blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: July 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Daniel Sedin Interview - 2011 NHL Awards

Last month we caught up with Art Ross and Ted Lindsay winner Daniel Sedin at the 2011 NHL Awards to discuss the playoffs, pregame soccer and fellow redheaded Vancouver Canucks. These are his stories.

Q: Is it difficult to enjoy the Awards given the outcome of the Finals?

A: I think you have to. This was a good night for us as an organization and as a team. We know we're going to have a good team next year and for a lot of years going forward. So we should be proud and just get back to work. The season is coming up pretty soon.

Q: Tell me about the pregame hallway soccer warmup tradition. Was that part of the team culture when you arrived?

A: It was brought in, I think, three years after we came into the league.

Q: Did you start it?
A: No, it was our coach Marc Crawford. I think we were struggling as a team for a bit and he said let’s change things up. So he brought a soccer ball to the rink to start things off and since then it’s been a tradition.

Q: Were the Canucks the first team to do it?
A: I don’t know, I think so. Probably one of the first to do it.

Q: Is the game two-touch with the last man standing declared the winner?
A: Yeah.

Q: How many flatscreen TV’s and lights have been broken playing the game?
A: A lot, yeah. It gets expensive.

Q: Let’s talk about all the redheads on the Canucks. Obviously there's you and Henrik, Schneider and Torres. Do you accept Jannik Hansen as a redhead?
A: Hansen, no way.

Q: Really?
A: Not even close.

Q: What about Victor Oreskovich?
A: Yeah, he’s up there. Bolduc is for sure a redhead. Yeah, we have a few. I think that’s what makes us a good team.

Q: Do you have private meetings to discuss your redhead superpowers?
A: Yeah, all that. Absolutely. We go for redheaded dinners.

Many thanks to Daniel for speaking with us. Best of luck next season.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ryan Kesler Interview - 2011 NHL Awards

Last month we caught up with Vancouver Canucks Selke winner Ryan Kesler at the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas to discuss hip hop, stick flex, weight loss, and interview bombing. These are his stories.

Q: I understand you’re responsible for some of the music during the Canucks pregame warmup skate?

A: Yeah, that’s true.

Q: Did you select the track that starts it off every night, Jay-Z’s "Public Service Announcement" from the Black Album?

A: Yeah.

Q: Do you control the jukebox in the locker room as well?
A: Yeah, as well.

Q: What do you like to line that up with?
A: Ah, Luongo likes house music before games so I throw a little of that in. And I like my hip hop stuff, so we mix it up a little bit.

Q: Talk about your experience in the Stanley Cup Final.
A: It's still hard to swallow now. In the next couple of weeks we're going to look back and realize we had a great season, and we came one game away. Obviously it wasn't our goal to come one game away. We wanted to win. But we did a lot of things as an organization that we've never done before. Time heals all wounds, right?

Q: How much weight did you lose during the playoff run or was it stable the whole time?
A: It drops a little bit, not too much though.

Q: Did you experiment with stick flex during the playoff run? I’ve heard some players go with a softer stick as the season gets longer.

A: No. I went with the same one and it worked out.

Q: Any interview bombing plans for the NHL Awards this evening?

A: You never know. Maybe.

Many thanks to Ryan for speaking with us. Best of luck next season.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Roberto Luongo Interview - 2011 NHL Awards

Last month we caught up with Vancouver Canucks three-time Vezina, two-time Pearson and one-time Hart finalist, and 2011 Jennings winner Roberto Luongo at the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas to discuss pregame preparation, teammate Cory Schneider and the Boston Bruins backstop Tim Thomas. These are his stories.

Q: What goes through your head during the singing of the anthems while you’re rocking back and forth before the game begins?

A: You know, just trying to stay warm I guess. Thinking about my game and making sure that I’m thinking about what I need to do to be successful on the ice. Just trying to stay active and not worry about feeling a little bit cold or what not.

Q: What about those kids that participate in the Canucks warmup and line up next to the players during the anthems?
A: They’re awesome.

Q: Is it distracting to have a toddler out there on the ice with you?
A: No, not at all. I think every time it’s been a goalie I’ve had a pretty good record. Maybe next year I’ll try to have one every game.

Q: I noticed one of the goalies that lined up next to you was wearing a Chicago Blackhawks jersey.
A: Yeah, I think it was against the Blackhawks. So it might have been in the playoffs. That would have been ironic.

