June 5, 2002
DETROIT, MICHIGAN: Practice Day
Q. Question for both. Can you talk about basically it seemed like you guys played a flawless Game 1, and I guess what can do you to improve in Game 2? And, in particular, about choking off most of their big guns; they seemed to really never generate an offensive attack.
RON FRANCIS: Well, I think we spent a little too much time in the penalty box. That's certainly an area we can improve on; being a little more disciplined in our game from there. But, you know, we have talked about it all along; our goal is to come out and play our system well, make as few mistakes as we possibly can. If we do that, we feel that gives us the best opportunity to succeed.
JEFF O'NEILL: The one thing we have got to continue to do is get the puck deep and work our cycle game. I think that we have got a lot of strong, young forwards that can control the puck behind their net. And the more we do that, the better chance we have of winning.
Q. Jeff, we hit you with this line of questioning in the Toronto Series, but, again, last night you set up Ronnie for the winning goal in overtime. Game 1 of the Finals, almost anybody else in your situation starts doing a dance, the high -fives. But just one arm in the air came over and gave him a pat. What is it about you guys in this situation for the first time that allows you to have this composure that's almost nonchalant in this situation continuously?
JEFF O'NEILL: Well, I think it's not really nonchalant. I think we all try to do what Ronnie does: just go out there and compete as hard as you can, try to be classy. I think that, you know, he leads by example, and we don't really have any hot shots or hotheads on our team. We just try and go about our business and be professional about it. He tries to lead us in the right direction. I think he's done a great job of that.
Q. What kind of Detroit team do you expect to see in Game 2 different from what you saw last night?
RON FRANCIS: I mean, it's tough to speculate having worked with Scotty. I am sure he's looking at tape and coming up with a few different wrinkles. And, you know, we have talked about it most of the season that it is not, you know -- we're not so much concerned about what is happening on the other side, we're really concerned with ourselves, and, you know, our locker room and being ready to play and play our system as well as we can.
Q. Jeff, talk about the advantages of having played for one coach virtually through a career or maybe the disadvantages at times of having the same system or same coach.
JEFF O'NEILL: He's yelled at me a lot, that's for sure (LAUGHTER). I think he's probably yelled at me for the same things a lot in the last seven years. But it's been great. I think you know, I have kind of grown as a player and he has as a coach. I think you know, I know what to expect of him and I know what he likes and what he does not like, and I think he knows my game pretty well and he knows, you know, when to get on me and when to kind of lay off me. So, you know, we have had some ups and downs definitely in seven years, but it's been a good ride.
Q. Ron, a lot of players, now the free agents, go to the teams that they figure they've got the best chance to win the Stanley Cup: Hull and Robitaille and Hasek. You went to the Carolina Hurricanes; not much expectation of them winning a Stanley Cup before you retire. Now you are here. Give us the genesis of why you went there instead of going to a higher-powered team?
RON FRANCIS: It was a lot of things. I think if I had won a Cup, that decision may have been altered a lot more by the fact of winning a Cup. I have said this numerous times: I hate when guys sign a big contract and say money had nothing to do with it. Certainly that was a factor. But I sat down, I looked at a lot of things, I looked at the city of Raleigh, read a lot about what it was like to live there and what a great place it was to live and raise family. That was important for me. I had talked to some of the players, you know, big guys being Kevin Dineen on what the organization was like and what they were trying to accomplish. I liked what he told me about that. When I got into the free agent point, I had talks with Rutherford and Karmanos, what they were trying to accomplish. Also was intriguing for me, you know, to try and go and sell our Game, one that I think is fantastic, and in a market that was predominantly known for ACC Basketball and NASCAR. When I put all the pros and cons down on paper, for me, I thought it was a good move, and outside of the first 40 games when things were really struggling for me, I have been really pleased with that decision.
Q. You mentioned having played under Scotty Bowman. You have played under so many great coaches and with so many great players. Bryan Trottier is reportedly going to become the next coach the of the Rangers. Having played with him and against him, what sort of coach do you think he will be and what do you think of his chances?
RON FRANCIS: I think he will be a great coach. I think Bryan has also played and worked under some great hockey minds in Al Arbour and Scotty Bowman, Pittsburgh, and he's won numerous Championships and knows what it takes for a team to be successful. And I hope that's great. He deserves a head-coaching job, and I think he will do an outstanding job in that role.
