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NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 6, 2011
JULIE YOUNG: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for our series of Playoff-related conference calls this week. Today we are joined by members of the Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers.
Mike Gillis is in his third season as the Canucks' general manager and has led Vancouver to three consecutive Northwest Division titles. As well last week the Canucks captured their first Presidents' Trophy in franchise history guaranteeing them home ice advantage throughout the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Canucks host Minnesota Thursday and close out the regular season on April 9th in Calgary. Mr. Gillis will be available for approximately 15 minutes.
Q. Just wondering, I know you only have to vote for Vezina Trophy in your position, but I'm wondering who you would select as the Hart Trophy winner this year?
MIKE GILLIS: Well, I think there are a number of great candidates. It's pretty hard for us not to be enthusiastic about Daniel, given that Henrik won it last year and it would probably be one of the most unique events in professional sport if you had one twin brother win it one year and the other brother the second year. Even though I'm opposed to voting for your own players or showing favoritism, I'd have to vote for Daniel in this circumstance.
Q. I'm wondering how you would explain the past two losses to obviously a last-place team that was missing several players, and do those losses make these last two regular season games any more important do you think?
MIKE GILLIS: I would explain them by saying that it's a long season, and we've played at a very high level for most of the year. I think when you clinch first place overall in the league and you're looking at trying to get through the Playoffs or get through the regular season now as healthy as possible, you probably let off the gas a little bit and try and manage these games as opposed to playing them. I think the last two games, even though we out-shot Edmonton, you could see that our guys weren't pushing the play very much. They weren't checking like we normally do and creating turnovers and going into the heart areas.
And I think that it's a fairly natural mindset to just get through these games, try and have everyone healthy going into the Playoffs. You know you're a good team, and Edmonton have a lot of young, enthusiastic players that are playing for a variety of reasons. I think it's not unlike what we're seeing around the rest of the league. Detroit is having a bit of a letdown, Philadelphia has had a bit of a letdown, and I think it becomes management as opposed to playing, so I think that's explainable.
Do I think it makes the last two games more important? Not necessarily. What we'd like to do is obviously try and get our players that are about to come back from injury that are ready to play into our lineup and get them some games. I think that's the most important thing for us. And just to get back to working hard and playing the games.
Q. If I could have a follow-up, do you expect Alex Edler to play these last two games, and is there any chance Dan Hamhuis will play before the Playoffs?
MIKE GILLIS: I think Alex Edler, if everything goes well today, I think he'll probably be able to play tomorrow. And Dan Hamhuis is doing very well. As you know, when you have concussion situations day-to-day, and there's always an opportunity for things to change, but so far he's doing very well, and we hope to see him back for a game before the Playoffs begin.
Q. Have you received any word on a suspension to Raffi Torres as a result of the hit last night on Eberle?
MIKE GILLIS: No.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Roberto. Obviously it's a big year for him, but there's always that, "yeah, but." People always say, he's won this and won that, yeah, but never won a Cup. In this regard, how big are these Playoffs for him as far as his legacy if you will?
MIKE GILLIS: I think that he puts more pressure on himself than anybody else, and the pressure that he puts on himself is to be the best that he can possibly be. And I think that that does get reflected in winning, it does get reflected in certain milestones that players achieve throughout the course of their career. You know, I think every Playoff is very important for Roberto because he puts a tremendous amount of pressure, he has a tremendous amount of pride, and he desperately wants to win.
You know, in terms of pressure, I don't think this is any more extraordinary than any other year. I do think expectations are heightened because this is a good team here, and they've displayed it throughout the course of the season. But to win in the Playoffs in the National Hockey League you have to have a number of things that go your way. You need to have a little bit of luck, you need to have some calls that go your way by the officials, and all your players need to be their best. It's a team sport; notwithstanding the fact that Roberto does put a lot of pride in himself, it is a team sport, and all our players have to support him and play the way we've played most of the year.
I think it's important for all of us, this Playoff, not just for him.
Q. Is it fair to judge a goaltender by the number of rings on his fingers?
MIKE GILLIS: Not necessarily. You've got to have a team around you that's capable of winning. There are a lot of goalies that go through their careers that don't have that surrounding cast that will enable them to win. And if you look at goaltenders throughout history, there's a lot of really great goaltenders that have never won a Stanley Cup because they didn't have the supporting cast.
