Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 10/29/07 at 10:54 PM ET
Today, Chicago Blackhawks’ players Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and their coach Denis Savard, were all made available for an NHL teleconference.
The complete transcript is available below.
Q Patrick, can you just talk a little bit about what sort of advice you’ve gotten from Denis Savard and how he might have changed your game a little bit or how he’s helped your game?
PATRICK KANE: I think coming in he really worked with me on like the structure of the game. Obviously there’s more systems up here in the NHL than in Junior where you go out and play. He kind of helped me with that stuff. And as a regular season came along he said go out there play your game, play what got you here. I’ve been doing that so far. It’s been working.
Q Jonathan, can you take us back to that highlight reel goal again and talk a little bit about what you were thinking and what you saw. Is it just reflexes and instinct, or did you see something that prompted you to make the moves you did?
JONATHAN TOEWS: Well, I definitely wasn’t seeing much. I don’t know. It was basically instinct. You’re coming through the neutral zone with a lot of speed. Just try to keep the puck away from the guys that I saw. And I guess caught the defenders a little flat?footed. Once they got closer I kind of got in there realized the goaltender was going to be out of his net a little bit. And I was able to get around him and find it up there.
Q Had you ever had a goal like that before even at the college level?
JONATHAN TOEWS: Yeah, if I go way back. But I don’t know. I don’t think so. It’s one of those things, you get a little lucky and you just go with it.
Q Wanted to ask you both as far as from the time that you guys were drafted and to this point now, just how much of a whirlwind has it seemed, has life seemed on and off the ice to be moving pretty fast for you guys?
PATRICK KANE: I think it’s been fun. Obviously a couple months ago I mean I’m graduating high school and getting drafted in the NHL and you don’t think it’s going to happen this fast where you’re playing in the league.
But you take it with what you can, and right now it’s been a lot of fun. How could it not be fun? We’re two young guys playing in the NHL at a young age, and it’s been the dream of our lives to do this. And we’re living the dream right now.
JONATHAN TOEWS: Answer the same question? Yeah, it’s been exciting. I think everything has happened pretty fast. And I know you come into the rink as a young guy your first year in the league, you come in the rink every day really pumped and ready to work hard, and I guess the biggest piece of advice that I’ve gotten from most of the veteran players is just almost take it easy and keep it on an even keel a little bit and it’s a long season and you don’t want to waste all your energy right away, I guess. So just things like that, trying to learn and take in and use them to be able to play better and perform better.
But right now it’s just we’ve been having a lot of fun playing hockey and that’s the bottom line.
Q Patrick, down here obviously Mike Modano being so close to having the all?time points record and as an American kid growing up, what was the impact that he had on you growing up as a hockey player?
PATRICK KANE: I guess he’s one of those players you watch and he’s a fun player to watch obviously because he’s so explosive and he controls the game a lot. So it was definitely fun for me to watch, especially an American guy that you can kind of look up to. So I met him this summer out in New York, and he’s a really humble, great guy. And it was an awesome time meeting him and enjoying time with him.
Q Patrick, this is for you. It’s been kind of a whirlwind. And I wonder if you’ve had a chance yet to kind of reflect on these first 11 games, and is it what you expected it to be? Or is it completely different from what you expected it to be? Can you touch on that a little bit? Just what your expectations were and what you’ve realized so far?
PATRICK KANE: I think coming in from Junior, there’s definitely a little adjustment period, especially in preseason, where I might not have been playing my game or trying to take it easy a bit or something out there.
So I think as the regular season came along I figured I’m just going to play the game that got me here and play what got me drafted. But you say reflect on things, I think every day you kind of look back on the previous day and what happened and just enjoy the time we’re having up here. It’s unbelievable right now.
Q I was wondering if also I can get each one of you to talk about the other one. So Patrick, first, if you can talk about Jonathan a little bit and what about his game that you’ve seen so far has impressed you or maybe if it’s not just impressed you, surprised you?
PATRICK KANE: He’s really easy to play with, because he works so hard out there. I think it’s funny, like sometimes with myself, I really have to gear myself up to work hard out there and battle where it’s almost instinct for him, that he’s just going to battle every shift and it’s real easy for me because he just creates space out there.
When you put the work ethic with the talent together, just obviously there’s going to be great plays and he’s a great player. He’s very fun to play with. And I’m just enjoying it right now.
