Q: First of all, can you talk about your impressions of the season moving forward, and what the team did in the offseason?
"Well, I think that picking up three outstanding players and giving up nothing was a tremendous coup for us. We already felt that we had a pretty good team, and now I feel that we have a much better team. I'm really very excited about the season."
How long did the sting of last season linger for you?
"Until now. But now, I'm excited, because we're starting a new season, and it's going to be a great season."
You have to be happy when you watch these first two days. They look like they're in very good shape. Everyone seemed like they had the determination to come back this year and prove that last year was a fluke.
"Well, I think that last year was a fluke. It was the kind of season where anything that could go wrong went wrong. We didn't have a great rapport among all our players. You see the camaraderie now—you can feel it, and see it. We had a golf tournament the other day, and the guys were spectacular. I think we're in for really wonderful things this year. I'm excited about all three newcomers. Some of our kids, I think, are going to get better and better. Our goaltending situation, I think is solid, and I would be very disappointed if it is not. I can't wait."
How much do you think hitting the refresh button on the goalie position helps on the ice and inside the locker room?
"Well, it helps everyone. What is in the past, I don't really want to talk about, but right now we have two outstanding goalies who I think are going to do a great job for us."
What's the biggest question, in your mind, going into the season?
"I can't think of one, really. Do you mean a specific position?"
Yeah, maybe the health of the defensemen…your defense was obviously banged up last year.
"Yeah, but they're all healthy now. Most of them are 100%, and I don't see any reason why they won't be. You have your share of injuries during the year, but hopefully, it won't be anything like last year, where we lost all of our guys. We have more depth, obviously."
You have a history and tradition here of having big centermen. When Primeau got hurt, there was a long gap here between Keith being in the lineup and having someone the size of Lecavalier out there now.
"It's great to have him. He is a big guy, he's an outstanding player. We're excited about that. He'll help all of our other guys, too—he's a veteran. So will Mark Streit. Mark is a tremendous addition, tremendous addition. Exactly what we needed on defense."
How disappointed were you that Dan Cleary decided to sign with Detroit?
"I wasn't disappointed at all. He never came; he wasn't here. I was pretty happy with things before he expressed an interest in coming here."
The team has never been shy to spend money, but now, with all of these guys healthy, it's pretty much at the cap. What happens if there's a case like last year where there's a rash of injuries and there's not a whole lot of money to spend as band-aids?
"Well, you can replace injured players, you can replace their money. If you put them on injured reserve, you then have that money. It's the same thing that will happen when the season starts with Chris Pronger and (Marc-Andre) Bourdon, so we're okay that way."
When you look at the team this year ahead of the season, how do you feel about the comparison from last year, when it was a short year, to now?
“Well you know we’re always optimistic about the team, and I always go into the season with high hopes, but I’d say I’m at another level this year.”
Do you think it’s good that you’re going to have a battle in the net with two goalies playing for a starter spot?
“Well, I think it’s healthy to have a competition; I think its great. I think these kids both know each other, they like each other, I mean it’s not any negative competition. It works out well for us. I don’t care who you’re playing with, to win 17 games and only lose one, is pretty amazing. Every goalie has a bad game, where the team can’t make up for it. I think Emery's record looks fabulous. I think Mason really changed the season. I don’t think what we saw at the end of last year was a fluke, so I am very optimistic about the goaltending.”
Speaking of competition, you now have a number of younger guys competing for a couple of good spots, what do you think that brings to the camp? Is there anybody you are looking forward to seeing?
“Well, I think it’s going to be great competition there too. We have an awful lot of set players, and there are only a few slots open, but a lot of times a kid will remove a veteran if he’s good enough. We’ve got a lot of competition and a lot of depth.”
Some people think since you didn’t make the playoffs this year that (Peter Laviolette) and (Paul Holmgren) are on the hot seat this year.
“They’re not on the hot seat, not at all.”
What keeps your faith (in Laviolette and Holmgren) that they're doing the right job?
"First of all, I don't think anybody can look at the job that Paul Holmgren did over the offseason this year and not say that it was outstanding. Every move that the GM makes isn't going to be perfect. They all make mistakes, but you have to gauge the good things as opposed to anything negative, and Paul has done good things for this organization ever since he became general manger, so there's no issue there whatsoever. As far as Peter is concerned, last year was an anomaly. He's been a very good coach for us, he's been a good coach in this league, and we're just thrilled to have him."
What about what's going on here at the Fan Fest with all of the fans that have showed up? What does it mean to you to see this?
"It's fabulous! To go out there and see that place packed for this particular event, it's an exciting thing. I don’t know if you were out there, but I was asked, 'Are these the best fans in the NHL?' I said, 'These aren't the best fans in the NHL, they're the best fans anywhere.' We have great fans—we've always had them, and we feel very fortunate that they're behind us the way they are."
When you first heard of Claude Giroux's injury, what was your level of concern?
"Obviously very, very concerned. Fortunately, a very good doctor took care of it. He's coming along nicely, and I don't think we're going to have a problem."
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