Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Alanah McGinley on 05/23/08 at 08:23 PM ET
From Media Day in Detroit, transcripts from the Q&As with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury
- Michel Therrien and Ray Shero
Crosby & Fleury
Q. Sid, I’m sure in your young days you battled through some road hockey games and pond hockey games all to play in the Stanley Cup Finals. But now it’s real. What are your thoughts?
SIDNEY CROSBY: It’s a great opportunity. And you play those games to win it, not just to get here. So it’s a great opportunity. And I think a lot of us feel pretty fortunate to have it. It’s not something that happens too often.
So really looking forward to it.
Q. Marc, you came off injury; you weren’t handed the number one job; you had to fight for it. Tell us about that.
MARC-ANDRE FLEURY: At first I think I didn’t really fight for it. Everything was going great. And the team kept winning even if I wasn’t there. When I came back I wanted to come back and play and help the guys if I could. And everything went well from there.
Q. Sid, you’ve been in big situations before whether it be World Juniors and whatnot. You’ve been in big spectacles before. This is the Stanley Cup Final. It is the biggest. What’s the challenge like of separating all the hoopla and the media responsibilities with getting ready to play the most important hockey of your life? How do you go about trying to divide those two up?
SIDNEY CROSBY: You know, it’s not too difficult. You know when you have this great of an opportunity and you realize how far you’ve come you don’t want to waste it because your focus is elsewhere.
I think for me personally I try to draw on those experiences, like you said, and see what worked and what didn’t. But the main thing is you just gotta focus on what you have to do and not trying to change anything.
Q. Sidney, you’re a big hockey fan even though you play in the league. And you watched a lot of hockey. Could you remove yourself for a second from where you are as a player, and is this as good as a final as far as the entertainment value and the skill on skills from both sides that you could have imagined this year?
SIDNEY CROSBY: Yeah, it’s a pretty good group for sure. You look at both teams and what they bring. You can look at the NHL awards and things like that that’s going to come up, you’ll see a lot of the same guys during the series at those. The two best teams in the playoffs are there. But at the same time individually there’s a lot of players I think that are pretty exciting to watch. So it makes for a great series for sure.
Q. Sidney, Kenny Holland a while ago called you the face of hockey in the U.S. Do you find that sort of thing a little, I don’t know what the right word is, intrusive or annoying, something hanging over you, a responsibility you don’t quite want? And at the same time have you cut back on all of the other marketing type things people ask you to do?
SIDNEY CROSBY: As far as the face of hockey, I don’t think I pressure myself to be that. I think I’ve always tried to be a good professional and tried to be a good role model. But I don’t think I let that hang on myself. I think there’s a lot of great players in this league and guys who can bring excitement to the game right there.
As far as the media stuff, I think in a way I’ve learned to say no a little bit more. I think that’s just something that I felt sometimes was necessary and you need to manage your time sometimes. And that’s been the case. I think I still realize I have a job to do as far as trying to handle interviews and things like that is concerned. But I think I’ve cut back a little bit for sure.
Q. This kind of matchup could be the one that maybe captures the attention of people that aren’t really hockey fans, just casual sports fans. Do you feel this could be the one that really maybe relaunches NHL into more people’s minds and things like that?
SIDNEY CROSBY: I have no idea. I guess that depends on a lot of things. But I don’t think as a player you can worry about that a whole lot. I mean you do your best to help your team win and I think that’s where most guys’ focus is. You can’t control the other stuff.
If that’s the case, then great. That’s great for the game. And great for everyone involved. But you’re here to play hockey and focus on that. And that’s really out of your control.
Q. Sid, a lot has been made of the differences, the average age, the 46-year-old Chelios and 37-year-old Lidstrom and 20-year-old Sidney Crosbys in the series. It’s one that gets focused on a lot in the Stanley Cup Final. In your mind, does the relative age difference between the two teams matter at this point?
SIDNEY CROSBY: I don’t think it does. I don’t think we’re putting a lot of thought into that. We respect their team no matter whether they have older or younger guys we have respect for their team. We can’t control the fact that we have a lot of young guys. That’s just the way it is. And we’ve shown I think time and time again in the playoffs that the adversity, we’ve responded well. And I think that’s the main thing.
