The following is a transcript of today's Avalanche press conference...
Jean Martineau: Members of the media, welcome to the press conference. At this time I would like to introduce Avalanche Vice President and General Manager, Francois Giguere. Go ahead.
Francois Giguere: Good afternoon everybody. First of all, I would like to say that I wish that we were preparing for the playoffs today, nevertheless our stretch drive was remarkable, just to see the reaction of our fans this past weekend I think confirmed that they appreciated the effort and that in the drive that these players made that finished the season and that the they feel optimistic about the future of this organization.
I'm here today beside our team captain Joe Sakic and I'm truly privileged to announce that the Joe has signed a new one year contract for his 19th season here in Denver all with the same franchise. Joe is truly the heart and soul of this team for him to be on board is a positive message to our team. He had a tremendous season, no doubt he is a leader on and off the ice and we are looking forward to have him lead this team in 2007-2008 season. And now I would like to introduce our captain, Joe Sakic.
Joe Sakic: Thanks Francois. I'm very excited to sign another year here, obviously that's why we are here today and I'm really excited about the way this organization has going on right now, the way the young kids have played this year, the stretch drive, I think we really grew up as a team. This group of guys never quit, we didn't make the run unfortunately and we would like to be doing this press conference in a couple months, but we are here today and we're very excited about what we have here, the run we just had shows what type of team we have, we're really looking forward to next year, we expect to be going into the playoffs and not only in the playoffs but competing for the Stanley cup. We're looking forward to getting it going. We've got a great organization here, from our ownership Mr. Kroenke, the goal here is always to win and we expect to be right back in there -----.
Jean Martineau: Thank you Joe, just before we open the question period, Francois and Joel watned to bring to you some important points about the last season and I'll let Francois begin with a few points and then Joel will follow up.
Francois: There are three points I would like to emphasize to start off with before the question period. First one, what important element of the season was the emergence of our young players. Many of them were given key roles, a part of it was because of injury, but they were given key roles, and they responded positively, not only that I think their development and progressed a lot more rapidly than we would have anticipated. They played a big part in the success of the season and of this team and there is no doubt in my mind that these young players will just get better and help this team move forward.
Unfortunately, we were one of the top teams when it came to man games lost to injury, two key injuries happened that impacted our season. The first happened to Steve Konowalchuk right at training camp when he discovered his heart condition. He would have been a key player on this team from a leadership point of view and also from the experience that he would have brought, he would have been able to play in key situations like penalty killing, leader in the games, which would have played a big role in the success of this team. Fortunately for us, we missed him on the ice but he was able to join our management staff and will help in the development of our young players. Secondly, Jordan Leopold had three different injuries over the year, one of the most unlucky seasons I have ever seen. Jordan is still entering the prime of his career and I'm convinced that he will be a key contributor to the success of this organization.
The third area that I wanted to talk about is development. Over the past nine months we have put a lot of emphasis on the development, the development in this new NHL, I correlate that to R & D Pharmaceutical company, the development ensures the long term, long term success of a company and there is no doubt that we have made some strong strides to ensure the success of this franchise long term.
The first thing that was made is last summer, the development is under the responsibility Craig Billington, but we hired Sylvian Lefebvre to help us and Craig and Sylvian all year with Joe Saco, have worked with our young players in Albany and we saw the emergence of Kyle Cumiskey who came up for nine or ten games, seen guys like Jeff Finger who has been a part of our system for a few years and never had an opportunity to play in the NHL, to come up and play and play in a very strong environment.
Secondly, for our players that are unsigned and playing at the college and junior, Craig and Sylvain travel all over North America to follow their games and follow their progress and make sure that we can prepare them to be the best professional athletes they can be when they are going to join our organization. We've seen the recent side of Chris Stewart and are hoping to have a lot of our good, young prospects sign in the next few months and join our franchise.
The segway to that is that the third element is that from a development point of view is this winter we announced a long term agreement to have our own American league franchise, that's going to be playing in Cleveland and they are going to start the operation next year and they are going to be called the Lake Erie Monsters. Our young players are going to develop there, we will control the whole roster, we will control the coaching staff and ensure that our players grew up with our style of hockey and culture which I think is important for them to get ready to be NHL players.
Lastly, from a development point of view, this summer we will have a one week development camp that is going to be the longest development camp that we have ever done, we've done these now for four years in a row, but that's it and that's a way for us to get to know these young players and help them to get ready to start off on their pro careers or continue their pro careers for some of the young guys. These different elements will ensure the long term success of this franchise. Once again, thank you for coming, I think our season was a tremendous success and are we disappointed we didn't make the playoffs? Of course we are. But the future of this organization is promising and we finished with 95 points which is three more points than any other non-playoff team ever, which is the same number of points the team had last year. I think this season was a success and I would like to thank you.
Jean: Thank you Francois, and Joel why don't you go ahead with your ------ as well.
Joel: First of all, I would like to congratulate Joe on his contract and also Joe has had a great year and a privilege and a pleasure to coach you, it's exciting to know that you are coming back next year. All year long, as a team and as a group there we were looking to catch that stretch run that we had the end of the year we were hoping for, we maybe ran out of time, certainly it was something that we got a lot of excitement out of, it was a pleasure to coach the group, a fun experience, coming to the rink everyday, how the guys played, how the guys contributed, every guy was a part of it, you cant' say enough about the leadership being lead by Joe and the older guys, the younger guys were a part of it too, coming to the rink every night. Francois said the same sentiments about how exciting the building was of the last couple of games, it was appreciated and it was noticed.
Going into the season, you know, if you had to pick a number of how many points it was going to take to make the playoffs and you said 95 points you are probably going to get in, you've got a good chance to challenge for our division and the way it all played out, it was certainly disappointing that it wasn't enough and 44 wins is the most since 2001-02 season and more wins than another team had won in a division, I don't find any solace knowing we were here to make the playoffs and there was certainly a lot of positive things that were raised through the season and there are certainly some things that we have to be better at going forward.
A couple areas where we know we have to improve upon and that's our home record, we lost some points here earlier on in the year that we know we have to win games here, our road record was fine our penalty killing has got to get better going into next season, but the way we exited last night and Saturdays game and the reception of our fans was appreciated and the guys in the room deserve a lot of credit because of how they competed until the end, it was noticed. Going forward to the next year there is a lot of excitement as a group and as a coaching staff.