top offensive players, and he takes that responsibility very serious. The experiences he’s been through, you can hear him every day. He’s relating something, whether it be to teammates, whether just a situation that arises, down to little things like a break between a round, how you deal with it. His experience in those areas, his preparation, how he deals, he prepares himself, rubs off on other people. But he’s also very open in sharing his experiences to make sure everybody else can get through those. His contribution goes farther – much farther – than on the ice.
MALONEY: We do have older players on this team, but not older players that played into the semifinals. He relates well. He always has a story. Very personable person. Again, without having a lot of guys that have won a Cup, he’s very important to us.
Q. After tomorrow night’s game, it will be unfamiliar territory with neither team having fallen behind in a series. Are you interested to see what the response will be from either side?
TIPPETT: Well, I’m not going to worry about after Game 1 till that one’s done and we’ll see how that one goes. Series, you have to make adjustments, momentum-wise, tactical-wise, you kind of read and react to what’s happening. If you looked at the last series, after Game 1, we won, but we weren’t very happy. We went to Game 2 and knew we had to be better. So every series is different, every game is different. I think with both teams having a bit of a layoff here, both teams are going to be anxious to get going. I think Game 1, there’s always a little bit of a feeling-out process. I think everybody will be glad to get Game 1 going and get through it, then we’ll read and react from there.
Q. (No microphone.)
TIPPETT: For me, it’s all about winning. I mean, every day I go to the rink and I figure out how we’re going to win or talk about with the staff, with the players, how we’re going to win. Ultimately I have a saying all the time: Winning trumps everything. Team and winning trumps everything. It can be top players, goaltenders, winning trumps everything. I’ve been fortunate a couple years in the minors, I had unbelievable offensive teams that were the highest-scoring teams in the league. In Dallas, I had a couple teams that were high-scoring. I believe you can’t win unless you play a strong team defense. I would be interested to see if anybody could name a team that won the Stanley Cup that didn’t know how to defend. There’s some very good offensive teams. You look at Vancouver, a very good offensive team. But they’re also a very good defending team. Detroit, when they won their Cups, everybody thinks that they’re a puck possession, great offensive team, they’re one of the best defending teams in the league. You can’t win unless you know how to defend. That goes back for a long time. You go back to my first years in the league with the Edmonton Oilers, they didn’t start winning until they figured out how to win a 1-0 as well as an 8-7 game. The only way you’re going to have a chance to win is defend well. We look at our team, reality is, we’re not going to go out and outscore people on a nightly basis. We have to work people out, defend people. If we give easy goals away, we’re not going to have much chance to win, so… Our players have recognized that. It comes down to how we’re going to win. They recognize how we have to play. They have to do their part. If we do it, we have a chance to win.
Q. Can you maybe speak to the goaltending match-up, in particular with Quick, how much work you put into analyzing this guy.
TIPPETT: We’re a team that we really rely on what we’re doing. Believe me, we think we’ve got a great goaltender. We recognize they have a great goaltender. Some of the goaltending, they play a good defending game. They allow their goaltender to have some success. We feel like we can do the same thing. We’re a lot more geared to what we do. Obviously there’s some things from a goaltender’s perspective that we’ll run by our guys, areas that we think might be vulnerable. That’s no different than any other team. The two goalies in this series are going to be critiqued very hard because a lot of it is they’ve played very well and they play a different kind of style. We’ll talk about that. But other than that, we’ll let the games play out.
Q. When you came off the ice today, you were like, Okay, enough of that. At what point this week did it go from this rest is going to help us to, Okay, let’s play the game?
TIPPETT: I think as you get closer, you get a little anxious. We had a couple good days off. We had a hard practice day where you could tell the guys after that were, Okay, let’s play now, enough of that hard practice stuff. We try to wrap it up every day. Today we basically used it as almost like a pregame skate. Tomorrow with a 5:00 game, we won’t skate in the morning. We did our final preparations today. Let’s go home, get some good rest, show up tomorrow and get ready for Game 1. Guys are anxious to go.
Q. Where do you see Aucoin at?
TIPPETT: He won’t play tomorrow. He certainly won’t be a player in Game 1. He skated a little bit today. I think we’ll monitor his situation, but he won’t be a player in Game 1.
Q. You said both teams don’t change their style at home or on the road. Why do you think that approach has been successful for both teams?
TIPPETT: It’s who you are, your identity, how you play. It goes back to how are you going to win. If you change how you play at home or on the road, one of them is not going to work. Both teams stay true to who they are and play the same whether they’re home or away.
Q. (Question regarding the break.)
TIPPETT: Our guys are pretty good. When we go into a break like this, very similar to the All-Star break, coming out of it, we had a plan in place at the start of the week. We went through the plan with the players. They know exactly what to expect each day coming, how we expect to wrap it up, the elements of this series that we think are important that we have to make sure we put in place in practice, their preparation, their workload versus rest, all those things. What you try to do is create a week where every day they feel like they’re trying to get better to accomplish and get themselves ready for the start of the series. Different than last season. When we had that last break, we were in survival mode for about six weeks and then we just needed rest. This week is a little more preparation and I think our guys are anxious to get ready to play.
Q. This is kind of an unusual match-up. Two teams that have not had a whole lot of playoff success. Obviously you’re wrapped up in winning and what you have to do. Can you on a successful level appreciate the stories and journeys that your team and the Kings had to go to get through this far?
