Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 05/06/08 at 05:17 PM ET
Today the NHL hosted more teleconferences, featuring coaches Dave Tippett and Mike Babcock, of the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings.
Both transcripts from these Q&A’s are below.
Q. Coach, how do you prepare your team for a juggernaut like the Red Wings?
DAVE TIPPETT: We do a lot of things that are geared to what we want to do. We certainly want to play to our strengths. We always talk about you have to recognize your enemy. We have a very formidable enemy here. So you certainly have to know their strengths, what they’re trying to accomplish.
But we feel like if we stay to what we try to do, that’s the best way for us to have success.
Q. How are you physically up and down the bench?
DAVE TIPPETT: We’re pretty good. I mean, are you talking about injury-wise?
DAVE TIPPETT: We’ve got Boucher and Barnes are our only two concerns. Boucher skated today. He probably looks like he won’t be a player to start the series. Barnes didn’t skate today but was feeling better. So those will be the only two question marks going into the series.
Q. Wanted to get your thoughts on Johan Franzen’s performance, particularly against Colorado. What do you could as a head coach to try to shut him down going into this series here?
DAVE TIPPETT: He’s a big guy that creates a lot of space around the front of the net. The thing that I’m impressed with the most about him is his ability to find loose pucks, deflect pucks. It seems like I think he’s got 11 goals, probably half of them are on deflections or bouncing pucks. He’s a big guy that tracks down a lot of pucks and certainly have to be aware of him in front of the net.
Q. Sometimes we talk about players who lose confidence if things don’t go their way for a while. Given that the team has had trouble getting over the humps in the playoffs the last couple years, was there ever a crisis of confidence for you? If there was, how did you get over it, get beyond it?
DAVE TIPPETT: I think, you know, every experience is different. But what it is, I was fortunate my first year here, Bob Gainey was a consultant with us. He told me to just make sure your team, the regular season is to prove you’re capable of doing what you need to do in the playoffs. That’s been my philosophy every year. You get into the playoffs the first step, then what you do in there, you know, you try to give yourself a chance to win.
I feel like we’ve done that every year. We’ve had some situations where we would certainly like to have been better. But, you know, if you just keep knocking at the door, you’re going to get your opportunity.
This year some things have gone our way. The opportunity, you know, we’ve got some momentum going the right way. Every year, like I say, is different. You’re always disappointed when it doesn’t turn out the way you’d like it. But it doesn’t stop you from coming back harder the next year and trying to accomplish what your goals are.
Q. A couple of the guys that work with you have described your great patience. Have you ever sort of felt your patience wearing out or whether that’s been consistent, too?
DAVE TIPPETT: Well, there’s a fine line. I like to think I’m a very methodical guy. I like to think things out. But there’s certainly things where losing bothers you and if you’re in the business that I’m in, or a hockey player, losing just digs at you. So those are things you don’t lose patience. I look at it they make me more determined. Like I say, I take a very methodical approach to everything, very determined approach, make sure we’re well-prepared. When that doesn’t go well, it’s frustrating. But it just makes you want to do it that much more the next time.
Q. What would your reaction have been, in all honesty, had someone sat you down in March and said you’re going to have a pretty good playoff run, all you have to do is play Anaheim, San Jose and Detroit in the Western Conference?
DAVE TIPPETT: Bring it on. If we’re going to go up the food chain, might as well eat the best, right (laughter)?
You know, it’s certainly a challenge. But I think some of the play in March, like some of the adversity we face, was very good for us. Obviously bringing Richards in was a real plus for us. It took some time to get him integrated. I think some of that, you had to recognize where he was and leaving a team for the first time, coming to a new team, there was going to be some transition there.
But I look at it when the regular season ended, and Richards is a perfect example, it was like a new start for everybody. We got through March. We had some adversity. You know, Richards is a perfect example of it. We looked at it as the regular season was his first season with our team, and the post-season was going to be his second.