Q: Talk about the importance of Cory Schneider to the Canucks?
A: It’s huge. He had a fantastic year. Every time he played he gave us a chance to win. He has a bright future ahead of him. He's going to be a superstar in this league. I was happy to have a partner like that and hopefully that will continue.

Q: Have you had a chance to chat with Tim Thomas this week?
A: We spoke briefly. He's a great goalie. I have a lot of respect for him and the talent that he has.

Many thanks to Roberto for speaking with us. Best of luck next season.

* See also Today In NHL History - Luongo's Playoff Poop.
* See also Today In NHL History - Luongo's Stick Gets Stuck.
* See also Today In NHL History - Luongo Trade (FLA-VAN).
* See also Today In NHL History - Luongo Trade (NYI-FLA).
* See also Roberto Luongo Interview - 2009 NHL Awards.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Michael Grabner Interview - 2011 NHL Awards

Last month we caught up with New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner at the 2011 NHL Awards in Las Vegas to discuss being traded by the Canucks, waived by the Panthers and nominated for the Calder Trophy all during a 10 month span. These are his stories.

Q: What memories do you have of your time with the Vancouver Canucks?
A: Good memories. I was drafted by Vancouver in the first round. I had some great years there with a lot of good people. And my time in Winnipeg, I’ll always remember we went to a finals there. The first goal I scored in Vancouver was my first NHL goal. I got my first playoff goal there too. It’s a time I’ll always remember. I’m grateful for what they did for me. Being traded is part of the job so I have no hard feelings. You just move on.

Q: How did you find out that you were being traded? Had that been discussed as a possibility?
A: It was during the summer and I was back home. My agent called me and I knew they wanted to get some defensemen so they’d be stronger on defense. It’s like I said, it’s part of the job. I didn’t have any hard feelings. I just tried to get ready for training camp in Florida.

Q: What happened in Florida?
A: I felt good coming into training camp. I felt I was in good shape. I just had a poor showing in the preseason and didn’t play my game. I didn’t do what I had to do. It’s my own fault. I should have played better. I didn’t really play my game. I got away from it. When I got picked up by the Islanders, I tried not to look back and just give it all I have.

Q: Talk about the struggles of the young and talented Islanders.
A: Yeah, they struggled at the beginning of the season. But from December on, we were pretty high up there in points. So I think it was a good experience for us to live through the ups and downs we had. We started to play some solid hockey towards the end of the season. Now we need to build from that and take a step forward, not a step back.

Q: What was the biggest difference for you between the Islanders, Panthers and Canucks? Was it just the opportunity to get playing time?
A: Yeah, Vancouver had a stacked team. We had some injuries in New York and that gave me the opportunity to get out there, get ice time, start to develop my game and get everyone used to me. After December I started playing pretty good and just tried to keep on going.

Q: Did you watch the Canucks during their playoff run this year?
A: Yeah, I watched most of their playoff games. I watched the Finals a lot. It was a lot of good games they had. They just came up a little bit short.

Q: Do you keep in touch with any Canucks?
A: Yeah, I texted Luongo a couple of times, Bieksa, I saw Kesler at the All-Star Game. I was there for four years at training camp and stuff so you get to know them pretty good. All the guys are pretty good. They were good teammates.

Q: What did you say to Luongo when you texted him?
A: I just told him after the Chicago series, after they finally got past them, just to keep on going. He’s a great goalie and he’s really competitive.

Q: Do you train with anyone in the summer?
A: No, I just train back home. I usually come back early and go to Spokane where my girlfriend’s from and train there. Vanek and I are the only NHL players from my home town and I think he trains over here.

Many thanks to Michael for speaking with us. Best of luck next season.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mike Gillis Interview - 2011 NHL Awards

Last month we spoke with Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis at the 2011 NHL Awards about chirping officials, management philosophy, the season that was, and preparing for the season-to-be. These are his stories.

Q: In the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks you made a statement about the officiating.

A: Yes.

Q: With the benefit of hindsight do you regret making that statement?
A: No. I made what I thought was a factual statement at the time. You know, you can’t look back and regret things. We’re all competitors. We’re trying to compete as hard as we can. I don’t look back and regret those things. You try to learn from them and move on.

Q: Were you surprised that the NHL fined you for the comments?
A: I don’t know. I guess, yeah. I wasn’t surprised. No, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that. I mean, I didn’t really consider it at the time. The league felt it was an appropriate thing to do. In hindsight I agree with them and we moved on.