I think that’s what experience shows you is how to react in adversity and new situations. But we’ve done a great job of doing that the whole year. So I don’t think that’s something we’re really putting a whole lot of thought into.
Q. Marc, Sid, coach just talked about how you guys have never really been nervous heading into any of the playoff matchups or games, always excited. What is it about this group that keeps you grounded and excited, focused not nervous or overanxious due to the stage you’re on?
MARC-ANDRE FLEURY: Maybe because we’re a little younger. Maybe we don’t know too much what we’re getting into. But at the same time I think everybody, when we step on the ice we’re also very confident. As for myself, I know even if I let a bad goal in, I know my teammates will come back and get a couple. So I think this is just confidence. It’s been good for us.
Q. Compare the game that you and Evgeni play to the game Zetterberg and Datsyuk play.
SIDNEY CROSBY: I’d say it’s pretty similar. I think all four guys are pretty responsible players. So we all obviously like to create things offensively but try to be responsible defensively as well. So I think we try to use our skill and speed and hands. But I would say it’s all pretty similar as far as those players.
Q. Sid, as you sit here, it’s been a week since you guys have had a chance to think about it, have you reflected on bus rides, you know, do you do those kind of things, reflect on past years of playing hockey and what got you here and all that stuff?
SIDNEY CROSBY: Not really. I think the more you try to prepare yourself for the situation, I think reflecting is more what you do after everything’s all said and done. For me personally that’s the way it is, anyway. And it’s more just a sense of preparation and making sure you’re ready and prepared for what’s to come.
But you just remind yourself that this is not something that comes along all the time and we want to make sure that you don’t think because you’re young it’s going to happen every year, every couple of years, whatever it may be. It’s a great opportunity to have to take advantage of it.
Shero & Therrien
Q. Ray, I know that general managers usually have a three-year plan or a five-year plan, but I’m assuming whatever yours was, you’re ahead of schedule?
RAY SHERO: Yeah, I’m definitely ahead of schedule. You know, two years and the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s not exactly - when I interviewed for the job in May of 2006, you’re always looking at five-year plans and three-year plans and coming off 58 points, I think it’s a testament for our coaches and players and the work that Craig Patrick and his group did to lay the foundation. It’s quicker than most of us expected but hopefully we’re ready and we’re going to be ready for Saturday night.
Q. When you think about a couple of years ago back, the clip, when you said the Penguins were trying to be the worst defensive team in the history of the National Hockey League, do you chuckle at that and you must get a great sense of pride?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: Thanks for reminding me, (Laughter).
We’re more than satisfied at the way that we came up from those days, you know? At that time we didn’t like the direction we were going. And we tried to be positive. It was not working. And there was a sense that we have to rebuild with young players.
That is what we did. And Ray came in and did a great job about bringing some piece to the puzzle. But this is still a young team, and they believe in themselves. What’s fun about coaching that team, they want to learn. And this is where all the coaching staff, we’re excited about working with those young guys and they will surround themselves with good leaders as well. And you can’t do it without the leaders that we’ve got and with the result that the team’s having so far.
Q. Ray, a couple of minutes ago Ken Holland referred to Sidney Crosby as the face of the game in the United States. What does it mean, do you think, to efforts to sell the game, not only in Pittsburgh, but around the country, that he’s in the Stanley Cup Final?
RAY SHERO: I think it means a lot to the NHL. And I think he is the face of the National Hockey League. He’s proven it over the last two years, he’s the face of the League through his play, but I think he’s the face of the League through his actions as well. He’s a great spokesperson for our franchise and the face of our franchise. When you have a player like that who is willing to give back to this League, and like many others in the League right now, I think it’s a great thing.
And I think it’s a perfect stage for him, certainly in the third year of his young career, it’s pretty quick, but I know he’s ready for it. And I think it’s great for the National Hockey League.