He’s come out and played that way. He feels like he’s part of the team. Our whole team has looked at it the regular season is done. Now we have a whole new time to, you know, prove ourselves. Those first couple games, I go back to those first two games in Anaheim. You go in. You know, as coaches, you’re trying to try to sell a belief system. If we do these things, I think we can be successful. But those first two games really opened our eyes and got momentum going for us.
You know, it doesn’t matter who you play in the playoffs, you’re going to play hard teams. But within our division, all the battles we’ve had to beat Anaheim and beat San Jose when nobody really gave us a chance to beat them was very gratifying. Now you’re coming against the No. 1 team in the league. So it’s great challenges for us. But I like what we’ve done so far. We’re very willing to accept the challenge.
Q. Back earlier in the season when the change in general managers was made, was it natural for you to think maybe your time could be up and that the next pink slip could be coming for you? Did that enter into the way you handled the team at all?
DAVE TIPPETT: No, you know, when you’re a coach in any professional sport, professional hockey, you get very thick-skinned to that kind of stuff. What it is, I think you have to be secure in what you’re doing every day, how your team is prepared, how they’re responding.
We didn’t get off to the start we wanted to at the start. But we were around a .500 team. I thought there were some factors that we didn’t play very well. We were just coming out of it. I think the change in general manager just happened at a time where I felt like the team was going to take off anyway.
So it was one of those situations where you just things fell into place. From my end, I never worry about the pink slip. If that comes, that comes. But I’m more worried about what I have to do every day to be successful. You have to have confidence in yourself. If you do that, things will go the right way.
Q. Did you have to change any of the way you approached the team, any of your tactics or systems to switch the team up a little bit, to change things around?
DAVE TIPPETT: Absolutely nothing. From one day to the next day was the same approach.
Q. Do you feel having a day off, brief layoff here, is good for the players, have an opportunity to see family? Does it provide that needed motivation moving forward?
DAVE TIPPETT: Well, it wasn’t so much about seeing family. We needed the rest. We played two games in one there the other night. So our group really needed a rest.
You know, it gives you a day just to catch your breath. With our travel back and forth between Anaheim and San Jose, it’s been—the travel, like we see all the time in our division, is long travel. The in between days around practice days, they’re travel days. To get a day where we can just catch our breath, today was a good day, prep day for Detroit. Go out to Detroit tomorrow and get ready for Thursday.
But when you finish one series, it just gives you a day or two to catch your breath, then move forward.
Q. I know you touched upon adversity a little earlier. Do you feel in order to gain success or appreciate that success, a team must go through its share of adversity?
DAVE TIPPETT: Well, I think that’s not a bad thing. What it does, the adversity usually brings out flaws. If you have places where you have weakness in your group or the way you’re doing things, that adversity sometimes brings those to light and they’re very fixable.
The team I had in the minors in ‘99, we won the championship, with we had very little adversity all the way through and were able to win a championship. There’s other teams that I’ve seen that have struggled and then you get in the playoffs and you get on a run and away you go.
You know, every team is different. But adversity certainly I think helps your group recognize any weaknesses you may have.
Q. Could you describe the effort level of Brenden Morrow in these two series?
DAVE TIPPETT: It’s been phenomenal. His determination and determination along with his skill set, he’s been the leader of our group. Obviously Marty Turco has played very well. But Brenden is a guy, when you see a player play that hard, play that determined, willing to do whatever it takes, whether it’s, you know, finding a big hit, blocking a shot, scoring a goal, whatever it takes to be successful, that’s very infectious within your group.
He’s our captain. Obviously when he plays like that, it’s pretty hard for guys to sit on that bench and say, Hey, I better adhere to that standard.
That last series, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a player play as well on a series or have as much of as impact on a series as Brenden has.
Q. Could you talk about this run that Franzen is on. Have you ever seen anyone take over a series like he did against Colorado?
MIKE BABCOCK: Obviously he’s been on a run for a good period of time. We’re fortunate to have him. He’s really come into his own over the three years he’s been here from basically going from a guy we thought was going to play in our minor league team to now being a significant factor on our team offensively, defensively, on the power play and the penalty kill.
Obviously in the playoffs you see guys like Brenden Morrow having a huge impact or Umberger having a huge impact or the Mule having an impact. Size and grit help out in offensive and defensive situations at this time of the year.