Q. This might be hard for you to answer with him sitting right next to you. I think we have always called Ron the most underrated player for so long that it gets a little old, but what do you appreciate about him as a teammate that maybe we don't know about?
JEFF O'NEILL: I think just the way he carries himself. He's a very professional guy. He's definitely taught our whole team and me a lot about that. I think, you know, he's not the flashiest guy in the world. But I think when you look at all his points and everything it's not, you know, that Ronnie Francis has that much more skill than everyone else, it's just that he's that much smarter. You know, he's like the Gretzkys, and he just does things that makes the unbelievable play, an everyday thing, and I think that's what makes him great.
Q. Jeff, you have had breakthrough regular seasons where you have scored over 40 goals, and you got a reputation as an NHL goal scorer. How gratifying is it to get a reputation now in deciding games against Toronto in the first game of the Stanley Cup Final to score goals and be known as having a breakthrough Playoff year?
JEFF O'NEILL: I think it's -- everybody is trying to do well out there. Nobody goes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and doesn't want to do well. We are all trying, and sometimes it goes in and sometimes it doesn't. I think Al Mogilny put it the best when he said you can play your heart out for 60 minutes and not get any result and everybody thinks you had a bad game, you can play poorly, bounce one off your rearend and get an assist in overtime, and you have had a great game. It has been good. Ron has been great. Sami has played well. It is good to get some goals in the Playoffs here.
Q. Jeff, Jim Rutherford said this morning he was proud of you for fighting through the Jersey series where you didn't score any goals, and doing what you are doing now, maturity-wise could you have done this four, five years ago as a player?
JEFF O'NEILL: I don't know. It's been a process, definitely. I am still not the most mature guy, but (laughter), maturity has come along way. I think Ronnie can attest to that.
RON FRANCIS: Yes, it has.
JEFF O'NEILL: I think you got to go through some tough times to feel good about the good times. Every player has to battle through adversity and deal with some things. It wasn't going in for me early on but you have got to stay with it and keep working.
Q. I was just wondering talk about the job that Paul Maurice has done and what you kind of went through where everybody was talking about his job being on the line for the 350th time.
RON FRANCIS: I think it's -- it's about time that he starts taking a little credit for our success. There's no question that he has a huge part of why we're sitting in the position we're in right now. I think he'd be the first one to tell you when he got the job he was extremely young and maybe not real sure of himself. I can only speak for the four years that I have worked with him. I think every year he has gotten better and better. I think he's more confident in his ability not only to teach a system and implement a system but how he runs his practices; how he handles the locker room; is tremendous in between periods and before the game, and you know, it's unfortunate that every season at some point he's rumored to be fired, and it sure was no different in December. I thought it was a good sign for our hockey club when that, more or less, game came about, that our boys responded and played extremely well. I think it said a lot about how we feel about him and I think it gave him a lot more confidence to know that the team had certainly respected him in his abilities.
Q. Comment on the fact that you got a win last night - obviously you need three more to win the Cup - but the attitude that you have to take when you are going through a series with progress from game to game?
RON FRANCIS: Well, I think it's no different from us from any other series. We have tried to prepare ourselves every series with the mentality that, you know, we're prepared to play seven games and you know, you want to focus on the task at hand. Before last night, all our focus was on Game 1. Now that's behind us and our focus has to be on Game 2. We don't want to look forward or behind us. Try and stay in the present and mentally prepare for the task at hand which now is Game 2.
Q. Irbe has had an interesting season from splitting time to the Olympic fiasco and even in the Playoffs here, as captain did you have to play any type of role in keeping him up or anything like that or did he pretty much stay at an even keel throughout this thing two?
RON FRANCIS: No, he did, you know, pretty much most of it himself. He's a guy that keeps himself pretty much on even keel. I think he was certainly a little disappointed in the Jersey series, but he and Kevin Weekes have a remarkable relationship, the two of them really pull hard for each other and when Kevin went in there, Arturs was rooting for him. Only conversation I had with Arturs was to keep working and be prepared because this is a long process and you know, who knows it will be a chance that you might get back in there. When that opportunity came he stepped in and this season and he has been tremendous ever since then.
Q. Last time you guys had won here as a franchise was 1989 when you scored the game-winning goal for Hartford. Do you remember it at all?
RON FRANCIS: I didn't have as much white hair back then, I honestly don't remember. It's been a long time.
JEFF O'NEILL: He doesn't remember a lot of things. (LAUGHTER).
RON FRANCIS: (Laughs) but certainly it's nice to lose that jinx.
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