home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


June 13, 1999

Ken Hitchcock


Q. Could you give us the latest on Brett Hull? Have you talked to him today?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I didn't talk to him. I haven't talked to the trainers, but he was pretty sore last night and I think he is probably doubtful for Game 4. I probably list him as doubtful for Game 4 right now. I think that our experience with him and this injury is that the one time he came back kind of the next day was that really about three hours later the injury was fine and there was some tenderness, he felt pretty good. But he was pretty sore last night so we are thinking that we are back to that five to seven-day period that we had the second time with the injury so I think he is looking at probably Game 5 or Game 6 right now. I don't think he is going to be ready for Game 4.

Q. Could you talk about Carbonneau, Mike Keane, Skrudland; what extent they contribute to the character of your team, what it is like to coach them?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think that the key for those veteran players is the fact that -- and I think it is the same for any older player and there is a lot of good older players in this League -- I think the common denominator with them is that when they go on the ice they have arrogance about them. That is a quality that would you like to have as an older player and the arrogance is that they feel right, feel that in their style of play and in their position they are the best on the ice and they want to play against the best. I think when you talk to Keane or talk to Carbonneau and you talk to Skrudland, and Ludwig there is a tremendous self-confidence that they can establish their game and effect the outcome regardless of role players, or checkers, or impact physical players. They really feel confident that they can impact the game in a positive way by their performance one-on-one. It is a throwback when -- when you were -- was Carbonneau in the '60s, '70s -- '80s. (LAUGHTER) when Carbonneau was playing and we talk about this all the time, they are a throwback in the attitude that it was match play, one-on-one. When you played the game was a lot -- when they played earlier there were a lot of three-line hockey, fourth line were few minute role players and the role was that it was one-on-one, head-to-head competition. Carbonneau was talking about the times that he would play against Quebec Nordiques and Scruey was talking about in the Finals, about him versus Forsberg and things likes that. They relish the one-on-one competition. Keane, when he played in Colorado, they just relished the job of shutting down the other team's best line when he was on that third line. That is how they view this as head-to-head competition and that fuels their competitive intensity and I think that gives the ability for older players to be able to play and those guys are good in that way. I think you look at a guy like James Patrick, he is the same way. He is a competitive guy right now and he is a good player because he has got a lot of personal pride.

Q. Can you talk about Modano in terms of how he weathered the game overall and whether there will be more -- he will need more injections, whatever, to get through the next one?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I just talked to him now and he feels really good. He feels not only did he come through it, but I am not sure how much extra attention he is going to need physically now from the doctors or things like that because he felt -- he felt very good this morning, like when we -- because of Hull there, Modano and Lehtinen have to play a more conservative role. But with the player that we put there, if Brett can't play, this is where -- Mo had a lot of fun in the Playoffs last year when we just turned him loose. I think if we put a defensive player there then we are aiming to turn him and Lehtinen loose and he is pretty excited about that.

Q. You talked so much about the veteran players. Are you more comfortable with them in a critical game, a critical situation in a series like this; are you happier to have older players?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I have said this to quite a few people this year: If you want to get your wings in coaching in the National Hockey League, you need to go through the experience of coaching a veteran team because, believe me, it is a hell of an experience. It is -- there is a lot of positives, but there is a lot of areas that have conflict in them. A lot of times the conflict is in when things go wrong. Because of these player's experiences, they have some very strong ideas on which direction we are going to point the ship. I think the thing that I like about this group is that they are supportive of us as coaches when the ship isn't going right. There are people like -- especially people like Ludwig and Carbonneau, who really stand up on our behalf and Keane also, who stand up on our behalf and say, look, let's get this thing writed (sic) the way these guys want to write it and let's not go in 15 different directions of -- but I find the challenge for coaches when you have veteran players who have strong personalities that when things are right, things just keep going, but when things go wrong, you can really get things going in 100 different directions. That is what I like about this group. As far as playing them in critical situations, I think the confidence that I have in our group is that if we are down 1-0 halfway through the hockey game and I feel like our team is still playing with energy and enthusiasm, I am fully prepared to run four lines for an extended period of time. Looking at the end game there, looking at the end result, I don't view it as we have to score the next shift. I think that is the confidence you have because they are competent people defensively so you know you are not going to be at high risk. But believe me, as rewarding as this season has been, it has been extremely challenging because when you coach an older team, there is a lot of different opinions and they are very strong.