Q. When he’s as hot as he is right now, how much pressure does that take off guys like Zetterberg and Datsyuk?
MIKE BABCOCK: I think it’s real important in all the teams that are continuing to play. Every team is real good and every team is deep. You can’t do it with one group picking you up. Everyone’s got to pick you up. You got to spread the scoring out a little bit.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the chemistry that the Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Holmstrom line have? Sometimes great players don’t mesh well together. But right from the beginning Zetterberg and Datsyuk have worked well. When they’re going right, what is each of their roles on that line?
MIKE BABCOCK: That’s a good question. They like playing together because they got to back-check half as much. They always abuse each other all the.
The bottom line is they’re both real good offensively, both good defensively, great hockey sense, make plays, give-and-go, play with high pace. They’re real effective apart, when we play them apart and play them both in the middle. They’re real effective together. Whoever is winning faceoffs plays in the middle. The other guy plays on the left wing. They’re exciting players.
The thing we like about them is they’re so usable in all situations: up a goal, down a goal, last minute, first minute, power play, penalty kill. But they definitely share I guess hockey sense in the fact that they see it happening before most people do and they play, like I said, with pace.
Q. Has Datsyuk come the farthest in terms of his defensive play than any player that you’ve seen? When he first came up, nobody was talking about him as a great defensive player. Now it’s just a given.
MIKE BABCOCK: It’s just one of those things we believe in here. Your best player has to be good. You can’t be hiding him. I’m not interested in that. I want my best players on the ice. So we partway through last year made a point of making sure Z had the matchup some nights, then Pavel had the matchups some nights and Draper did. So we said they all had to be responsible. They all had to be able to kill penalties five-on-three and they all had to take big faceoffs. We just think that’s the way to go.
We’re going to do the same with Filppula. You have to be able to play against the best people. The same with the Mule. That’s our philosophy here. Scotty had that philosophy when he came here with Yzerman. That will continue to be our philosophy.
We don’t believe that you can play - well, you can - but if you’re playing against Ribeiro all night long and he’s not worried about your ability to score, he doesn’t have to play defense. When you play against these guys, he’s got to worry about playing both sides of the puck.
Q. Seems likes all four teams left now have faced adversity at some point during the course of the season. Do you believe that in order to appreciate success and maybe gain further success a team must go through its share of adversity?
MIKE BABCOCK: I’m a big believer in adversity makes you better in life in general, never mind just sport. To me I just look back at my first year in Detroit. We had none. We couldn’t lose even when we played bad enough to lose. Got in the first round of the playoffs, faced adversity, didn’t respond. To me when you’ve gone through it, you’ve had to respond, you’ve had to pull together…
The first thing I think when adversity hits, it’s so easy to always point the finger at someone else, not take responsibility. But when you’re in it and you pull together and you stick together as a team and you believe in one another and you find a way to make it happen on a positive side, that sets you up to handle it in the future. And I think that’s why adversity is such a great teacher.
Q. Is it possible to evaluate a team’s chemistry, for instance, whether it be a line, a team in general? How do you manage that chemistry?
MIKE BABCOCK: That’s a real good question. I think chemistry’s huge. But I also think sometimes we get involved with chemistry. Chemistry is a bunch of good guys that go for a beer together. I don’t buy any of that.
Chemistry in my mind is developed through paying the price for one another, sacrificing so you win. And the best chemistry is on the teams that win.
Now, maybe that’s why they win. Chicken or the egg. But the reality is you have to want to go to war for one another, you want to want to pick each other up. I believe the culture in our dressing room and in our organization is as good as anyplace in hockey. And I believe the leadership and the ability for them to look after each other on and off the ice is something we’re really blessed with here and something Ken Holland works at a lot. If you don’t fit, you’re not here any more. Maybe it doesn’t happen overnight, but over a year or two he’ll find a way to get you to play for someone else.
Q. Mike, why do you think it is that even now that you’re in the Stanley Cup semifinals that the Wings still don’t seem to get everyone’s level of respect? Some people picking Dallas. Do you think it’s because of the division you played in all year?
