Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 04/24/07 at 06:32 PM ET
Brian Burke took part in an NHL tele-conference today…
Q. Brian, is your team going into this year’s playoff after the first round is in better shape than last year? Do you feel better about this year’s team than you did last year’s game? You polished off Minnesota.
BRIAN BURKE: I don’t think it’s fair to say we polished off Minnesota. It was a 4-1 series, but they were all one-goal games, except the last game, which was a two-goal game with an empty netter. I thought it was a difficult series to play. It’s certainly a hockey team we respect.
As far as moving forward, you get to the playoffs. If you’re lucky enough to advance, you’re going to play another team that advanced. This is a good hockey team we’re playing.
The main difference this year is that I think for our team the addition of Chris Pronger on defense would be the biggest single difference, then the fact that we’ve managed to get both our goaltenders active and ready to play early.
Q. What is it like going against your old team in the playoffs?
BRIAN BURKE: It’s going to be a lot bigger story in Canada than it is here. To me it’s a non-issue. It’s another team we have to play. All of the people that gassed me are gone. There’s no bitterness that way. More importantly, what happened to me and to my wife, what was unusual about our situation in Vancouver, my wife had a very successful career of her own. It was a devastating blow when we were released. But it’s turned out to be a great blessing. Far from being bitter, I’m grateful that I got let go because now I get to work here.
This is a team, there’s a story line there because I worked there, a number of the players are players I brought in. Dave was my right hand man and is my best friend. There’s a story. But any bitterness or angst on my part isn’t part of it.
Q. The end of the Minnesota series I saw you were pretty upset at how the Wild portrayed your team. Is that the way most teams play in the playoffs?
BRIAN BURKE: I’ve had plenty to say, unfortunately. I’ve had to speak on this. As far as I’m concerned, everyone on the other side has stopped talking about it, so I’m going to, too.
Q. This is a situation where you have three West Coast teams left in the playoffs with two of them playing each other. Can you talk about what that might mean if we end up with a West Coast team winning the Stanley Cup?
BRIAN BURKE: If you’re going to talk about winning the Stanley Cup for any of the West Coast teams, from my perspective, I do think there’s something special about it because the travel that’s involved, the extra toll that the West Coast teams have to pay from a travel standpoint.
I think it is exceptional that three of those teams are still alive. I think it’s a credit to the players on those teams because it is harder. The travel is more difficult. It is longer. The flights are longer. The flights home are longer. Logistically it’s more difficult.
I think for all three of those clubs, their players should be commended.
Q. Could you also address the idea that with a Vancouver-Anaheim series there’s going to be one in the western final regardless?
BRIAN BURKE: I’d say the same thing. Again, from our perspective, travel can be difficult. Travel in this one is less difficult for example than the travel getting to Minnesota. That part is good for both teams.
Again, I’d say the same thing. The fact that one of these teams will be in the Conference Finals and possibly San Jose, the teams that advance will be a credit to their players.
Q. The team that you have is a fast team, big team. The Canucks have changed how they play, more defensive oriented, rely more on Roberto Luongo. Do you see a difference in philosophies or styles of the two teams meeting up?
BRIAN BURKE: I’d say somewhat. I think we demonstrated in the last series we’re capable of being a sound defensive team, as well. We don’t concede that title to anybody. Roberto Luongo is a significant presence in our league. Doesn’t matter who’s playing him. Doesn’t matter who’s in front of him.
This guy has been a top goaltender in our league for a number of years. Now he’s finally gotten a chance to step on the big stage. He’s responded with a stellar performance in the first round.
I see the emergence of the twins as an offensive force. They’re a problem for any team that plays them. I have a great abiding fear of Markus Naslund as an opponent. We’re going to have to bring our work boots just like we did in the last series.
Q. What about the last game in Anaheim, it was a physical game, a lot of hitting. Is that the way you’re going to have to play the Canucks this time?
BRIAN BURKE: That’s how we play. Doesn’t matter who we play. That’s how we play.
Q. Looking at the Canucks, obviously they’re built around Roberto Luongo, a different team that you were at the helm of. What do you think the Ducks are going to have to do differently in this round than they did in the first to get past Vancouver?
BRIAN BURKE: The formula doesn’t change. Styles of play might change, but the formula doesn’t change. You have to try to neutralize the dangerous people on the other team. In this case, certainly the twins, Pyatt, Nasy, Trevor Linden has been an offensive force the last little bit.
You have to make sure that their skilled people don’t put up numbers and you’ve got to try to make your special teams execute. We’ve had good success so far in the post-season.
I don’t think the formula changes. Teams that win neutralize the other team’s offensive threats and capitalize on their opportunities on special teams.
Q. As we saw in last night’s games, the referees are still calling the games pretty tightly in the off-season. Are you concerned your rough and tumble style is going to have a negative impact in terms of spending too much time in the sin bin?