Q. Hull said during the last series that it is easier to replace even a guy like him because of the system that you play. He characterized it as interchangeable parts. Does that make it simpler to replace a guy like a Hull or a Modano or somebody even at their stature?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I can tell you one thing, if Hull is not playing, he is not coming on the bench as a coach. So.... (LAUGHTER) Enough is enough for his opinions. Brett Hull has a personality in the game that he is like a shark out there. He is always lurking and he is always finding gaps and holes and he is hard to play against. The things with that line is that you always feel as a coach that they are one shot away from scoring. With Hull, you always feel like the game can turn right away because his impact in that ability. Where he has been very good for us is he has been a strong player that we can go out and play him against the other team's best line and not miss a beat. That is going to change now. The player that plays with Modano and Lehtinen, whether it is Hrkac or whether it is Sydor, you know, or whether it is a guy like Jon Sim, it will be a different role because the player that will play there will have a defensive role and Modano and Lehtinen will be turned loose. So there is a different -- the line will play differently. The line will play the same way as it did for pretty much most of last year. That line was very effective in the Playoffs. But the guys that will be turned loose will be Mo and Lehts. The feeling -- the confidence that you have -- you don't know what it is like when you are sitting on the bench that you have got a player that in one split second can win the hockey game for you. There is a lot of confidence that you can gain from that.

Q. Can you talk about how your team has been able to handle the adversity that you faced in this series so well? I mean, last game to have Modano at less than 100% and to have missed Hull for practically the whole game which you think can set in some panic but your team handled it well and won.

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think that is -- some of it is from being veterans, a veteran-laden team. We have been through these things before. But I think our team has really pointed at the end game here. We feel like -- a lot of us feel like no matter how good this team might be for the next four, five years, with some of the younger players in their impact seasons we might never ever get a chance like this again. We just want nothing to get in our way from giving ourselves the opportunity based on our effort. We really feel confident that if our effort is there and our desire to compete every shift is there that we can put that will onto the other team. We just feel like we don't have to win the game in the first period. As long as we stay with the program we can effect the outcome towards the end. There is a lot of confidence. That confidence grew really from the Edmonton series. Edmonton pushed us extremely hard and they pushed us right to the max. We were always able to overcome towards the end there. I think that confidence has gotten us to a level -- we have a lot of confidence in the way we play. We just feel like if we play with the program that we can wear teams down.

Q. Ken, could you give us some background on Sydor's experience as a forward, why would you play him there and what other former player over the year he might compare to?

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, his background is that he was listed as -- on a junior team in Canada as a centericeman left winger and some coach screwed him up and put him on defense. That guy was me. I put him on defense as a junior player because I felt that he wasn't going to be the impact scorer that people thought he was as a junior. So at the same time he went back on the blue line, a guy named Niedermeyer came; played with him. They became a great pair and they stayed together throughout their junior career. But his background, when we listed him at 13 in Kamloops he was a forward; he came to us as a forward and he played his first season as a 16-year-old as a forward. He likes playing there now because he feels like he can get even with everybody that has taken runs at him and as you saw the two shifts he took out there he was trying to kill everybody. If we can get him calmed down enough then we might look at using him. But I think when we put Hrkac there we were really impressed with the way Tony played there. So we have got some good options. But I think that Darryl gives us so much energy that we can play him similar to the way we play Lehtinen in the middle 20s as far as minutes up and back and he doesn't miss a beat.

Q. Off the subject a little bit. Last night your plan was to go to a Civil War reenactment this morning. I am wondering if you made it; if you did, who won?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I got this thing going on and renactment is on. I already know who won. I had coffee with three of the soldiers this morning. It was pretty funny looking; they were hot. They were really whining about the temperature yesterday and they are not looking forward to the march today, but they are having a good time. For the people that don't know -- the people that travel, it is almost like a carnival situation, a lot of these people, this is their summers, the weekends, and this -- the reenactors have started on the move in the May long weekend and they are on the move now and they happen to be in the Buffalo area and they are reenacting the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse and Cold Harbor. They move to the different venues every weekend and a lot of -- the people that I know, they sell a product there, they have -- their families work the tents and work the settlers areas and that so it is fun. I have just gotten to know these guys over the years. These fellows are from Michigan and we have reenacted in Jackson together and stuff.

