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NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
May 24, 2007
DAVID KEON: Hello, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's Public Relations Department. I'd like to welcome you to today's Stanley Cup preview conference call. Thanks to Phil Legault of the Senators and Alex Gilcrest of the Mighty Ducks of helping set this call up. On Monday night, the Stanley Cup Final opens in Anaheim, when the Ducks will host the Ottawa Senators at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
With us now we have Senators Head Coach Bryan Murray, who is making his third trip to the Finals, first as a head coach. Thanks to Bryan for taking the time to join us today and answer your questions. Operator, we'll open it up now.
Q. I was wondering if you could for me assess Wade Redden's performance and progress through the season in the wake of Chara leaving, and with Volchenkov and Phillips, seemingly you're getting more accolades deep into the season and into the playoffs. Do you think it's been a benefit for Wade, because for so long him and Alfredsson have been a focal point for the team in good times and bad?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: He came out of training camp with a fairly serious groin problem, and it seemed to linger a fair amount through the first part of the year, at least.
I thought in the second part he started to play better. But the big improvement in Wade Redden has been in the playoffs. I think he's, number one, just moving his feet a lot better. He's much more involved. He's playing more minutes now pretty much than anybody on our defensive core.
And there's no question with Volchenkov and Phillips improving and being the shutdown pair, really, that it has taken a little attention and a little pressure away from Redden, I believe.
But you know he's a real quality guy, quality player, and an important guy off the ice for us, too, in that he's not a big talker. But when he talks I think everybody listens. So his leadership has really come into play at this time of year. All in all, I think he's much improved over the first half of the year, in particular.
Q. What prompted your decision to use Alfredsson with Spezza and Heatley at the start of the playoffs and to continue with it, given that Alfredsson had kind of jumped around line to line during much of the season?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: I think a couple things happened. Mike Comrie, given the chance to play right wing, improved his play and was able to play with Fisher's line. I think that was important that we got some secondary scoring out of him. In particular the early part of the playoffs.
I knew that the big line, or the Alfredsson Spezza Heatley combo worked and worked really well when I left them together last year and then the early part of this year. I was a little nervous about stacking it all together. Going into the playoffs I even thought kind of separating them for the early games in particular.
But in my wisdom, or lack of it, I left it alone, and they have performed to a good level and have been able to handle the match ups to this point in time. So I didn't want to tamper with that.
But I think the biggest thing of all is that other lines start to play a little better and play well together and it allowed me that ability.
Q. Given the Stanley Cup drought since '93, can you tell us what it would mean to winning the cup to not only Ottawa but the whole nation; do you feel you're Canada's team now at least for the next couple of weeks?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: For the couple of weeks we have a chance to be that. I think there's such an interest and a fascination and emotional attachment to hockey in Canada that when you are representing the country, I think that it's remiss not to think that everybody gets or most everybody gets caught up into it.
So I think that's a great thing. I remember when other Canadian teams like the Montreal Canadiens won the Cup, whether we were Montreal fans or not, we're attached to that fact.
Right now in the city of Ottawa, the involvement in the game, the emotion, because of the position the team is in, has certainly brought a lot of pride to the community. So it would mean a lot. There's no question.
As I say, I hope we're Canada's team and I think at least for now we are.
Q. Wanted to ask you, to what degree do you still feel attached to Anaheim or you sort of -- you helped build that team to some degree. And you know a lot of the staff you hired. Many of them are still there. A lot of the guys you work with still there. To what degree do you still sort of identify or feel part of Anaheim?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: Well, it's been taken over by Brian now, and it's certainly his team. And I think any time you leave, you leave people behind that you have attachments to. But I really enjoyed my time there. I thought we had a great staff in the office as well as in the field of scouting and hockey department. We have some players that they did a heck of a job on as far as drafting or signing as free agents out of college.
We traded for Rob Niedermayer, and there were some guys there, when I coached, there's still a few left. So there's always great interest. I mean when they were playing other teams, I watched very closely.