MALONEY: You’re on a roll (laughter).
TIPPETT: I appreciate both sides, because I’ve been in both organizations obviously. I think it’s great for the cities, the exposure, when you get to this point in the playoffs. I know the exposure in the Phoenix area has been very good for our organization, hopefully very good long-term. You recognize the work that a lot of organizations put in behind the scenes. Everybody’s working for the same goal. When you haven’t been there before and you finally get to these levels, it’s very rewarding for not just the city, but the people involved in the organizations. I can say that speaking from both organizations because I know a lot of the people well.
MALONEY: It’s an interesting time. You can feel it in our marketplace anyway, beating Nashville, getting to this stage. Just the city, the valley, the attention that we’re getting, the media, newspapers, certainly radio and television, it’s second to none. It’s what we need to survive here. We feel we’ve been in survival mode for three years, really since Dave showed up. This is great for us and our franchise. We’re certainly not satisfied to just sit here today. We certainly expect to move further. Same with L.A. We respect them. If you go back to the pre-season, you look at the teams, a lot of people looking at the L.A. Kings say, that’s a team that can come out of the west. We know they’re a formidable opponent, even though some years they struggled like we did. Both teams, my belief, belong here.
Q. A question about how you put this team together. It’s and under-the-radar group, without the star power of a lot of teams. You’ll go into tomorrow’s game with at least twice as many first-round draft choices as the Kings. Were you big on pedigree? Why have they been able to succeed here, guys like Pyatt, Chipchura, Brule?
MALONEY: I think you hit the nail on the hit. Brule was a top-five, top-six pick. At the time he was picked, he was expected to be a 30- to 40-goal scorer in the league. By the time he gets to us four, five, six years later, he’s figured out that, you know what, I can be a good player. But maybe it’s in a role, coming off the bench, riding some secondary offense. Kyle Chipchura, a very good player for us, important player for us. Brings a lot of energy to our game. I think it’s a little bit by necessity here. We’ve had to really search for the right players that fit into our system. Taylor Pyatt is a prime example. Taylor Pyatt, you know, for a number of years in Vancouver was a very good player. Had some personal tragedy in his life, was able to re-find his game here. He’s an important player, and will be in this series. A big, strong, power player for us. It’s like anything, we have X-amount to work with. We do the best with what the league has been able to provide us. Fortunately we’ve been able to come up with some nice stories.
Q. Why have these guys been able to find roles here that they didn’t have elsewhere?
TIPPETT: I think once you get through that first or, in some cases, second team, expectations in the player’s mind seem to go down. They’re just looking for an opportunity to re-find their game. Talking to young Brule this morning after practice, he’s got a big smile on his face. This is the most fun I’ve had in hockey in my whole life. It’s probably the least role he’s played on a team, but he’s having more fun. The expectations, some of those guys was certainly probably higher than they were able to produce at the time. Once they get to us, expectations have come down a little bit. We try to really create a team atmosphere where everybody has to chip in. Sometimes players like that, they feel like they had to do way more than everybody else. Here they just have to do the same. They get comfortable in a role. They’re able to succeed in that role, whether it’s a little bigger or a little smaller role, they have some success, they get confident and they can play.
Q. Don, could you bring us back to your initial conversation with Dave when you were thinking of hiring him. Part of the sales pitch probably wasn’t, We just declared bankruptcy.
MALONEY: It was interesting at the time. You really have to go back. I had initial conversation with Wayne Gretzky late May. At that point I felt I didn’t think he’d come back regardless as the coach. He never said it. In our initial conversation, he asked me if I didn’t, do you have a guy, because I’ve got a guy. We both had the same guy. He’s sitting to my left. He had just been let go from Dallas. The first time I called Dave, I met him out in Minnesota. Again, had to be quite covert, quite frankly. The last thing you want me to do is running around looking for coaches, have the world look at that. There was one other coach I talked to. For all those reasons, it’s well-published. He knew the division, he knew the conference, he had great success in Dallas, he’s won everywhere. Been a coach in the minor leagues, won in the minor leagues. It was a great fit. Really, of all the years since the bankruptcy, the only little push-back I had with the NHL at the time when I was signing him was a little bit on the term of the contract. If you look back at the time, they wanted a short-term deal. I said, A short-term deal isn’t going to work here. It was just one short conversation. I have to give him credit. Looking at our situation, I’m not sure I would have come into this mess at the time. I think he looked at it and saw that this is the chance to build something from the ground up. Fortunately we’ve been relatively successful to date.
Q. Any Ranger blood left in you tonight?
MALONEY: I do. Obviously you have to be somewhat impartial. I played with George McPhee. I hope the Rangers win tonight. I got a lot of good friends. Glen Sather was very, very good to me. And not only Glen Sather, but the whole organization was very, very good to me. I’ve got nothing bad to say about them and I’d love to play them in the finals. My brother Dave, he scares viewers away on occasion. A young Stan Fischler there. I don’t really quite get that, but talk to him a little bit after. There’s the family.
And that’s it!
As announced previously, MayorsManor will be in Phoenix for both games one and two. We’ll have all the pre, during and post-game action – including notes and quotes from the locker rooms, coaches press conferences, practices, morning skates and more. Be sure to follow along on twitter.