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Coaches' take on game proves interesting

Friday, 01.25.2008 / 7:57 PM / 2008 NHL All-Star Game

By Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

If you watched the All-Star Coaches Roundtable on Friday afternoon, it was an interesting look into opinions from four of the more respected coaches in the League.
ATLANTA -- What happens when you gather four of the sharpest hockey minds in one place and bounce questions off them?

If you watched the All-Star Coaches Roundtable on Friday afternoon, it was an interesting look into opinions from four of the more respected coaches in the League -- Western Conference coaches Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings and Ron Wilson of the San Jose Sharks, and Eastern Conference coaches John Paddock of the Ottawa Senators and Don Waddell of the Atlanta Thrashers.

Topics included the length of the regular season and playoffs, the value of the pre-game skate, the new trend of long-term contracts for young players, the culture of the game and what to do to increase scoring.

On whether an 82-game schedule is too long:

“Personally, I do think 82 games are too much,” said Wilson. “I'd like to see a 70-game schedule, a few more breaks in there. … I'd like to see us have a week that we put aside and at least give the All-Stars a couple of days where they can be with their families and just rest and get away from the game.”

“At the Board of Governors, there's talk about an 84-game schedule possible,” said Waddell. “If we have to lengthen our schedule at all, we have to lengthen the amount of days in the season, which, of course, that is going to cut more into how long we play into the summer which nobody wants to do. It's got to be a fine line there.”

So how important are pre-game skates?

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“I don't think they're all necessary,” said Paddock. “We look at as the season goes on, maybe starting now making them optional. I think besides the skate, you do some of your preparation to the players and who you're playing and stuff. And you like to get them out together as a group. But I think if nobody was doing them, we'd all be down in that element and things would be the same.”

“They can be optional,” said Babcock. “The veteran guys, the oldest guys on the team, part of it is leadership, they've got to get the motor running. They've got to get going in the morning. Part of it is part of their life; it's part of their routine. What do you want to do all day? You want to get down there and get prepared; you want to get feeling good about your sticks and how you feel. You would be amazed how many times guys are there anyway. They just come in and want to do it.”

Is it good for the game to have games outside North America?

“I suppose I would prefer, being a West Coast team, to be able to play a game in China or Japan,” said Wilson. “But I'd be all for it. I played for six or seven years in Switzerland, and I've been lobbying in San Jose for a few years to have a training camp in Davos where I played, where Joe Thornton played as well (during the lockout). Altitude training, and I think the hockey would be good enough there to give us a challenge and prepare us through the season.”

Are the games over-coached?

“I don't buy that for one second,” said Babcock. “I think we get paid to win hockey games. So we've got to find a way to win. I think every time you make adjustments you take out the red line. You do different things. I think coaches are paid to find a way to make their people be the best they can possibly be.”

“I think most NHL teams have a head coach, two assistants and probably a video coach,” said Waddell. “If you look at the number of players that they're trying to coach compared to the other professional sports, the ratio for coaches to players, we're at the bottom. NBA teams, a lot of them have shooting coaches, blocking coaches. They have seven or eight coaches for 12 players. And the NHL has 22 coaches on their staff. I don't think we're over-coached. There is a lot of responsibility when you're trying to handle 20 players on a given night of their responsibilities. I know these guys all have their assistants fully utilized. I don't think, by any means, we're over-coached.”

With players like Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Richards signing decade-plus-long contracts, is that a good thing for the League?

“Each team has to make tough decisions there,” said Waddell. “In Ovechkin's case, the owner and George McPhee felt he's their franchise guy and they're going to keep him long-term. And they've tied him up for basically his career. … I think in today's day with the salary cap, can you have two or three guys under those kind of contracts? Probably not. But certainly lock up your best player for long-term, I don't see a big problem with it.”

“I think the big things here is when we decide you're marrying one of these guys and you're going to have them there in your franchise for a long time, you better darn well know who you're getting and you better know what kind of person they are and they're not going to go to sleep on you,” ” cautioned Babcock.

With the prevalence of traditional and new media, do writers, reporters and bloggers make a coach’s job harder?

“No, we're always looking for new avenues to get our word out,” said Waddell. “We're in a market and we compete with a lot of things in this marketplace. The only thing that bothers me about media is when you deal with all the speculations of the rumors. Let's deal with facts. We spend probably half our time, and I know these guys do, coaches, and I know the GM's answering calls about these fake trade rumors that these guys in Ottawa make up.”

“I think the media is so very important,” said Babcock. “We have to give as much access as we can. GM Kenny Holland's mandate in Detroit was much more that way. It was more of a circus than I expected when I arrived. And the players are good at handling it. I think the media can get in the way. … When you look at fans in our game, all they want to do is touch and feel and smell and get to know who the players are. And there is only one way to do that. Let the media help you with that process.”


Quote of the Day

It's a great feeling. I can't be more excited to be a part of a team that I absolutely love.

— Center Derek Stepan after agreeing to terms on a six-year contract with the New York Rangers