Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 04/24/08 at 06:07 PM ET
On today’s NHL conference call for the media, the guests were Buffalo Sabres’ coach, Lindy Ruff, and Nashville Predators’ coach Barry Trotz. The coaches were invited to help preview the semifinal round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Here is the transcript from the Q&A.
Q. I wanted to ask you both, if you were to make a pick here of the final four teams in each conference, why wouldn’t you pick the team that did best against your own team? For instance, Buffalo did well against Montreal and Philly but 0-4 against both Pittsburgh and the Rangers. Nashville did well against Detroit and Colorado but 0-4 against San Jose, and 3-1 against Dallas.
BARRY TROTZ: I think from a standpoint of when we play teams, we’re built a little different than some other teams. I think when you look at the match-up, say of Detroit-Colorado, I know the strengths of Colorado when we played them, and I’m also very familiar with Detroit. So when I look at those two things I think where can a team like Colorado exploit Detroit the most?
And, you know, that’s why I think when we look at some of the teams, you don’t always pick Detroit to beat Colorado or it might go the other way. That’s from our standpoint. I think just because you know where your team stands versus a team that’s in the Playoffs in terms of the style, lineup and in personnel.
LINDY RUFF: I think I totally understand where you’re coming from with the question. Obviously, there were some team that’s we struggled with. I just feel that playoff experience from past memories, and I think it was proved to its fullest in the first round here was the fact that a lot of teams pushed the envelope as far as they could. And there were no gimmes.
I think when you get playing the same team night-in, night-out, back-to-back games, the opponents and the subtle adjustments that are made, it is a very slim advantage. There are some things that you have to take advantage as a team. There are some adjustments you have to make.
But I wasn’t surprised by what went on. I would find it extremely hard to pick who would come out of the either the East or the West, because all of the teams involved deserve to be in this round and have had hard-fought victories to get here.
I don’t that I would pick an opponent that we struggled against or played well against. In the East, all four teams have certain strengths that they’ll try to play to.
Q. I know before the playoffs started you said you might have trouble watching more than a period or so. Did you find you had that trouble or were you able to watch more games than you anticipated?
LINDY RUFF: No, not at all. I’ve actually watched night in and night out, which is different. But I’ve really been intrigued with the different series. Probably the series I spent the most time watching was Dallas and Anaheim. You know, I wanted to know what the previous Stanley Cup champion was doing, and just to see how well Dallas was playing.
I mean, they were a team that we stepped into their building and maybe played one of our better games of the year after struggling for a while. But to see how they shut down, limited the opportunities, limited the shots, I thought it was pretty impressive.
I’m very curious in the East with the teams that played more high-tempo, offensive-type of games. The Phillie-Washington series, you know, caught quite a bit of that. And Montreal-Boston was another series I spent quite a bit of time watching, because Boston was basically a surprise team. I think they even surprised Montreal with the fact that they got them to seven games. And any time you get to seven games you have a chance to win.
So I spent a lot of time watching, and I’m going to spend, coming up, I’m going to spend time watching the next series.
Q. Today Jason Pominville was named to the finals for the Lady Byng. Just your thoughts on the fact that this shows the people around the league are starting to get more respect for him?
LINDY RUFF: Yeah, I think it’s well deserved. If there is a guy that played the game hard and plays it in all areas of the ice, and is a classy guy off the ice as well as the way he plays on the ice, it is very well deserved.
Now I think that the recognition he is getting is something that probably is late in coming, but now he is getting recognition for the type of player he is.
Q. Could you maybe go over what you consider to be the biggest surprises of the first round, either players that surprised you or trends among the playoff series that surprised both of you?
BARRY TROTZ: Well, I think probably a couple things that surprise me is how many teams went to the seven-game mark. Just because of the fact that I thought that once the team gets a little bit on a roll—a good example was the Montreal-Boston series—how teams were able to get back and take it to seven games. You saw that with Washington. Little bit of that surprised me. I thought both those teams had a pretty good strangle hold. I didn’t think it was going to go seven games probably just like everybody else.