Q: How do you build a team that can respond to varying officiating standards throughout the season and playoffs?
A: Well we designed our team around being the best possible team and I’m not going to deviate from that because of one opponent or one circumstance. We’ve played every team in the league and were successful. The circumstances are what they were. We didn’t win the 7th game. You know, you can look back at a lot of reasons why we didn’t win the 7th game or didn’t play as well as we might have.

We had a lot of injuries. That’s not an excuse it’s just the way the NHL playoffs go. The healthiest team at the end of the day may be the team with the best opportunity to win. So, I‘m not going to comment any further on the officiating. Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson.

Q: Talk about the management team you’ve built in Vancouver.
A: It’s all about people. I’m incredibly fortunate. I’ve got three people I talk to every day in Lorne Henning, Laurence Gilman and Stan Smyl. They’ve got years and years of experience. We don’t make any decisions without everyone’s input. We have great young people that we’re developing that we include in the process as best we can. We have a very open environment where people are encouraged to say what they are feeling and what’s on their mind, and it’s never held against them. So, I’m very proud of the accomplishments we’ve made. I’m proud of the people that work with us. I still think that as we evolve we have an opportunity to continue to get better, so I hope that’s the case.

Q: Do you have a management philosophy?
A: I do. I came with that. I don’t believe in being in isolation. I don’t believe in making decisions in a vacuum. I don’t believe in going off and doing my own thing. We make all of our decisions as a group. I think it’s a healthy environment and at this point I can’t argue with the results. You know, it’s difficult to maintain those environments so we have to work very hard at it everyday to encourage it, foster it, and allow it to grow.

Q: Does your philosophy about group decision making include the coaches?
A: That includes the coaches but there are some decisions that the coaches don’t necessarily want to be involved in. They are very focused on the next day and what’s happening directly with the team. We give them autonomy as well. We let them run our hockey team and coach it the way they see best. In the clear light of day we have discussions about it but we allow them the autonomy to coach the team.

Q: What level of interaction do you have with coaches and players during the playoffs?
A: Oh, everyday.

Q: What do you talk about with them?
A: Not players necessarily, other than just being around. We talk about lots of different things. We talk about how to relax, how to stay balanced, what the lineup is going to look like, what we need to do to improve, how to make changes in the course of a series. You know it’s one of those things where you have to keep thinking all the time. The moment you stop thinking and hoping that you’re going to get a result is the moment when you begin to fail. So we try to think and work our way through different problems that we’re facing and hopefully we’re successful at the end.

Q: You recently remarked that your skill set as a former player agent would make it easy to get deals done with other agents in a short period of time. What are some of the more difficult tasks you have as a GM that maybe you didn’t develop as a player agent?
A: Well working with a lot of people, you know, having a lot of moving parts. I ran my own business and ran it a certain way. So other than being at a large law firm, which I was at earlier in my career, I didn’t have a whole lot of experience in working with multiple layers of people where they have multiple layers of responsibilities. I’ve been fortunate to have good people around me that have helped with that process. So that’s been maybe the biggest learning curve for me.

Q: Have you spoken with other GMs that have taken their team as deep as yours about how to best manage the short summer before your players are back at training camp?
A: Not yet. We’ll see everyone at the Draft this weekend. I’ll have a chance to catch up with some of the guys. I haven’t had that opportunity yet.

Q: Do you have any mentors or strong relationships with other NHL GMs?
A: Yeah, I have a lot of strong relationships. Other guys have asked me for different advice about what it was like to be an agent and how they thought. And I’ve asked them for advice about operating teams and their philosophy. So there’s a number of people I know I can ask questions of and get answers.

Q: What lessons did you take from this past year and what are you going to do over this short off-season to prepare the Canucks for next year?
A: Well I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons this past year. We didn’t let anything that happened in the past effect us moving forward. So every day, we don’t look at what just happened, we look at how to get better the next day. And if we continue with that process I think we’ll be OK. We have to get our players healthy and ready to play. We have a lot of depth. We have a lot of good young players and they’re going to get opportunities. I hope we’ll be OK. Maybe we’ll have a slow start, I’m not sure. I hope we’ll be OK.

Q: What are the next steps for the Canucks?
A: We have to get back to the final round. You know, there is so much success built on failure and understanding what it takes to get that little bit extra as an organization. There is a ton of material out there about how you have to fail before you succeed. I'm hopeful we can keep our players together and have another opportunity to push through again and get to the Stanley Cup.