I think that is somewhat unfair because it is a team sport. However, when you're in a position to win, if you want to be considered one of the greatest goalies in the history of hockey, you need to step up and have your A game. And things can still go wrong, but you need to display that A game. I think last year in the Olympics under intense pressure Roberto stepped up and showed that A game, and we're hopeful that he'll have it again this spring.
Q. I wanted to ask you about one of your fellow general managers, Steve Yzerman. What are your impressions of how Steve has kind of put it together down in Tampa and his future?
MIKE GILLIS: Well, I think Steve has made a lot of really good decisions. I think the whole organization has made a lot of really good decisions. I know Tod Leiweke personally, and I think that those two guys together are going to be an incredible team down there in building a legacy. Steve went out on a limb with the coaching decision early on that was really solid in my opinion. He's made really good personnel decisions.
I think as he works his way through this and begins to really put his stamp on this team, it'll do nothing but get better. He's patient but proactive, and I think he's going to do an excellent job.
Q. First, you're two years in now since you signed the Sedin twins to their long-term contracts. I guess at the time how important was it for the history of the franchise or moving forward to get them locked up, and how do you think it's gone so far in the first two years?
MIKE GILLIS: Well, it was extremely important to get them signed but equally important to get them signed at a number where we could construct a team around them that was going to be stronger than the team then. You know, if we didn't get them signed, we would have gone into a rebuilding phase and gone about our strategy entirely differently.
How important was it? Well, when you have the Hart Trophy winner one year and the leading candidate for the Hart Trophy the next year, it's extremely important. They are two guys that take -- that have incredible character and are great leaders here on our team, and they've taken their game to another level. They have been nothing but exemplary both on and off the ice, and they will be the players that define this organization moving forward.
Q. I guess my follow-up to that is about them going to another level, they had three or four years in a row where they put up pretty consistent numbers but they have gone even higher than that. Would you have been happy with them staying at the level that they had been?
MIKE GILLIS: No. In fact, when we were in Sweden and we were getting close to signing them, we put the emphasis on them that they were going to be the leaders of this team, and as the leaders they had to be the players who showed everyone else the way. They were perfectly comfortable accepting that responsibility. In fact, they embraced that responsibility.
I felt that it would make them better players, perhaps not in a point sense, but in an overall sense. That added responsibility, they were prepared for it, they were capable of handling it, they wanted it, that it would make them better all-around players, and it did, and consequently their production increased. They found a winger in Alex Burrows who has been an excellent complement to the way they play. Even if the points hadn't come the way they have come, I know these guys would have stepped up and been elite level players in this league, and that's exactly what they've done.
Q. There's an old theory that the road to the Stanley Cup is paved with heartbreak; a lot of teams had to go through tough times before they climbed the mountain. Do you think what this team has been through together the last few years is going to be a factor in helping them make that next step?
MIKE GILLIS: I believe so. You know, last year we took a very hard look at the end of the Playoffs organizationally about where we were, and we analyzed every element of this team from training staff, medical staff, coaching staff, players, how we handled things as managers. You know, it was a difficult time frame to go through, and at the end of the day we made some adjustments, but we still believed in this core group of players.
And the experience of losing two years in a row to the same team was one that was very difficult for a lot of people to accept. However, we did it with a team that we don't think is as competitive as the team we have this year. We felt that Chicago had the best team top to bottom last year in the National Hockey League, and so we went about trying to bolster our core group of players, surround them with players that were like-minded, that were desperate to win and desperate to play on a good team and were able to come away in the summer having filled a number of holes.
So I think overall we feel more confident this year. We've learned from the experience of last year that if we stick to our game and play the way we want to play, we have the ability to beat most teams in this league on any given night. So I think our team right now is a very different team in terms of mindset that's come about through those two losses to Chicago, and hopefully we can translate it into success this year.
JULIE YOUNG: Thanks for your time, Mike. Good luck the rest of the way.
Our next guest is Canucks captain Henrik Sedin, who is in his 10th NHL season, all with the Canucks. Henrik is currently 4th in NHL scoring with 92 points on 19 goals and a league-leading 73 assists. In 65 Playoff appearances he has posted 44 points on 17 goals and 27 assists.
