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May 22, 2002

Paul Maurice


Q. Does Carolina not get the respect that you feel is merited? I'm thinking of the way the seedings were, a lot of people have made hay that although the Hurricanes won the division, it should be actually the seventh-seeded team, because the division is so weak?

COACH MAURICE: Well, when we drew Jersey we would have agreed with that 100% in the first round. There's a lot tougher competition to get the sixth seed than there was the third. I don't have a great answer for you. I'm not sure mathematically that the division we play in is quite as insignificant as people might think. When you take a look at a team like Boston, for example, who played 20 games against the southeast division, and if the theory is we are a weaker team, we played 20 games against the southeast division as well. I don't think there's quite as big a swing in the points as people think. The difference in the past few years is that there have been two teams competing for the division title, not three or four. When you have a bad week, can you make it up on one, or can you make it up on two or three? I don't know. I'm not going to win that argument and I'm not going to try to argue it.

Q. Does playing in that division make you play down to the level of teams in the division?

COACH MAURICE: It goes back to my original point. We played 20 games against the northeast division. I'm sure somebody is going to break this down mathematically and make me look like an ass, but I have never completely understood, when you look at the number factor, it's not like we play 40 games in the southeast division and 40 games outside of it. I understand our division does not get -- I don't want to use the word "respect" because that's not the word I'm thinking about. But we certainly don't get a lot of attention for having a high-powered team, but at the same time, give it a little bit of time because there are some outstanding rookies that people are going to watch for a long time. And that's just how the cycle all works. Atlanta has some great players, and just like Florida, as well, and a fairly well-known player in Washington. There are some good young players and some good stars.

Q. Is it an indication of parity in the league? From 1 to 8, it does not seem like there's a whole lot of difference?

COACH MAURICE: Just take the first round of the playoffs. What seed did you want? You know, what team did you want to draw in the first round? I'm sure Boston and Philadelphia may have changed what they thought, maybe New Jersey would, I don't know. The more that you hear, I think to do it all over again, they might say, "hey, maybe we should meet those guys a couple of weeks later." It was such a battle. And it all depends on how it falls, because some years the road team wins all the games and you say, "hey, it's great to start on the road." We have not gotten to a Game 7 yet, unlike Toronto, so having that extra game has not been a factor. Now that I've absolutely beat that question to death in the most possible way, anything else? (Laughter).

Q. In essence, your team is dispelling the myth of that weaker sister analogy with what you are doing in this post-season, and when you consider your opponents, as short-handed as they have been, it is a different season altogether.

COACH MAURICE: It is. I think that the places that we've played, the players of the other teams respect our team and the way we've played. You know, there's not going to be -- you have to win consistently year after year to establish an identity in the national market for your team to be appreciated. I think we've done it in Carolina. I think the fans there truly appreciate our team and understand it. I think we've done well in some big markets in the playoffs. I'm not so sure yet how far along we've gotten, and to be totally honest with you, I'm not particularly concerned with it. I thought we were a better team the last three or four years and that was not overly agreed to by the other people that critique our team. But that's all part of the process with this franchise. It's a natural progression. I'm not fighting that idea. At the end of last season, we had just had three consecutive winning seasons, and that was the first time in the history of the franchise. That's certainly no cause for a parade, but at the same time, it is a bit of a statement now that we have gone four consecutive seasons. There has been an improvement in this hockey team and this franchise.

Q. That said, beating New Jersey in the first round, something that you didn't do last year and something you've had trouble with in the playoffs, how much did that carry you to this point?

COACH MAURICE: I think there is something to that in our locker room. Had you beat a different opponent in the first round, it would not have been as significant in our minds, because regardless of what changes may or may not -- you can argue about the changes in New Jersey, but we still beat the Devils and we could not in the past. Really, we showed a lot of heart last year in that playoff series, but it really wasn't very close. We lost Francis and we lost Willis and were behind Irbe, but he still kept his wits. We learned how to fight and think in that series, and then to be able to come and beat that same team again, I do believe that did something in our locker room. It was a very tangible improvement.