Q. Sidney has been in big situations before world juniors and junior hockey and whatnot. This is as big as it gets from the hockey standpoint. Can you talk about the balance of feeding the beast and doing all the media and all that’s involved with being Sidney Crosby but also being ready for the most important hockey of his life and how you think he’ll handle that?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: He handles it all really well. I believe our team and Sid is used to those things. In the last two years we’ve had some experience with that young group. And for him I think he gets motivated, and this is where you want to see good athletes try to perform under a tough situation that he could feel, like in the playoffs, especially the Stanley Cup Final.
We got pressure when we started the playoff, like all the teams got a lot of pressure. There’s no doubt. All the teams want to win, and it’s fun to be part of the playoffs. But we don’t feel the pressure. We try to put the pressure on the other team. This is how we try to handle our situation with that young group.
And right now I don’t see him tense. I’m seeing him really focused, really pick up his game in the Flyers series. Him and Hossa really start to combine together and they’re tough to play against. But for him, when the challenge is there, he’s always capable to bring his game to another level.
This is why those type of athletes are so unique.
Q. Mike, you talked a lot at the start of the playoff here about the lessons learned against Ottawa a year ago and how it may have been intimidating or overwhelming for those young players a year ago, how do you guard against taking a step back now that you’re in the Final and all the attention, how do you guard against your players being overwhelmed against a team that’s had more experience at this stage of the playoffs?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: Last year we were about like 16 players didn’t know about NHL playoff, and that’s a lot. Even if you try to prepare those guys as much as you can, until you don’t have that taste of the playoff, it’s demanding.
And on top of that we played a team that Ottawa was really sharp, was playing really well. They went to the Stanley Cup Finals. So that was a good team. That was a good test for us. And we were there. And all those games we were battling with that team. Yes, it could be different to be in the Stanley Cup Finals. But we went through the experience of the playoff. This is going to be a playoff game. This is just going to be another step.
And I really like the way we’ve been playing so far in the playoffs. Both defensively and offensively. The confidence is there.
When we started last year, I’m not quite sure if the confidence was there. But I can tell you, this is a group, our focus, this is a group that has a lot of confidence in themselves.
Q. Ray, both these teams have drafted the bulk of their rosters in this series. Your picks were a little higher than the other guys that were a Detroit pick, the Zetterbergs and Datsyuks. Can I get your thoughts on the job that Ken has done and Jim Nill and everyone there, as the front office guy, have you looked at the way they’ve done things and maybe admire it?
RAY SHERO: I had the opportunity to work with Jimmy Nill actually in Ottawa the first few years when I got started. It was a great experience. Then he went to Detroit with Kenny. They’re the model franchise, and I think, yes, most people in the League is very impressed with Kenny Holland and the job he’s done. And the thing with Kenny Holland, he’s a great manager and he’s a great guy, he really is. And he’s a fun guy to be around and learn from and the Datsyuks and Zetterbergs are great stories in the draft.
But some of the other things they’ve done as a franchise, some of those unheralded free-agent signings and being in Nashville for a number of years, battling with Detroit all the time. They’d be at 70 million, we’d be at 20 million at payroll, and we’d always say: Wait until they straighten this labor thing out, we’re going to get these guys.
Well, great job. They’ve come back and new labor agreement or not, Kenny shows what a great job he does and they’re a top team again, and I think that’s a testament to the job he does and the staff he has and certainly the coaching of Mike Babcock. All around it’s a great organization. Which most teams are trying to model themselves after.
Q. Ray, how tempted were you to go out and get a goalie when it didn’t look like Fleury was going to play the way he certainly has the second half of the year? People were saying that you couldn’t win with the goaltenders you had. What convinced you you could?
RAY SHERO: There was none available. (Laughter).
I think early on with Marc-Andre, Mike and I had talked about in the summertime, evaluating our team, he was the guy we wanted to play again this year 60, maybe 70 games. He got off to kind of a hard start for himself and on December 7th when he had the high ankle sprain, he wasn’t playing his best hockey, but for the 10 days or two weeks leading up to that he certainly was.