I think there are some areas that we're going to try and focus on this summer. We'll change the role of certain players that we need to focus. We need to have some younger players get the opportunity to play. We have a couple of ideas. I'm happy with this group, I don't think you can argue with the results for the most part. I think we need to keep getting better as a group. If we do that we will have an opportunity to go far.

Q: Your coach Alain Vigneault received a Jack Adams nomination for the second consecutive year. Talk about his accomplishments this season.
A: Well we had the best powerplay, were second in the league in penalty kill, led the league by a fairly wide margin in points and got to the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Final. So that’s a pretty good coaching job in today’s NHL. To be the top of the league in goals for and bottom of the league in goals against I think it’s quite an accomplishment. I think he’s very deserving of the nomination and I would certainly vote for him myself if I could. But I don’t have that choice.

Q: How does it feel to be named GM of the Year?

A: Well, I don’t know. It’s great I guess. It’s nice. I appreciate it. But I’d trade it anytime for a Stanley Cup.

Q: When do you get to take a vacation?
A: I don’t know, we’ll see. Maybe after July 15th for a few days. I’m not sure yet.

Many thanks to Mike for speaking with us. Best of luck next season.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Alain Vigneault Interview - 2011 NHL Awards

Last month we caught up with Vancouver Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault at the 2011 NHL Awards to discuss beating the Blackhawks, losing to the Bruins, and the struggles of Keith Ballard. These are his stories.

Q: Describe the feeling of beating the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime of Game 7 after meeting them in the playoffs for the third year in a row. Was it just a relief? Did you think your job was on the line?

A: Well, I knew I was in my window without a doubt. I do think that when we lost to the Blackhawks in the two years prior they were the better team. Sometimes the better team doesn’t win all the time but they were the better team. This year we were the better team but for whatever reason for in the 4th and 5th games we didn’t play well and they took a little bit of the momentum. In the 6th game we played really well in Chicago and should have won, but we lost in overtime. I was confident going into Game 7 and we got it done in a dramatic way. They’re the defending Stanley Cup champions and they have some great players there. That’s why it was such a tough series.

Q: Knowing what you know now about the Boston Bruins what, if anything, would you change heading into a best-of-seven series with them?
A: Nothing, really. We didn’t know much about the Bruins because we don’t see the teams out East. We knew they were a great team and we knew they were going to play real hard. And that’s what they did. At the end of the day we took them to a 7th game. I think overall, we played real well at home except the last game and they played real well in their building. That’s hockey. Sometimes there’s not a lot separating teams. It’s a play here or a play there. And in the final game they made more plays than we did.

Q: With some distance from the Stanley Cup Final can you appreciate some of the positives from this past season?
A: Yes and no. If you look at the big picture there’s lots to be happy about but our goal was to win the Cup and we didn’t do it. I do think, though, for us it’s a step in the right direction. To get the number of points that we did you have to be the better team on the ice most of the time. So our guys did that. We got through three rounds and came up short in the last one. But with the accountability and type of people we have in our dressing room, we have a lot of confidence that we can get right back to where we were and this time make it a good one.

Q: What impressed you most about the Canucks this season?
A: The whole team effort. The whole group wanting more responsibility and more accountability, and then going out and taking charge. They did a real responsible job. They wanted it, they worked for it, they came close, and I think we’re going to be that much more motivated and focused for next season.

Q: Talk about rehabilitating a player like Keith Ballard, someone that’s signed long term and is not finding a regular spot in the lineup.
A: You know, its unfortunate. When Keith came to us last year he was injured. He didn’t have a full summer of training. He’s got that this summer, he knows the environment, and he knows the expectations within our group. He’s a young man that’s got a tremendous amount of hockey upside and he’s a great person. I’ve never had any issues with Keith Ballard the person. As a player, obviously it took him a little while to find his groove and his comfort zone. I’m very comfortable that we can get both the person and the player together next year and he’ll be a big part of our team.

Q: Talk about how you deal with the media and some of the games they play misquoting a player or coach to create a controversy where perhaps none exists.
A: It’s not hard. Our players aren’t worried about what’s going on externally, it’s what ‘s going on in our dressing room. The media have a job to do and I would say for the most part they are very professional. It doesn’t effect our group at all. For example, this notion that you can’t win in Canada because there’s too much going on is wrong. Are you telling me the New York Yankees can’t win baseball games with all the attention they’re getting over there? You know, being in a Canadian city and a Canadian market with the scrutiny of the fans and the media and the high expectations, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I think our players wouldn’t want it any other way either.