Q Jonathan, on the same front, I guess the same question about Patrick. What has surprised you/impressed you about him?
JONATHAN TOEWS: I think one of the biggest things, it was funny in the room the other day, we were going video. Coach Savard paused it right before Patrick was going into the corner. He asked Patrick how much he weighed. 165 pounds or whatever. He replayed the video. You see Kaner going in, smashing some guy who was basically twice his size.
Besides all the skill and just his patience and confidence with the puck and everything he does I try to go out there do the same thing he does it doesn’t work I don’t understand how he does it. Bottom line it’s intimidating the first while in the NHL the speed of the game, but for not being the biggest guy out there, he’s definitely not afraid. He goes out there and he makes plays. He’s a great player to play with.
Q Patrick, one more on that front. The size, was that ever a concern for you?
PATRICK KANE: I guess I got a lot of questions about that before the draft and after the draft. I kind of knew in my mind that it’s not really an issue because I don’t really play a big?sized game. I go out there try to make plays with the puck and everything. But I’m not going to muck it up in the corners or grind it out and just go out there and smash guys.
I’m going to bump guys and finish my checks and everything, but it’s not really the way I play. It’s just I don’t think it’s ever been an issue for me, and hopefully that will stay the same?
Q (Question in French)?
DAVID KEON: Can you give us the English version of that.
JONATHAN TOEWS: He was talking about the difference between college and the NHL. And I think obviously the level of play is a step up. But I think for me the biggest adjustment is just the amount of games and the preparation that you have. You only have, whether you have two games in three nights or a game every other night, you gotta ?? every time, every night you go out there and play right after the game’s over you’re thinking about the next game and how you’re going to get ready for it.
So I think for me that’s been something that’s been on my mind lately.
Q Jonathan, you grew up in Canada where most kids play Major Junior and Patrick played in the States where more kids played the college option. Yet you went in the opposite direction. I’m wondering, A, whether you just thought about going, in Patrick’s case, going to college, and Jonathan’s case, going to Major Junior, what factors pointed your decision to go the other way and how the decisions you made have affected your route to the NHL?
PATRICK KANE: I think for me I went to the U.S.A. program. Usually the players go to college and they commit to college at such a young age. So I thought I was going to not commit to a college too early because I didn’t really ? one didn’t stick out in my mind too much.
So I waited a while and I think that was a good move for me because some more options opened up and London pursued me pretty hard my under?18 year at the program. I went down there for a game, unbelievable game, down two goals with five minutes left, ended up coming back, won in overtime. You see the crowd there and everything is first class there in London.
So I thought it was a good decision for me. I thought it was time to move on and time to move forward and I thought it was a quicker route for the NHL for me.
Q Dale’s reputation as a coach and his experience, was that a factor in it?
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, I think so. He was obviously a great NHLer and you can learn some things, especially with Dave Gagner behind the bench. He was a NHLer too, and Mark Hunter. They definitely had some people there that could prepare you for the next level. I think I owe a lot to them there obviously. But you look at London and first?class organization, 9,000 fans every night, and that’s really all that goes on in that town is the London Knights.
Q Patrick, you just touched on going to the U.S.A. program. And I was curious how much playing in that, the National Development Program, helped ? you know, they call it a development team. How much did it help in your development now and do you take some of the ? still some of the lessons you learned there and apply them to your game now?
PATRICK KANE: Yeah, they cover everything from weight training to nutrition to on?ice little things. So I’d recommend the program to anyone. It was really good for me especially as a weaker, not more developed, kid where you’re in the weight room every day working out and especially with tough, long practices there too. It prepares you for a lot.
I know like up here in the NHL the practices are shorter and the workouts aren’t as hard as they are there. But it helps you develop at such a young age and like I said I’d recommend it to anyone.
Q Patrick, there’s got to be a few things that have surprised you through your first 11 games. What are the things on the ice that goes on right now that you’re finding yourself having to adjust to on a nightly basis? Is it the speed? The physical play? Any one of those things?
PATRICK KANE: I don’t think so much the physical play. You’re going to play against big guys wherever you are. I think obviously here they’re men and they’re stronger, but I think you just have to move your feet quicker. And I think you say the speed of the game, I think that’s been the biggest adjustment for me, definitely, because the players are still there, but they just develop so much quicker. So I think that took me a little time in preseason. And I’m really grateful for that preseason. I think it helped me play a lot of games and get ready for the level that I needed to be at in the regular season.