The way I’ve been groomed in this position through David Poile is patience is a virtue here. And he’s a young goaltender. It’s easy for players to move by them and make quick decisions. There’s certainly no easy answers if your goaltender is not playing well.
So to his credit, with Marc-Andre, you know, I think our coaching staff, Gilles Meloche did a great job with him. Marc-Andre is a real focused kid. He had the high ankle sprain. Took the two months Ty Conklin and Danny Sabourin did great jobs for us when he went back to Wilkes-Barre, he was focused and determined.
Mike set it up where when he came back it was a perfect setup with Ty Conklin and Marc-Andre both brought in saying no one is going to be given this job, someone is going to earn it. They’ll be the number one guy. To Marc-Andre’s credit, he battled for it and he certainly deserved the job, and we have seen the benefit of that.
So I think the patience early on with the organization was certainly critical, and the kid has talent. If you get to know Marc-Andre, he’s certainly a winning kid. And he’s a great kid with a great work ethic. I’m glad we stuck with him. I think moving forward he’ll have a great career for himself.
Q. On the flip side have you ever seen an athlete turn his career around at the later stages the way Chris Osgood has?
RAY SHERO: Yeah, it’s an incredible story with him. Winning Cups and going to the Islanders and being back with Detroit. He settled in here, signed a new contract here this year. Great story with Chris Osgood. The perseverance he’s shown, and I think in this system, in this cap world, when you find a place that is good for you and you’re good for them, you settle into that place.
The grass might have been greener for Chris Osgood somewhere else, but he sees a situation here in Detroit. He’s comfortable. And obviously it’s been a very good situation for him and the Red Wings this year.
Q. You guys have done a great job with the organization of the team, of staying focused, staying one game at a time, one day at a time, one shift at a time. Do you allow yourself to enjoy this moment when you look around and maybe you’re coming in on the bus and there’s a billboard, it has Penguins, Red Wings, Stanley Cup and you just kind of go: We made it. We got the job done. Do you allow that moment to enjoy?
COACH MICHEL THERRIEN: Not yet. But I didn’t see that sign. (Laughter) I guess we’re focused. (Laughter).
Honestly, it’s nice to be here. I believe our group deserves to be here. But in the meantime it’s like we’re not oversatisfied. We know that those are tough games to be played. We’re on a mission and we want to win.
So I think the focus is there.
RAY SHERO: I’m the same way. I didn’t see the billboard either. (Smiling) As Mike said, it’s a pretty focused group that we have. A lot of people are pointing out the youth of the hockey club, but I think it’s a mature group. What I’ve said, our younger guys, certainly Malkin and Crosby, they’re 21 and 20 years old, Jordan Staal is 19 years old. But these guys, they’re not the usual 19, 20, 21-year-olds hockey players. They’re ready to win and pay the price. They’ve played under adversity, playing at the top of their game right now. So hopefully in a couple of weeks we can enjoy it, really let it settle in. But a lot of work to be done.
Q. Do you feel that it’s more difficult to play a team especially in the finals that you haven’t faced all year? Do you feel that more intriguing or challenging?
MICHEL THERRIEN: I think it’s the same challenge for both teams. And they’re going to break down their tape and their game and we’ll do the same thing with them. This is what we did. Our players are aware how they play. And I’m sure they did the same thing.
So I don’t think there’s a rivalry right now. Maybe the rivalry will start once the series goes on. But I think you’re going to see two teams really focused and really battle to win every inch on the ice.
Q. Mike, have you at all in these playoffs sensed any nerves with your guys at all even from the start until now, even right on the eve of the biggest challenge? Have you sensed any nervousness at all?
MICHEL THERRIEN: We’re not nervous because we’re well prepared for the challenge. And even when we start the playoff, I didn’t feel our team nervous. I think we’re excited about it. I think that’s a big difference.
We work hard all season long to win our division, to get home ice. We don’t have home ice in the final. This is well-deserved from the Red Wings. But in the meantime, with the regular season that we got, the way we approach the playoffs, our team was not nervous. Our team was always excited to play the game. And that’s the same feeling I got this week, compared to the preparation that we’re doing with that team every round.
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