MIKE BABCOCK: I don’t know. Our division we played in all year, we were .500 in and we spanked the rest of league. So I think we should throw that out.
I think Dallas has got a heck of a team. I watched them play last round. I think you got two teams that are committed to playing with and without the puck, got good goaltending, can move the puck, have good forwards. You know, I don’t know if there’s much to pick between the teams.
You know, as far as respect goes, I think we get the right amount. I think we got great fan support. We are appreciated all over the league. We got people wearing our jersey all over. To me the experts, that’s the ones that work in Detroit, we always pick Detroit (laughter).
Q. Jose Theodore was a pretty hot goalie when you got your hands on him. He wasn’t after you were done with him. Marty Turco has been terrific for Dallas. What is your read on him?
MIKE BABCOCK: I think he’s really good, athletic, committed, growing up, calm, professional. What I mean by “growing up,” he’s been through it. You want to talk about adversity, this guy’s been through it. Their team’s been through it.
Tipp is a great coach. Been coaching in the league the same amount as me. I’ve coached against him many times. Their team is always prepared. And yet they’ve had some playoff years that didn’t go the way they wanted, much like we did my first year in Detroit.
To me they’ve grown through that and now they got to be feeling pretty good about themselves. Every team playing now, when you’re in the final four of hockey, you’ve done something. Every team feels good about themselves. Every coaching staff has done a real good job. Every management group has done a good job. We all have an opportunity to win. And that’s what makes it exciting, is we all believe we have a chance. And we’re close enough that we can taste it a little bit, yet it’s a long, long way away, as you know.
Q. Mike, curious. You alluded to your first playoff year in Detroit a couple times. How are you different? How are you a different coach this spring than you were then?
MIKE BABCOCK: Well, I think the first year, without any question, I had no idea when I got to playoff time how things were going to be different. What I mean by that is I’ve been in the playoffs in the NHL, but I didn’t know the expectations of the past were going to haunt us. And I couldn’t believe how we were paralyzed. I had no idea. I didn’t understand that.
A thing about our team, we weren’t, in our opinion, hard enough and we weren’t quick enough. We weren’t good enough. We had more points than any team I coached since, but we weren’t anywhere near as good as the next two years’ teams. I think it was a real eye-opener for all of us. Maybe not for all of us. I think Ken Holland knew what was coming. I didn’t.
And so I thought through the next year and even this year we’ve made adjustments as a team. We’re much younger, we’re much quicker, we’re much harder. That gives us a chance to play at this time of year.
As far as myself goes, I’ve learned a ton since I’ve been here. I’ve learned from Steve Yzerman, from Brendan Shanahan, from Nicklas Lidstrom, from all the players. But I learned a ton from Scotty, Jimmy and Kenny. I think when you’re around really good players and when you’re around winning and what’s right, you grow as a coach. And I believe in life to have success, you have to embrace lifelong learning. You have to get better in our business. If you don’t get better, I think someone’s got your job.
I think Scotty Bowman has been the best example of that in the NHL. So, you know, if you don’t grow, like I said, you don’t work. To me, I think we’ve all changed together and we’ve all gotten better.
Q. I remember last year at this time going into the third round your defense core was extremely depleted in terms of injuries. You almost kind of ran out of bodies. Looks like you’re healthier this time around. How much of a factor could you see that being going forward for the second month of playoffs?
MIKE BABCOCK: I think it’s huge. I mean, last year when we lost Kronwall, Lundqvist hit him just near the end of the season, and I remember just thinking, My God, there’s our playoff opportunity. Then when we lost Schneider, you didn’t even know if we’d win another game. But our guys really battled. We’re fortunate this year. We’re much healthier in the back end.
You know, no team is totally healthy. I had to laugh the other day when everyone is saying how healthy we are. They don’t see the ice packs and they don’t see the other stuff you’re doing pain killer-wise to get through.
But the bottom line is we’re in a better situation this year than we were last year. That doesn’t guarantee success. How much will and how much determination we have and how relentless we are is going to determine how long we play.
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