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June 12, 2016

Mike Sullivan

San Jose, California: Game Six

Pittsburgh – 3
San Jose ‑ 1

THE MODERATOR: Questions for coach.

Q. Mike, what are you feeling right now? Can you describe a little bit what you learned in the past 10 years?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, you learn a lot. You learn a lot through the process. I think there's so many good people in this business, whether it's in coaching, players, management, scouting, there's so many good people that work extremely hard to be at their best.
I'm grateful for the people that I've worked with throughout the years that have helped me become a better coach. I'm grateful for the opportunity to coach this group of players.
As I said, there's a lot of really good coaches out there, that work extremely hard at what they do. So to have the opportunity to work with this team, this group of players, I'm really grateful and obviously thrilled to have the opportunity to win this.

Q. Mike, what in your mind does Sidney's performance in the playoffs, winning that trophy, do for his legacy?
COACH SULLIVAN: I think it places him up there with the greats of the game of all time. He's that good in my mind. I've said all along here through the course of the playoffs, he's deserving of the Conn Smythe. His numbers don't indicate the impact he had on helping this team win, or the impact he had on a game‑to‑game basis.
He was a great leader for our team. It started by example with his performance and how he played. He's a complete player. He plays at both ends of the rink. He's a great faceoff guy. He kills penalties when we need him to. He plays in all the key situations.
I could tell as we went through this post‑season that he knew that our team had something special. He was going to will this thing. I thought he was just terrific throughout the course of this post‑season.

Q. Coach, do you have a chance to think about your role in all this? Do you feel you've come full circle winning the Cup here in San Jose?
COACH SULLIVAN: I haven't had the opportunity to reflect on it, to be honest. I'm trying to enjoy the moment. I think when our guys were carrying the Stanley Cup around out there, what was going through my mind was, first and foremost, how proud I am of them for the sacrifices that they've made for us to win this championship. Then how grateful I am for the opportunity that I've been given to coach this team.
When you ultimately win the championship, you reflect for a short period on the ice with the players, the one thing that jumps out at me is how hard it is to win. The San Jose Sharks are a great team. We have so much respect for how good they are.
It's hard to win this. So couldn't be more proud of our players for the effort that they put in, the sacrifices that they made, the resilience and resolve they showed throughout the course of the second half of this season and throughout the post‑season to win this championship.
I really believe in order to win this championship, you have to have a whole lot of character in the dressing room. I think we have it in abundance.

Q. You heard the water cooler talk about Mike Sullivan came in and let the centers play, et cetera. You made this team play defensive hockey more than anything. How did you get them to buy in when maybe others couldn't do it?
COACH SULLIVAN: Well, these guys have been receptive to our message from day one. As I've said to them all along, I know our team is going to score goals. In order to win championships, you got to keep it out of your net. You have to become a team that is stingy defensively. Everybody has to buy in to that idea for us to get to where we want to go. To their credit, they did, down to a man.
When we started to get some traction towards the end of the post‑season, we won a lot of games down the stretch, I think they really started to believe. That was the hard evidence that, Hey, if we play a certain way, we can be a good team and beat anybody in this league.
I think that really helped us when we started this post‑season as far as a belief in our identity and how we had to play, and also a certain belief in the group, that we have what it takes.
That was the process we went through. We challenged these guys every day. I'm grateful that they responded the right way to how we challenged them.
I can't say enough about our leadership. I think it always starts there. When you have the type of people that we have in our dressing room, you're capable of great things.

Q. I'm trying to get in layman's terms what you did to change this team, to get them to change. The focus on defense, how does that explain Sidney Crosby exploding defensively?
COACH SULLIVAN: The one thing we tried to do was create an identity and establish an identity. I thought as the head coach, it was my responsibility to direct that. So we look at our personnel. When we looked at the type of players we have, our core guys, we think we've got players that want to play fast. They can all really skate, when you look at Crosby and Malkin and Kessel and Letang, Hagelin we acquired down the stretch. Our core guys, they can all really skate. They want to play fast. They want to come through the neutral zone with speed.
We tried to implement a game plan that allowed them to play to their strengths. So we tried to create an identity. When we go in and play a team, their coaches have a meeting before the game, what are they saying about the Pittsburgh Penguins? If 29 teams are saying the same thing, then we've created an identity. That's what we tried to do. And our players bought in.
We felt as though, if we were a team that could play fast in every aspect of the game, that could be our competitive advantage on some of our opponents.
I thought Jim Rutherford did a tremendous job in acquiring some guys along the way that enhanced that speed for us. So when we started to gain some traction down the stretch, that was the evidence that the players needed to get them to believe. Once we established that, I think they felt as though we had what it takes in our room.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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