Q. Wonder if you could talk little bit about Jamie Langenbrunner. One thing that Joe Nieuwendyk said last night was that he was playing as if he had been through this for years and years, not like he had been in the League three years like he was a veteran. I guess on your team there is nothing more -- not a bigger compliment than being told that you are playing like a veteran.

KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I think what Lags and Newey and Dave Reid and when Benny was there, Hogue was there they have got chemistry and they have got a strong belief in their ability to score and work together -- work together is probably the key, could have impact in the game. I think Lags -- and we have had one or two meetings, I guess, Lags and I over the process here. I think Jamie, to me, is playing the way he did a year ago, the first half of last year and that he has really got a focus of physical play and energy, of that pay the price commitment and then I think his skills just taken over from there. He is really working hard and being strong on the puck and I think it is affecting the way he is playing and it is affecting the way he is playing offensively.

Q. Of all the factors in your team's success, how -- how important and how does it rank ability to having an offense that keeps people away from the net and why is it harder in today's NHL for teams to get to the net and be able to attack?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think the -- in the late '80s and early '90s, backchecking was the process of picking up a lane and allowing your defensemen just to play the forwards. There was a tremendous amount of room, the width of the ice was always available because you just picked up one lane, usually it was the lane away from the puck and you came back in that lane. From probably 1992 on, really from a European influence, there is a backchecking push through the middle now that most of the teams play, which now makes you play on half the ice rather than the full 80 feet. You really can only gain offensive production from 40 feet. It is very difficult to penetrate. There is teams now that -- in our division it started with St. Louis who have now adapted to getting by this stuff. Offensive hockey will come back, I feel, in the next couple of years to be able to move ahead of this backchecking system. But because the backchecking system is basically to take away the middle of the ice now; not the far lane, it makes it very difficult to get anywhere near the net because you are always on the outside; there is no room in the middle of the ice, and -- if you look at the way the game was played in the late '80s and early '90s you were able to crisscross, you were able to gain advantage. That way we were able to gain the blue line; can't do that anymore. If you crisscross, you are running right into the backchecker. So teams are so focused in that area that offensive teams haven't been able to adjust. Now the adjustment is taking place and you are going to see, I think, as time moves on more and more offensive opportunities and hopefully more goals.

Q. (inaudible)

KEN HITCHCOCK: I think it is our ability -- we have a focus defensively like Buffalo does. Buffalo's is different than ours. Their focus is in -- they view critical areas in a different way than we do. Our view is that there are two or three critical areas on the ice that have to be defended. So we view that as areas that you can have no room defensively or offensively and we view the slot area and both areas as critical areas on the ice that have to be either defended or attacked aggressively. So if you are going to give up something, you are going -- in order to give up something you are going to have to protect a certain area. You can't do this all over the ice. You have to go into areas and protect them. Buffalo does it -- like I said, different than we do. They really hammer the walls hard, really hard, and we prefer not to. We prefer to protect the middle of the ice more and so each system works depending on your personnel.

Q. You may have felt more comfortable answering this question before your players walked in but I am going to ask you anyway. When your team wins as it did last night, incredible amount of discipline and commitment, you are a finalist for coach-of-the-year. Talk about yourself for a minute; what have you brought to the table beyond the obvious talents that your team has?

KEN HITCHCOCK: I don't know, I think the players recognize how badly I want to win; how committed I am to winning. I think that you get to this stage that everybody is the same from the commitment to winning. But I think what makes this group for me special is that and I have said this before, I don't think that you get in a situation like both of our teams are -- when I read articles on Buffalo and I read articles on ourselves, the thing that is common with both teams is how much the players care for each other away from the rink. This team gets along better than any team I have coached in professional hockey away from the rink, on the ice at practice, in the dressing room. I hear the same stuff from Lindy, and believe me, that is something that I don't take for granted. It is not by my design. You hope that that happens, but sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. I think when you get that way then to me the sky is the limit because you can point your team in a number of different directions and they can recover and I have said this since Christmas: That that is the feeling that we have as coaches, is that because this team gets along so well together, and is willing to fight for each other, and fight through adversity together and not break, it gives you a unique feeling that you can accomplish a lot.

End of FastScripts....

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297