BRIAN BURKE: I think the calls last night were mostly stick related. I don’t think they were excessive calls based on body contact.
Q. Obviously you have a history with Dave. Can you talk about your relationship with him and maybe the job he’s done? Is this at all awkward for either one of you?
BRIAN BURKE: The answer to your last question is easy: No. I sent Dave an email after they won last night congratulating him. That’s a good hockey team they beat. My relationship goes back a long ways.
I hired Dave when I was an assistant GM in Vancouver, and then I took him to the NHL front office with me. I brought him back to Vancouver. He’s an extremely bright guy, an extremely hard worker, very competitive, good family guy. You know, I have a lot of admiration and respect for him. That won’t change. I’m proud of what he’s accomplished.
My last year there we won a divisional title. Dave was a huge part of that. He’s got his own banner up there this year. I’m proud of him for that. This is as far as I want to see him get.
Q. Francois Beauchemin is flying under the radar. Can you talk about him?
BRIAN BURKE: I can’t take any credit for Francois Beauchemin. No different than when they talk about the kids on our team, the PPG line they’re calling him here, Perry, Penner, Getzlaf. I inherited those guys. Bryan Murray drafted them. I should never talk about them without giving him credit. Same with Beauchemin. I didn’t know this player. This is Murray’s acquisition.
When we started to speak with Columbus about the Sergei Fedorov deal, Bob Murray was adamant that Francois Beauchemin had to be in the mix. I went back and looked at my notes. I saw they played three times. He hadn’t done a single thing to impress me.
Bob Murray said, Do not make this deal unless they’ll put him in. We were able to get him in the deal. He has been a terrific player for us. Sound defensively, can shoot the puck, he hits. He’s sneaky tough. He has a facial injury right now, but he can fight.
I remember last year in the first round of the playoffs, he fought Jarome Iginla, which I thought was an important moment in the series. He’s a quality person. He’s been a very valuable addition to us.
Q. Could you talk about what appears to be that special dynamic between Bryzgalov and Giguere? Two playoffs in a row where they have gone back and forth, but their ability to go in and out, Randy’s ability to use them doesn’t seem to upset in that dressing room or in their play? Strikes me unusual in terms of playoff goaltending dynamics.
BRIAN BURKE: The number one thing is that our players are comfortable with either guy at net. That’s an important part of making a goalie system work, if more than one goalie is going to play. Our players are completely comfortable with either goaltender in the net.
Secondly, they’re both professional. They both understand this is a team game and our job is to win games. Some nights it’s going to be one guy. Other nights it will be the other guy. They both have to contribute. In the meantime, they don’t resent when one player gets the net and gets his chance. They’re both highly professional.
Q. Dustin Penner, you said you couldn’t take any credit for a guy like that. He seems to be emblematic about what your team is about. He likes to hit. He can score the goals. He’s got some size to him. How satisfying is it to see a guy like this come into his own under your watch?
BRIAN BURKE: On those kids, when I say I can’t take any credit for them, I mean that. On the other hand, I do think Randy Carlyle and Kevin Dineen deserve some credit for their development. They spent time in Portland in the American League last year with Kevin Dineen.
I think Randy was very patient with them last year and put them in situations where they had a chance to be successful, getting the line matchups they wanted. Then the players deserve a lot of credit for how hard they’ve worked.
Dustin is a very rare specimen. To have a man that big with those hands and those feet is very unusual. He’s 6’4”, 245. I said this before, he has a part-time job as a wall. He’s a big man. When you get a guy that size with feet like that and hands like that, it’s a rare guy. I had Todd Bertuzzi as a player. I think Dustin has that same capability.
Q. Seems like his road to the NHL has been a little tougher than Bertuzzi’s was. Does that translate into the way he plays the game as well?
BRIAN BURKE: I think, fortunately, our game allows guys to find different paths to the NHL. Dustin’s was a little—he kind of meandered there rather than taking a direct route, more like Todd Bertuzzi was a high pick out of the OHL.
Dustin had to go play high school hockey in North Dakota, then tagged along, got a year in at the University of Maine. Dave McNabb spotted him, turned him pro. He’s worked hard to turn himself into a hockey player. There’s plenty of big guys who can’t play at this level. We’re fortunate that he’s got the skill set to play at this level, plus he’s big enough he can bang and make things happen in front of the net.
Q. Is there any consideration at any point of calling up Eric Weinrich? Could you see him back in Portland next year as a mentor on the ice or would you rather have that roster spot to develop maybe a prospect?
BRIAN BURKE: It’s a fair question. I don’t know. Kevin Dineen is here. We called up a number of players from Portland. Bob Murray comes in tonight, we’ll go through the process of evaluating the coaches and players and what we’ll do next year. I cannot answer the question at this time.
Certainly Eric Weinrich is a quality guy. Obviously we felt highly enough of him to bring him in as a coach. Whether there’s a place for him going forward, I don’t know.
BRIAN BURKE: Thanks, everybody.
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