Q If I could go back, if Jonathan could talk about his experience, whether there was any pressure on him to play Major Junior and about his collegiate experience?
JONATHAN TOEWS: I think for me it all goes back to 14 or 15, I guess, and the Western Hockey League obviously they drafted players pretty young. And when I was drafted I think it was pretty obvious to me at that point I’d be moving on maybe as a 16?year?old playing the Western League playing Junior hockey, but when I was 15 I had a chance to go play Midget at Shattuck Saint Mary’s. It opened my eyes to the other side of things. Obviously my teammates and all my friends there were all applying to colleges and had commitments or were moving on to play college hockey. And I think I just got into that whole lifestyle where you go to school during the week and play games on the weekend.
And I got to see my first few college games in the WBCHA, Minnesota and North Dakota, and I think when it came down to making the decision, I think it was pretty much between playing in Tri City in the Western Hockey League or going to North Dakota. I think in so many ways North Dakota just seemed perfect for me. It was close to home. The coaching staff there everything looking for guys that played my type of game.
So I think it worked out great. The treatment I got in North Dakota was awesome, and I think the two years I spent there were very special. Obviously had a huge effect on where I’ve gotten to today.
An Interview with:
COACH DENIS SAVARD
Q Just wanted to ask you, obviously there’s ? I don’t think any coach ever minds having some youth on a team, just as far as being young in the body and everything. But at the same time, seems like there’s a fearlessness, sometimes, that comes with that youth. And is that a good thing to have on a team as far as these guys who just kind of go out and play and don’t think so much out there?
COACH DENIS SAVARD: Well, you know, it depends on the young players that you have. I think with ours that we have here up here with us now, even the kids in the minor leagues, they’re pretty mature, and that makes a big difference.
Example with Patrick and Jonathan, they’ve been well?coached throughout their lives, obviously, because we’ve added some things to their game, no question. Systems up here are a lot more probably a little different than the junior ranks or college ranks.
I think the programs they’ve been in, they’ve been well?taught as far as the work ethic. They’re young but at the same time they’re very mature. They understand the game very well and listen well, they’ve enjoyed it so far and they’ve played very well for us.
Q We’ll talk about Patrick first. When you’ve had a player who has had this much success this early, do you have a tendency to worry how success could change a player.
COACH DENIS SAVARD: No. Not with him. And neither would Jonathan. You know, they’re special people, number one. I think they’re the type of players that they want the ball and go with it. They want to run with it.
So they have great leadership skills in them, and they want to be the best. Not only once in a while, every night. And so far in 11 games we’ve played, I could tell you they’ve been the best players and most consistent, more important, on the games they’ve played for us so far.
Q With Patrick, Jonathan was telling a story before where you paused a video and asked how much he weighed before he went into the corner. That part of his game, his physical play obviously is going to come along. But to see him with that, it was mentioned before, the fearlessness, do you think that right there could help him turn into the real complete player for the long career, because he plays that way, plus he’s got the skill and talent to go along with it?
COACH DENIS SAVARD: Yeah, of course, my point that was to make a cross our team, he’s not a big fellow but at the same time his courage is tremendous. We’ve got to learn from that as a group, that courage and grit has to get better. It’s just a little example. I mean I find that for us to become the top echelon team, if your best player is doing it and everybody else should do it. That’s the message we gave our guys yesterday.
And the fact is, you know, it’s the ability also to move your feet to get there. It’s not just the fact of hitting the guy. The video was put on to show our guys that if you’re winning the forecheck, continue to move your feet, you’ll have a successful forecheck. If you don’t move your feet, it allows the other team time and space and also for them to break out of their zone. So that was more of the purpose.
Q Does it seem a little odd that you’re already calling him your best player.
COACH DENIS SAVARD: No, because he has been. Simple as that. He has been our best player every game, day in, day out. With Jonathan right with him, and Ruutu, that line has been tremendous. They’ve been the best players.
It’s a great thing to have, trust me. The direction we’re going as an organization we’ve added some veterans over the summer and we’re pleased the way our kids are going. We’ve got plenty of them down in Rockford that will be up either this year or next year.