I was surprised at the level of the goaltenders in the playoffs. It’s always a concern that, you know f you don’t have a goaltender that can you win. But there have been a lot of surprise goaltenders that have stepped up. I was looking at how Tim Thomas might step up. I thought he did very well. You see it in the West as well as guys trying to step up, and if Theodore would continue having the season that he did, so.
And also looking at players that really step up in the playoffs are the type of players that are successful in the playoffs is always what I’m looking at.
LINDY RUFF: For me, it started in the east. I thought the fight that Boston put up, especially getting down and then coming back and pushing it to Game 7. I thought with Montreal, because they were pretty good at locking it down and pretty tight defensively. But Boston surprised me in that sense.
The Phillie-Washington series, I thought that was exactly what I thought it was going in, which was going to be a lot of chances, lot of excitement. Two teams that really wanted to fore-check hard.
I think for me the series I watched the most was the Dallas-Anaheim. I was surprised at just how well Dallas played defensively. The number of opportunities, they limited the number of shots. How well their power play did early on against Anaheim when Anaheim was first trying to play a very physical series, so.
And I guess throwing in that was Turco, who, I thought, played extremely well. Didn’t make a lot of mistakes in that series, so, those were the surprises for me.
Q. Marty Biron had never played a playoff game in Buffalo, and there were concerns he might not be up to playoff hockey. Do you feel he answered the question in the Washington series?
LINDY RUFF: I think he did. I think he answered it loud and clear, even in Game 7 where he didn’t make any mistakes. You know, I really feel that that’s an important step for them. I thought there were times in the series he had struggled a little bit.
But, I think getting that playoff experience, getting, you know, the road experience and the home experience, which I feel is different for goaltenders. And then to face the pressure of a Game 7 on the road and to play as well as he did, I think he’s answered the call.
Q. This is kind of interesting, both Dallas and San Jose went 1-3 in their own building against the opponent. Fairly close in goals. Dallas outscored San Jose. But do you see anything that we can draw from this information? Or is there season ending finishes where San Jose didn’t finish so well, and Dallas didn’t finish so well, is that important or is that just the playoffs?
BARRY TROTZ: Well, you’re always looking into that. I actually thought that teams that come in a little bit on a high, I thought San Jose had been on a roll for the last quarter of the season, and really weren’t pressured in any situation in terms of having those hard games to go through.
I actually predicted that they’d lose Game 1 against Calgary just for that very fact. Then they sort of got their feet under them. Had the desperation, played very hard, and ended up winning the series.
I think how they played at home on the road during the year, I think it says a little bit maybe you relax a little bit more at home. You know, those teams maybe expected when they had very good teams, they maybe relaxed at home a little bit. The road teams went into Dallas and hadn’t had a lot of success for probably a number of years. And this year we had a lot of success, actually in Dallas, and for the most part in terms of generating stuff and winning hockey games.
I think they tend to relax a little bit at home and when they’re on the road, I think they had a very specific game plan. They weren’t trying to put on a shoe. I think they stayed to their game plan the whole night and played the way they were capable of, especially on the road. Especially San Jose this year.
Q. It’s the fourth straight year, I think I heard, Barry, in the first round. Can you just talk about how frustrating that’s getting to be doing interviews and conference calls like this instead of still being at it?
BARRY TROTZ: It’s a little frustrating, obviously. We’ve met Detroit twice and San Jose twice. In terms of the match-ups, they’ve been a little bit tougher match-ups. Every time we go into a series, we’re more prepared for going to the next level. Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten that. It gets a little frustrating, no question.
At the same time, if you’re knocking on the door enough, sooner or later, you’ll bust through that door. I know a few teams that have had to go through that, I think, from that standpoint. Teams do that from different levels.
San Jose’s trying to go deeper, for instance. They get to a certain level, and they’ve stumbled and trying to breakthrough that barrier. Just like us, we’ll have to breakthrough that barrier.
This year was a little different with our team sort of retooling in a different way, and getting in was something that we pride ourselves on in getting to the playoffs. Now, obviously, we’ve got to get to the next level. That’s where we’re going to be judged from now on to get to the next level. So it’s another challenge that we have to go forward.