Q. Were you fearful of the physical toll coaching takes on you, and do people understand on the outside what it takes to be a coach in the NHL?

COACH MAURICE: I have become more aware of it. I think in some ways, the demands of fatherhood have been equally taxing. I have become more aware of it, not so much this year, but probably in a couple of those tough years, those years in Greensboro, trying to get enough rest and all of those things. On the other hand, I think I've always had a fairly decent perspective.

Q. Is there more pressure on hockey coaches and NHL coaches to win in the playoffs than there would be on coaches in other sports, simply because of the financial structure of the League?

COACH MAURICE: I don't know that. I know that before the games in these playoffs, I felt exactly the same way I did before the games in my junior playoffs, going for the Memorial Cup, it's the exact same thing, it has not changed. I can tell you that I've had games during the course of seasons past that I was just as uptight for as you would be for playoffs, just based on different circumstances.

Q. From your team's perspective, does it matter that Pat is not behind the bench?

COACH MAURICE: At hockey time, there's really no other focus. But we have a number of people, whether it's players or in our organization, that have worked with or played for Pat Quinn, and there's a concern there. Even just as a coach in the League, Pat is one of those veteran guys that, as a young coach you look up to and watch real close. You can't help but be concerned for him. Yet, the personal issue aside, the hockey part, once that puck drops, it takes over. You just wish the best for him.

Q. The goaltending situation has seemed to have settled down. Before that, obviously, with Kevin and Arturs, you really didn't know who was going to start. How much has Donny Edwards played a part in that decision-making process and helped you solve that situation?

COACH MAURICE: He has been a great voice. He's been the one guy who would speak with Jim Rutherford between games, but the in-game conversations, we have two defenseman, two guys that played in the league on the back end. It's nice to talk to somebody that's been between the pipes. Unless you've been there, I don't think you can truly understand what a guy is going through. Experience teaches you what you think you should be going through. But Donny, I'll ask him, "where's his head now," and he gives a real accurate description of what the goaltender is going through. He does a good job of reading the personalities coming in. He knows where they are at during those games, so that really does help in making a decision whether you have to take out a guy or not. But again, it has always been the guy coming off the bench, not the guy I was taking out, that had I not had the confidence in the guy sitting on the bench to go in and make a change, I would not have done it. All three situations with the goalie coming out, I thought they got bad breaks; I didn't think they were playing bad.

Q. Does it mean anything more to you to be here, given your history with Jimmy and Peter, having drafted you?

COACH MAURICE: No question. I don't want to give you a detailed answer because we're still playing. But, I got a question asked in Edmonton once about, what's your goal. The first thing out of my mouth wasn't to win a Stanley Cup. The guys said, "well you're the only coach we've had that didn't say that." I've got a lot of issues here. The analogy I gave them is: I've always felt like the kid who got invited to go out to dinner and everybody else had to stay and clean up. I do know that the people, for the most part, you are focused on your job and you don't get caught up in all this but the people around you do, your family, and both my family and my wife's family is in Canada. They don't miss a game or a shift. It's a lot harder on those people than it is on us, but you get to enjoy it and I think that's the part I would say that I'm enjoying the most now. And it goes to Jim Rutherford and Mr. Carmanos, the faith that they have shown. I'm glad for them that the team is having some success. They have done some fine things to get the team here and I'm glad that they can enjoy some success.

Q. Aside from the family focus, on a strictly hockey basis, is there that thought process in your mind that you are on the cusp of winning and that you are that much closer?

COACH MAURICE: I don't have get that far. So much of this you don't realize is happening to you until after it's over, is what I'm finding. You get so caught up in what you're doing that you don't fully appreciate it. I think that's probably how you have to operate, but in some ways, it's too bad. Like there's the saying, "enjoy it while you're here." To be honest, I'm not particularly concerned whether anybody enjoys it or not. We're trying to win.