Q. Just wondering about the last two games and how you approach the next two. How hard is it to -- Mike was just talking about consistently playing the kind of game you guys have played. I'm just wondering what your thought is about the last two and looking at the next two before the Playoffs again.
HENRIK SEDIN: Well, it hasn't been good enough, we all know that. It's been a letdown after we clinched the Presidents' Trophy for sure. It's tough games to play, but at the same time we know we have to get better here in the last two games. We've got a few guys coming back from injuries, and they're going to need these games and they're going to need us, the rest of the guys, to play the way we want to play.
At the same time I think it might be a good thing for us to not be cruising here and winning games. I think this is a wake-up call for us. I think in the long run it's going to be good for our team.
Q. You don't want to get hurt any more before the Playoffs. I'm just wondering, though, does it matter that much, or are you able to just change things once the Playoffs start?
HENRIK SEDIN: Well, I think Playoffs and playing these games are totally different things, that's for sure. I think the urgency, the intensity is going to be there. It's not 100 percent right now, but we've got two games now to fix it, and this group has done a great job all season to get back on track. It's a tight group, and we've got a lot of leaders in there, and that's -- like I said, it's a good thing, I think, that we've got a few losses here. It's a wake-up call, and like I said, going forward, I think it might be good for us.
Q. I was just wondering, I guess is this Playoffs going to be any different for your team now that you've won the Presidents' Trophy and you have the target on your back?
HENRIK SEDIN: Not at all. Playing in this market, it's no different this year than it has been in the past. Media-wise I don't think it's going to be -- if we won four Stanley Cups in a row, the pressure is still going to be there like it is now. So that's not a difference.
The only difference in the dressing room is that we have a better team from top to bottom. The players that the management brought in this summer has done us -- made us a lot better, and that's the only difference from the years past.
Q. You probably get asked this a lot, but what has been different for you and your brother the past two years just in the way that you've improved your production?
HENRIK SEDIN: That's really tough to say. We have been point-a-game players for a while, and the last few years has been a big step for us. I don't know why that is, if it's getting older, mature, feeling confident in the dressing room and on the ice and with the coaches and management and everything or if it is because Daniel was injured last year and I had to play without him for 20 games and gaining confidence from that. It's tough to pinpoint one thing, but it's a lot of small things, I think, that's made us take this step this year and last year.
Q. Can you remember how nervous you were for your first-ever Playoff game and how you think you'll approach the Playoffs now?
HENRIK SEDIN: Yeah, it was nerve-wracking. We started on the road against Colorado, so starting on the road was good, but getting home and playing the third game at home, you didn't know what to expect. The fans and how loud it was and the towels and everything, that's something I think we're always going to remember. It's been great ever since. I mean, Playoffs is a different season, and it's what you're playing for the whole year. So it's going to be really, really fun.
Q. But you're still nervous, I trust, but just with a sense of more confidence?
HENRIK SEDIN: Yeah, you're still nervous. I think that's a good thing. I think when you're not nervous anymore it's time to quit. No, it's fun. We're a bigger part of the team right now, too, which is something we've always strived to be. It's more fun now, that's for sure.
Q. What do you think the core guys on this team, the guys who have been around for a while and through the Playoff disappointments the last two or three years, what do you think you've learned as a group that will help you this year?
HENRIK SEDIN: I think last year we were -- we had learned enough from the years past. We played a better opponent. We could have beaten them, but at the same time I think we all felt that we lost against the best team. Looking back, I think that's how we feel. If you look at last year and the years past, we might have lost that one. We should have lost that one with how their power play was clicking and being down 2-1 in their rink and being down going into the third. In years past we would have lost in the first round, but we stuck with it and we won that series, and then we ended up losing against a better opponent.
This year we've got a totally different team, and we feel as players that we have a better team. That's a different mindset this year.
Q. I know today is a day off for the team, but what do you think the mood of the team will be tomorrow morning when you gather for the skate coming off these last two games? What do you think the discussion in the room is going to be like?
HENRIK SEDIN: It's going to be a good discussion, as always. Like I said before, this is a great group in handling adversity, and it's been handling it well all year, so it's not going to be any different tomorrow. We know we've got two more games. We have to get back to where we want to be come Playoff time. I would have been more worried if this would have been game 5 or 6 of the season than I am now. We battled hard to be where we are right now. It's been a little bit of a letdown, but I'm positive we're going to see a different team tomorrow.