But for a team, we’re one of only seven teams that have made the playoffs in the last four years. So we’re doing a lot of things right, but we’ve got to get to the next round.
Q. A lot of coaches play the players when they don’t have playoff success. Yet you defied the odds and got a contract extension there. Could you talk about what it is with your organization and the relationship with management that’s kept you there all these years?
BARRY TROTZ: I think number one is we’ve got a really good relationship between, you know, all our staff. Be it from our scouts like through to our coaching staff and management. We recognize we still have a lot of holes to get to the next round.
As a team, every time that we try to build a team, we look at the types of players that we’re going to need, also the types of players that we can afford. We, for the most part, we’ve done it basically with the four below, most years. A lot of times when we say we need this player, a lot of times that player is a little bit out of sight in terms of the monetary value we can put out.
But, hopefully, that will change with new ownership and renewed energy in Nashville. I think the city’s really rattling, and especially the corporate sponsorship will really help our hockey club.
Lot of times we want to build those championship teams, but we haven’t been able to because we have to do it a little bit on a shoestring budget. But at the same time we’ve prided ourselves in being one of the team that’s can get to the playoffs. Not very many teams can do that year in and year out.
Q. Do you feel lucky you can do that with such patient ownership?
BARRY TROTZ: I think the new ownership. I think we’re realistic in a lot of our expectations with our club. I have a really good relationship with David Poile. He trusts that we still do a good job, and that’s why we’ve been around.
I think that’s the same situation as Lindy. Lindy’s been around. They trust he’s a good coach. He’s got a good staff and they’ve built a good culture there. I think that’s what we’ve done in Nashville. And that’s probably why we have longevity is that we have put up resumes where, in fact, we’ve done well with our hockey teams with what we’ve been given.
Q. Lindy, this is kind of for you but also for Barry, and Barry touched on it in his previous comments. You two are the longest tenured coaches with the same teams, currently. In a sports world where coaches seem to change in every sport on almost an annual basis in a lot of ways, what do you think, Lindy, is the key to success? The Predators have gone through ownership change in this series, and the Sabres went through a bankruptcy. What is the key to being a long-serving coach in the NHL?
LINDY RUFF: Well, I think first and foremost is being realistic with expectations and some of the stuff we’ve gone through from ownership and where our team was at pre-lockout, post-lockout, and where our team is at this year. We also have a strong relationship from the top down, you know, as coaches go and ownership. Everybody has to be on the same page.
I think there has to be a certain amount of trust that everybody is working hard to get the job done, and understands that in some ways all our roles are different. We’re trying to get the same thing accomplished and that is to try to build a winning team and win a Stanley Cup.
Q. Anything you want to add to that? There is always that belief that, you know, coaches get tuned out, and it just doesn’t seem to happen with you guys?
BARRY TROTZ: I think one of the things that I think Lindy is like me is we probably change it up every year. I always recognize—I just surround myself with really good people. I think the thing that we don’t have is that we don’t have big egos.
I give a lot of responsibility to a lot of people in our organization and expect them to get it done. I think by that you can change it up. I can be front and center a lot, but I don’t need to. I think I recognize that the players can tune you out. I think we have good relationships.
I look at our culture in Nashville, and it’s probably similar in Buffalo, is that by having some longevity, you have some stability. You have some expectations so people know what you want.
I look at players like David Legwand and Hamhuis and Suter and Weber, and they’ve all grown up with us. And so our trust factor as a coach to a player is very good. We know their families, we know how they react, and I think there is a trust in terms of the players trusting that we have their best interests in mind. We’ve built a culture in both places, and, by that, I think there is a lot of pride.
You talk about having a little bit of ties with your players; I think the players now really believe that it’s not like old school do as I say. You’ve got to work with them. They’ve got to be a part of your family, if you will, and your hockey family. And I think there’s that trust in Nashville.
That’s why I don’t like using the word we overachieved. Because that’s been used with our hockey team a few times. Other than playoffs, probably, we’ve played to our potential more nights than not, and that’s why we’ve been able to get in.
Like this year, lot of people didn’t think we were even going to get close to getting in, and we’ve defied the odds a little bit because of the fact that we have the trust of the players, I believe.
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