Many thanks to Alain for speaking with us. Best of luck next season.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Barry Trotz Interview - 2011 NHL Awards

Last month we spoke with the Nashville Predators' first and only head coach Barry Trotz at the 2011 NHL Awards about his playoff series against Vancouver, home ice, diving and realignment. These are his stories.

Q: Talk about your second round series against the Canucks, specifically the challenges of matching up against the league’s top offensive and defensive team.
A: I just thought there were some terrific matchups. Shea Weber on our side was a real top candidate in the playoffs and did some great things. Ryan Kesler had a series that a player dreams about, very Mark Messier like. I thought that Alain’s team did a real good job of containing us offensively and I thought we did a good job of containing them offensively. It became sort of a low scoring grind-it-out type of series. And you know, they deserved it. We weren’t able to win at home which was a surprise because we’re typically a very strong home team. Then we won two games in their building where they’re extremely good as a home team. So it was very close. I mean, if you get a break here or there it might have changed the series for us. But they ended up being the better team. We had our crack at them.

Q: Despite your difficulties at home during the Vancouver series, describe the meaning of home ice for the Nashville Predators.
A: The meaning of home ice is huge. To me, our building is the loudest building in the league, 17,113 in there screaming. What’s amazing about our building is the fans have a great way of forcing us to bring our game to the next level. During TV timeouts, they’ll give us a standing ovation. I mean, it is very hard not to press on harder because you don’t want to disappoint - it’s so spontaneous, it’s so good. I think our market has grown immensely in the last 13 years. It’s a real strong market right now and I think it’s going to get better and better. We’re developing new hockey fans all the time.

Q: Discuss the culture of diving in the NHL and its apparent increase during this year’s playoffs.
A: Well, there are so many teams that are so close. Everybody’s trying to get the advantage. I believe the team that plays the best is always going to win and you don’t have to try and trick the referees. It just hurts the integrity of the game and goes against the culture. Now that you have replays and different camera angles you can see it all. No one wants to be put in a bad light, especially the referees. I think we should protect the referees and let the team that plays the best decide who wins the hockey game and not a phantom call a player gets because he takes advantage of a referee's bad angle and pulls a 'chicken wing' - by the way, I labeled that and should have put a claimer on it because everyone is starting to use it.

Q: What’s the missing piece of the puzzle for the Nashville Predators?
A: We’ve got to establish a little more of an offensive presence upfront. We need to develop a couple of forwards or get a couple of forwards. I don’t think we’re that far off. A lot of people say we need three or four guys, I think we’re two away. I mean, look at teams that are in the Finals. Defensive teams are in the Finals. This year the top two defensive teams in the league were in the Final. We were third in the league in defense and our goaltending stacks up with anyone in the league. We just need to develop a couple of forwards. If we get Matthew Lombardi back, that’ll be real huge to our offense, hopefully. Alexander Radulov could be the difference for us, maybe. I don’t know.

There are so many teams that are so close. For us it’s about maintaining the core. A lot of people forget that the Detroit Red Wings had ten really tough years that were followed by ten years of great success. Sometime you have to swallow those bitter pills. We swallowed a bitter one in Chicago last year but we were much more mature and better to handle the situations this year. So for us it’s just a little bit of growth. We’re a young team. We need to create a little bit more upfront offensively without losing our defensive mindset, in terms of being able to check really well defensively, and just keep growing.

I think we have a really resilient group, a great captain, and a great organization that is committed to winning. We’re through the tough times of just trying to survive. Our market is growing. We’re generating a lot more revenue as an organization and we’re spending that revenue. That’s just going to make us even better.

Q: In light of the recent relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg and possible realignment of the league, if Nashville became part of the Southeast Division how would that change how you develop your team?
A: That would be a good question. That would be something I’d have to look at. We’ve spent a lot of time developing an identity and a culture. I don’t think we need to change. I would have to spend a lot of time dissecting the East a lot more. When you only play them twice a year you don’t really dissect them. I can give you an hour on the Detroit Red Wings with my eyes closed because we’ve played them so many times. That would probably be the learning process again. I think what we’d do is maintain our identity and play the way we do and then try to dissect the other teams a lot better than we do right now because we don’t play them.

Many thanks to Barry for speaking with us. Best of luck next season.