Q I just want ? are you the perfect coach for Patrick Kane? Having been a small player yourself, do you think that you probably, that some other coach might not have put the same faith in him?
COACH DENIS SAVARD: Well, I don’t know if I’m the perfect coach for him. But I could tell you that his vision and his thinking on the ice, his creativity that he has, reflects a little bit how I thought when I played.
So that relationship that way is sure going to help him. But at the same time credit goes to him, because we give him a few things every day since training camp to think about, not to overload him with stuff. He’s applied those two things every day to perfection. That’s why he’s getting the results he’s getting in the games now.
And the fact that his work ethic is incredible, his will is unbelievable, and following structure is a big thing. And he’s done that.
Q I know that you and Bill Wirtz were quite close. Since his passing, do you sense there’s a different feeling around the fans there? I know that the fans were alienated because of different things, the TV thing, things like that. Do you feel there’s a fresher atmosphere in Chicago these days?
COACH DENIS SAVARD: I don’t know about fresher atmosphere. Number one thing is Mr. Wirtz, people that knew him, that were close to him ? and I’m sure you’ve met him a few times ? they’ll tell you he was a tremendous person. And if you have a problem, you’d be in trouble, he’d be the first guy to get there and help you out.
So is there a different feeling? I don’t know the fact that Mr. Wirtz’s no longer with us and his son took over. I think the feeling we’re getting in Chicago is they’re seeing a product with our young kids that’s going to be fun to watch for a long time. And that’s probably where we’re getting that different feeling now.
Q I was wondering, given that the group among your best players are so young, is your job different than other coaches around the NHL?
COACH DENIS SAVARD: Well, not really. You know, I mean we gotta win, that’s number one. Number two is I believe we can win. I mean even though we’re young and the veterans we have we acquired over the summer, as I tell our guys every day, in the middle of the slide we’re in we have to believe we’re in a good team because we are.
It’s just that we need to get everybody aboard. Night in, night out, shift in, shift out. I always use the example of a player, always told our players, if you give me 16 out of 25 shifts, 18 out of 25 shifts that are good, that’s 80%.
On the other hand, on games, some nights you’re going to have some guys who are going to give you 10 out of 23 shifts, which is about 40%. If I could get those guys to get to 50%, 60%, our chance to win is going to be tremendously more. That’s where we’re at with our situation here. And we’ve had two good solid practices last two days have been a little harder than usual, and hopefully that’s going to kick in on Wednesday in Dallas.
Q Do you consider yourself a coach that does go hard on his team.
COACH DENIS SAVARD: Well, if I have to be, I will be. I mean balance is great. That’s where I’m at. I think one of my strengths is communicating. My people skills I think are good. So that’s where I’m at with that. I understand because I was a player, and I know what players like and what they don’t like. So we’re trying to have a balance there somewhere so they keep everybody happy at the same time, more important keep winning.
Q From your perspective, how have the younger guys blended with the veterans on the team.
COACH DENIS SAVARD: I think first and foremost, I think the veteran guys love them. They bring lots of energy. And our tempo in the game is just by watching their work ethic in practice, by watching these kids go out and practice, it’s really been a big?time upgrade from when I was coaching last year with different team, obviously different people here.
But it’s been fun. I mean it’s been ? I wish I could be talking to you guys today be 8?3 or 7?4. But we could have been there. The last two games that we’ve lost, you know, we’ve outchanced the other teams pretty bad but just didn’t get the results. That’s all. We’ll continue to work and hopefully put something together here in the next couple of weeks.
Q The biggest adjustment these two guys, you were a player. You now coach. What do you think these guys are going through as their biggest adjustment from either college or the OHL to now being on NHL live.
COACH DENIS SAVARD: The biggest thing is it’s a lot quicker. Decision making is a lot quicker at this level. And I think they’ve adapted very well. Pretty much that’s what I see, from training camp on, actually from summer on, because see they were down at Prospect Camp. You could see with Patrick with his vision, and scoring ability that he has, and with Jonathan, his determination, you knew they had a big chance to be big?time players in this league.
And we didn’t expect them, honestly, to be as good as they are right now. But because of their determination and their will and the smartness, how smart they are, you know, how mature they are, it’s been fun coaching them. I mean they bring it every night. And that’s what’s so refreshing here.
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