So there is an attachment. However, we do understand that you move on and in our business in particular and you move on and you have to worry more about and be attached to your own people.
But some good friends. Some good people running the team. Brian Burke and I are good friends. So I guess it's going to be a real healthy competition. It will be very interesting for me. Maybe more than if we would have played some other team. But to say my focus right now will be totally on Ottawa.
Q. There's lots of people that have made the move from coaching to the management ranks. And fewer that have moved back. Can you sort of walk us through the reasons for why you put yourself through that particular type of hell and whether it's been worth it?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: You're right. Normally guys come back this way. Really as I said to Tony, I enjoyed my time in Anaheim. Good attachment. Disney owned the team at the time, of course. And they were outstanding as far as allowing me to do most anything I wanted to without paying consequences or worrying about how they were going to react.
So it was a good job. I think the big issue was first of all I enjoy coaching. I enjoy being around the players on a daily basis. And it was my home area. I'm from a family. I've been away for wife years and I thought it was an opportunity for myself and my family to kind of reconnect with brothers and sisters and parents.
And so that was certainly part of the consideration. The other, without any doubt, the other part was I thought Ottawa had some talent here. I thought there was a real chance to do what we're doing now. And fortunately for me it worked out that way and I've had a lot of fun doing it. I feel almost like a young guy again being back on the ice on a daily basis and being around these kids.
Q. It has been worth it?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: I think it has been worth it.
Q. One of the key match-ups for your team will be combating or defensing the Getzlaf line that the Ducks use. Who are your key players in that role?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: This is the dilemma we'll face: We have Volchenkov and Phillips, who would normally play against the big scoring line on the other team. These three kids are huge. They're good with a puck. They're a threat every time they're on the ice. However, they also have the McDonald Selanne line that offensively do a great deal for them. So game to game we'll have to play it by ear. There's no question that the two shutdown guys will play part time against the Getzlaf group. But we may have to have other people do a real good job there if we're going to contend.
Q. The playoffs provide players an opportunity to make a real break-through after a less than spectacular regular season. I wondered if you could comment on how the current playoff run has made people sit up and take notice of Joe Corvo.
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: Joe, when he came here, I think like a lot of free agents that sign and go to a new situation, I think the money or the length of the contract gets stuck in the road quite often. I think it's always made that when you pay a guy a fair number of dollars to move the expectation from the media, the fans and the staff, are very high.
And I think they'll come in here with high expectations of themselves. At the beginning, our team wasn't great. And Joe wasn't great. He put a lot of pressure. He had a couple of games where he had give-aways and the finger was pointed fairly strongly at him.
However, what happened in the last month and a half before the playoffs, he started to get playing. We put him on the power play more often. And now he's had a real break-through as far as getting back to the level of player we thought he was when he was signed.
And there's no question people have to recognize that this guy has been a real big factor in our team.
Q. Your recollections of a playoff run in 2003 and is it going to seem odd to be back in the building on a different side?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: It is going to be a little different, there's no question about that. In particular because we haven't had a chance to play against the Ducks other than last year.
So that will make a difference. Back in '03 we went to Detroit in the first game and Luc Robitaille hit the crossbar in overtime and we found a way to win that game after getting outplayed.
And it seemed from that point on the players started to believe they could win. Giguere was obviously great. Keith Carney, you go down the list of guys that were there that just played terrific for us. Somehow or other we found a way to win games in tight spots.
So I remembered very clearly. You don't get that many trips to the finals. But you don't remember games and individual things that happened. But that was a great run, great time, and I'm sure when we go back this time the fans will be very much into it and have high expectations again.
Q. You talked about your attachment to this team. When you saw them win against Detroit, did you feel any sense of pride considering the factor that you were in their development? And also on the ice, what's the biggest challenge against the Ducks that you haven't faced do you think in these past few playoff series?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: Sure, I took a lot of pride in it. I watched the young kids and the GM gets credit, but the staff, the scouting staff did a heck of a job and pushed me in a couple of cases to draft guys that are now big players on that team.
So you always like that. You always feel good when players that you look at at 18 years of age develop into stars in the NHL. Beyond that -- what was the second part. I'm sorry I rambled too much.
Q. What's the challenge of the Ducks that might be different from what you faced in early years?
COACH BRYAN MURRAY: No question, goaltending, Giguere, he's real sharp. The big two defensemen on their team, the mobility they have. And again the size of the kid line. Those are the real challenges that we have.
DAVID KEON: Thank you very much, Bryan.
DAVID KEON: With us now we have Senators Captain Daniel Alfredsson, who leads the playoffs with ten goals, including four-game winners and the game win in overtime to defeat Buffalo in the Eastern Conference Finals. He has played in every one of the Senators 94 playoff games in franchise history.
Q. Daniel, I know there will be a lot said about obviously the playoff failures in the recent years or so. But I want to ask you, you pretty much grew up with this franchise when it came into the league in '93. Can you just talk about just the process of growing up along with the franchise and can you even relay just a couple of things, just even the early years when you guys weren't very good and just kind of having to work through that?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: My first year, '95/'96 was obviously an interesting year, being a first year, a lot of new things. We had a tough year as a team. I think we won 14 games. Dead last.
Started to change when Jacques Martin came in in January that year and took over as the coach. And really got us playing much or more of a defense-style game, playing with less skill than most teams. We had to really look after our own end. And I think it had results pretty much right away. The following year we squeezed into the playoffs for the first time and I think we lost to Buffalo in seven games.
We've been in the playoffs ever since. But even though we've had some failures, I think this franchise has done a lot of great things. Playoffs 10 years in a row. Scouting staff has obviously done a great job scouting some great players throughout the years.
It's been an evolution. (Indiscernible) here and we had a couple of disappointments. Some really good teams. Changes were made and Murray came in. I think he's been able to take us to another level.
Q. What are the challenges that Niedermayer and Pronger pose for a forward that maybe haven't been seen through the first round of the playoffs. And second, following Anaheim, most of these playoffs, they tend to play a checking line against a scoring line. So I expect you'll see a lot of Sammy Pahlsson, who you played with during the lockout, can you tell us about the challenges that he presents?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: First, Niedermayer and Pronger, I don't know too much about Pronger, to be honest. I haven't seen him play much this year at all, appeared here and there in the playoffs. But obviously a big guy. Makes good plays with the puck as well. Niedermayer, great skater, one of the best.
So I think the challenge for us is make sure they work every shift. Get the puck in deep. Make them work in the corners. And for our line if we play against them, I think play with the puck as much as possible.
And for Samuel Pahlsson, I played with him during the lockout and in the Olympics. He's just a smart player. Very strong. And determined player. Works hard every shift and a good face-off guy.
Q. Daniel, did you think at the start of the playoffs that you would be with Heatley and Spezza? Bryan seemed to waffle on that and is that the line you're most comfortable with?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: I played with them and Fisher throughout the year. I felt comfortable with both lines. We knew depending who we were going to play, we talked about if we played New Jersey in the first round that I would play with Schaefer and Fisher to spread out the scoring a little bit. And if we played Pittsburgh I would play with Spezza and Heatley because we played well against them. They don't really have a checking line in that way like New Jersey does. But, yes, I feel comfortable with them. We had some good success last year. We've kind of built on that this year.
Q. Would you talk a little bit about the excitement in Ottawa, are people pretty fired up?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: Yes, they're extremely fired up. Obviously it's a little bit -- it's not as high now as it was Saturday night or Sunday after we beat out Buffalo, but I think everybody is real excited to get going.
I know our home games is going to be crazy. It's going to be an unbelievable atmosphere in our building, no question. It's a lot of fun walking out around town for small periods of time, not too much. But it's been a fun time.
Q. I wanted to ask you, when do you think you and your teammates started believing in Ray Emery behind you? He came in not as number one starter at the beginning of the year and really has had to earn his way. But it seems like you guys are pretty confident with him back there. And I wondered when it all began?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: We're very confident with him. He played real well for us last year when Dom was here. When he got his chance Ray played extremely well. Started out everybody didn't have a great start for us this year. But as things turned around Ray got some opportunities to play and he played really well. And he's been really consistent.
And I think that's the key with him. He's in there every night giving us a chance to win, and our record, the second half of the season, is a big part of his play, because we know we could score goals and he made us some good saves every night.
Q. You mentioned before that Bryan Murray helped take this franchise to another level. I know earlier in the season when we were there everybody in town was saying that his job was in jeopardy. Can you talk about some of the things he's done specifically to help turn things around this year, and also some of the things he's done that kind of changed the mind set of the team the last couple of seasons?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: I think the biggest thing we're a much better forechecking team. We focus more on playing the trap and now we can force two guys, one guy depending on the team we play against. Brought a different dimension there. And I think his leadership, obviously coach or GM, when we started the way we were, going to get questioned.
But his leadership throughout our top times was crucial to go back. He was poised during that time and I think that reflected on us and that's why we were able to break out of it.
You know he said you can't control everything that goes around. You just gotta worry about the guy next to you and play for each other. And he was pretty blunt about it. He said possibly if we don't win the next few games, there will be changes. I might be gone and he knew that was the way it was. But he believed in us. And we were able to turn it around.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what you guys went through in terms of the financial issues with the team and whether the team was going to be in Ottawa and contrast it out to where you're at now, how hard was it to go through not knowing whether you were going to be in bankruptcy, who was going to own the team, that kind of stuff?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: It was hard times, no question. But for us players, we talked about it quite a bit. We talked about it with our (indiscernible), and he was up front about it. At the end of the day the best thing we could do is go out and win games to get people to jump on board and the season ticket drive that was going on. We felt we wanted to stay in this city, there's no question.
And I think we played really well under a couple of weeks period there. And obviously now with the change in ownership for us and the stability we have now, it feels really good to be able to still be in Ottawa.
Q. This is the first time you're taking on the Ducks this season. Talk about if it adds to the intrigue of the Stanley Cup finals by facing a team that you have not seen before during the regular season?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: Both yes and no. I think sometimes it's good to have a little bit of a history with the team, maybe. But we played them once since lockout, and it's -- I don't know too much about them, to be honest. We're going to have some video sessions here the next few days and go through them a little bit more.
But obviously I know some of their players: Samuel Pahlsson and Selanne; Niedermayer, when he played in Jersey here. And Pronger I haven't seen play a lot, mentioned as one of the best defensemen in the game today. Good team. You have to be to get to the finals.
I'm sure everybody is going to be excited to see what kind of game it's going to be when we start Monday.
Q. Brings up whole new challenges for you guys?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: No question it does.
Q. You have more goals this playoff than before, obviously, playing with Heatley and Spezza helps. But also from watching it seems like maybe as opposed to years past you're taking more shots yourself and the forwards, more quality shots as opposed to trying to make the highlight play. Has that been a goal or something that you guys have been cognizant of through the playoffs or like other things is it just the things that are just falling into place more this year than previous years?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: I think every coach in this league is on their players to shoot the puck more, there's no question. Especially in the playoffs. I mean there's not a lot of bad shots. You're going to try to get people crashing the net and get it tipped in and go off someone. So you definitely want to try to shoot the puck when you get a chance.
For me personally, I think I wasn't much of a shooter when I came into the league but it's something I worked on throughout my career here. And I'm definitely a better shooter now than I've been in the past.
Q. Wonder if you could comment on what Joe Corvo has brought to your power play this year?
DANIEL ALFREDSSON: I think mobility. He's so quick, first three, four steps. And when he gets the puck on their blueline, he can really move laterally and draw some attention to dish it off to either side for a shot or open something up.
And in today's, especially in the playoffs when the penalty killing is so good, it's tough to create chances. I think you have to have movement in there. And he's one of the best at it.
DAVID KEON: Thank you very much, Daniel.
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