Q. Along those lines, are you a little bit concerned that last night might have been the win that would change the state of the emotional flow that's been through there all the way?

COACH MAURICE: What's happening is I think we are now getting a taste of being here. When the home team wins, they are on a roll, they are going. And when they lose, it's like, oh, my God. The big swing in all this is not in the locker rooms. It's in the media. It's your job, and it's a tough one, is to find indicators of where this is going. My job is to coach the players to understand that there are no indicators. You play one hard shift at a time and you go forward. That's what you guys have to do. That's what people want to know; what's going to happen. You tell us what's going to happen before the game and we tell our guys: You do whatever you can to take care of this game. But nobody knows. 2-1, 2-2, we have been up two, we've lost two in a row and tied the series. We've been purportedly down and came back and made it 2-2. That's why it's so exciting. You never get to that point where you say that "this is done" or "this is good" or "this is over" and "we're in trouble." Mentally, you don't let yourself get to that point.

Q. If, in fact, Pat Quinn cannot be behind the bench either tomorrow night or for the rest of the series, can that be construed in any way, shape or form as an advantage for you, for your team?

COACH MAURICE: I don't know. I'm not trying to hide the answer from you, but I just don't know the answer to that question. You work all year as a coach to make yourself as least important as you can. But I don't know that locker room. I don't know that personality. I certainly admire what they have done from afar and what they have shown, their grit and determination. So you would have to say based on what you've seen that the answer is: No, there's no advantage. Their team won't allow it, but I don't know that. My job, I wake up every morning and wonder, "How well do you know your group?" I'm there every day. I certainly would not be able to make any statement of understanding of that room, but I have watched and have been very amazed with how strong they have been.

Q. Could you elaborate on that, making yourself least important?

COACH MAURICE: When your bench is calling out the mistakes that are made on the ice, then they know what they are supposed to do. When they are coaching the game in front of you, then they can handle their game. The advantage is having Ron Francis there, so even if they don't know what's going on, he'll tell them. (Smiles.) That's what's great about having a guy like that. But at this time, when you have players telling us what happened on the ice, like when Sean Hill has a faceoff in Carolina that they made an adjustment on, it was two switches on the ice and he came on the bench; and that's what you are wondering, if he picked it up. And he detailed the play completely, so you leave it alone.

Q. So if Quinn has done a good job up to this point --

COACH MAURICE: Don't do that. Pat Quinn has done a phenomenal job. They are here.

Q. How rare is it for Archie to take a day off?

COACH MAURICE: Not overly. We've got him beat down to 15 hours a week of hard labor. He's filled his quota so we give him a day. He's changed a little bit over the last two or three years. He has learned that he can't -- well, he probably could -- but he's learned he can be just as effective on a little more rest.

Q. When you guys got Hedican, did you specifically need him to fill that role or did he just evolve into it?

COACH MAURICE: I think we viewed him to be a certain player and he was exactly how we viewed him. I think because we all agreed on the style of game to expect from him, that his confidence has been such a big part of his game.

Q. Any other injuries or lineup changes from last night coming into the next game?

COACH MAURICE: No changes.

Q. How about Jeff O'Neill, how is he doing?

COACH MAURICE: I saw him in the hotel this morning and I thought, "Wow, he looks great." He looks better than he did on the bench last night, and I think everybody assumed it would be worse, just with the swelling. But he skated today and was fine.

Q. How about Tanabe?

COACH MAURICE: He now is full practice.

Q. So he's available at some point?

COACH MAURICE: His game conditioning is still going to be an issue. The thing that becomes more difficult is we won't have any practices that are going to allow him to get a lot of game in, unless he works with the Diamonds, and it's more difficult to get that game conditioning.

Q. So you will probably just ride what you have until something changes?


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