Q. You've been ten years now in Vancouver. It's certainly been a long time since the Stanley Cup came to Vancouver, even before the NHL existed. Do you think about what it would be like to win the Stanley Cup in Vancouver and what it would mean to the city?
HENRIK SEDIN: Yeah, we think about it every day. To see other players and talk to other players going through the journey and winning it, I mean, it's an unbelievable feeling the way they speak about it. To win here in Canada in a market like this, it's -- that's something you dream about in the summertime when you spend your hours in the gym and everything. Being here for a long time, you realize how important this is for people and for the fans.
It's a tough trophy to win, but it would be unbelievable.
JULIE YOUNG: Claude Giroux now joins us. He leads the Flyers with 75 points and is tied for 10th in the league scoring through 80 games.
Q. Just wondering if you think Michael Leighton is going to be your starting goalie in the Playoffs.
CLAUDE GIROUX: I think you're asking the wrong guy here. I think -- I don't know what's the decision. I saw yesterday that he put back -- he got called up, so I'm not too sure what's going to happen there. It's more of a question for a coach.
Q. How do you feel about all three of your guys?
CLAUDE GIROUX: I mean, we're lucky to have three good goalies. They've been great to us all season, and Leighton was good for us last year, too. Without Bob or Bouch this year, I don't think we'd be in the position we are now, and we're pretty lucky to have them.
Q. Players always talk about the grind of the Stanley Cup and the endurance test it is as much as it is anything else. You went through it last year getting all the way to the Finals. Can you put into words emotionally and physically the toll it takes on you in that situation?
CLAUDE GIROUX: Yeah, obviously it's a tough two months. I think last year with the experience that we had, guys know what to expect a little bit more. It's just the most exciting time of the season. I just remember being a kid, and I would never miss any Playoff games, and it would be just exciting to watch, and just being able to be part of this right now, it's great.
Q. I know you said that you learned a lot, but are you going to approach now the post-season a little bit differently considering what you went through last year and what you learned good and bad?
CLAUDE GIROUX: Yeah, I think it's important that you just stay focused and you play the same game you were playing during the season. I don't think it's necessary to change your game. Like I said, with the experience that we had last year, our guys are going to know what to expect, and they can relate to the experience we had last year.
Q. Just as a quick follow-up, what was the biggest surprise or surprises that maybe you thought you knew but kind of you weren't real sure and you kind of had to pick up on the fly during last season's run?
CLAUDE GIROUX: It's a long two months. Pretty much all the games are pretty much do or die -- well, that's how you've got to play them. And I think every game is so big, it's important that you find a way to motivate yourself and stay focused for the whole run.
Q. How concerned are you and your team with the way you performed here in the last few weeks?
CLAUDE GIROUX: Well, obviously we're not happy with the way we're playing, and in the next two games that we have here, especially against Buffalo, it could be a team we might face in the Playoffs, so I think it's important that we find our game that we had at the start of the season, and guys need to get the -- we've just got to find our game better, and I think if we work hard as a team, I think we'll be in a good position.
Q. How much talk has there been about first place and making sure that you get it in the division, or is there something else that's more important, i.e., your team game overall?
CLAUDE GIROUX: Yeah, I mean, it's important to find our game overall. Maybe it's a good thing that we're not playing good. Maybe it's going to be a wake-up call and guys are going to play better after. But obviously we want that first place so we can have home ice advantage for the first three rounds. Any time you start a series at home, you kind of feel more comfortable in front of your fans, and they kind of get you a little more motivated. I think the next two games are going to be huge for us.
Q. You've kind of grown up alongside James Van Riemsdyk and you've seen him develop, especially the last two years. Can you talk about what you've seen in playing with him on the ice, off the ice, where he's grown the most in the last two seasons?
CLAUDE GIROUX: Yeah, I think he really got better and he really matured as a hockey player. You can see him on the ice, he's fast, he's got a great shot and he's got some hockey sense. Any time you play with a guy like that, he's going to make you better on the ice and he's going to be able to make some plays. It's going to be a good Playoff for him, and we're really counting on him to help us with our run.
JULIE YOUNG: We now have Paul Holmgren joining us. He is in his fourth season as the Philadelphia Flyers' general manager last year taking the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final. Philadelphia sits second in the Eastern Conference with 103 points with two games to play. In their current position they would have home ice advantage through the first two rounds of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They play the Sabres in Buffalo on Friday and round out the season at home on April 9th against the Islanders.
Q. Just want to ask you about Claude Giroux. He came up, had such a great Playoff run last year, leading the team in scoring this year but he's still a young player in the league. Is there maybe being a little bit too much pressure on him or do you see him as a guy who wants it and can handle this kind of extra attention he's going to draw?
PAUL HOLMGREN: Well, I think Claude is certainly a guy that wants -- he wants the ball. He wants to have the puck in key situations, and I don't see that changing. I think even two Playoffs ago it started for us when we got beat in the first round against Pittsburgh, and Claude played exceptionally well in this series, too. We certainly don't consider him a young player in terms of what he brings to the hockey team. He's more one of our guys that we expect to play well and provide offense and also play a good game away from the puck.
Q. Just as a follow-up, he may be young in age but not in experience, but still, are you even surprised a little bit to see how fast he's come in such a short span? I know he's a first-round pick and you had high hopes, but still.
PAUL HOLMGREN: Well, Claude is a young player that gets it. He's tremendously fit. He works hard in the summer to be as strong as he can possibly be, and he follows a very strict physical regimen during the season, which keeps him in top shape, and obviously he works very hard on the ice. He's one of -- in my opinion one of the top young players in our game.
Q. It's certainly been a unique year for your goaltending situation based on what Michael did last year and how it started this year for him, and having three goalies and then having to send Michael down. With Michael being called up again, I was wondering, was this kind of part of the plan? Had there been assurances to Michael when the situation was right he would get recalled, and how do you see it playing out in the final games of the season and the Playoffs?
PAUL HOLMGREN: Well, there weren't any assurances because of the reentry waivers. I think the closer we got to the end of the season, we believed in order to strengthen our goaltending as much as we could, Michael was a guy that we were going to try to sneak through -- we needed to try to sneak him through reentry, and we did, with Michael being cleared through today. So I think our goaltending is better today -- in terms of depth is better than it was yesterday at this time.
How it goes the rest of the regular season, that's up to the coach. I think right now I don't know what he's going to do; whether Michael plays one of these last two games or not is up to the coach. But certainly in terms of depth, having Michael in the mix now is a good thing for us.
Q. I just wanted to ask you about one of your fellow GMs, Steve Yzerman down here with the Tampa Bay Lightning, his first go-around as a GM. I want to get your impressions on the job he's done here and kind of his future as he settled in here.
PAUL HOLMGREN: Well, I think Steve has done a tremendous job, and I think it started last summer when he hired Guy Boucher to coach, obviously a wise and outstanding choice. I think he's probably a guy that should be in the running for Coach of the Year. Tampa Bay has been for most of the year one of the top teams in the league. You've got to give Steve his marks for doing his homework on his coach and for the deals he's made and sticking with the guys who were there last year. They're a very difficult team to play against right now, and they're going to be a difficult opponent for somebody in the first round.
Q. You came to Philadelphia as a player toward the end of the Broad Street Bullies era. First of all, do you think their revered status in the city is mainly due to the fact that they are the one Flyers group that has brought the Stanley Cup to the city? And secondly, what do you think it would mean to Philadelphia if this group were to finally get the Cup back there?
PAUL HOLMGREN: To answer the first part, I don't think there's any question about what that group means to the city in terms of the two Stanley Cups in back-to-back years, '74 and '75. A lot of those guys still live in the area here, guys like Clarke, Dave Schultz, Don Saleski, Orest Kindrachuk, both of the Watson brothers live here, Ricky MacLeish is around here, there's Bob Kelly. Bob Kelly works for the team, Gary Dornhoefer is still around, Bernie is around. So quite a few of those guys that were part of those championships are still here and they're revered as athletes in the city.
If the Flyers were able to win the Stanley Cup again, I think we'd have another group that would be revered in the city. Philadelphia is a passionate town. The one thing they do expect is hard work and sacrifice, and if you win a Stanley Cup, obviously that takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice, so that's what we're trying to do.
JULIE YOUNG: Thanks for your time, Paul. Good luck in the post-season.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports