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Boston Bruins Forward David Backes Conference Call Transcript

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
BOSTON BRUINS CONFERENCE CALL

Friday, July 1, 2016

BOSTON BRUINS FORWARD DAVID BACKES
Opening Statement:
I guess I would just like to open thanking the Bruins organization and how welcoming and warm they’ve been in the short time that I’ve been officially wearing the Bruins sweater, the Jacobs family for being all in and trying to win and signing me today – that includes Cam Neely, Don Sweeney, Claude Julien who I talked to during the interview time and a couple of the current players on the team that I was able to discuss in depth some of the challenges that the Bruins face, but also some of the things that they thought were great assets for the team and that you could really build on and have success as a group. And from all of that and my knowledge of playing against Boston, the games that we’ve had against Boston in St. Louis the last 10 years, always seem to be tight-checking, heavy games which, that’s the kind of hockey I like playing and figured if I was on the other side of the ledger you know that team has got just as much of a chance to win and they play in a style that I really fit into. So I guess that’s my initial thoughts and opening statement. I guess if there are any questions that are out there, I’d love to answer them and let people in Boston and the media get to know me a little bit better and we can build this relationship question by question, day by day to have some familiarity. And we’re going to be working together for a long time so let’s have at it.

On why he thinks he’s going to fit in with the Bruins’ organization…
Well from my time playing against Boston and the history of the team, it’s a blue-collar, hard-nosed, don't-take-crap-from-anybody type of team, and that’s the way that I feel I’ve built my game in 10 years in the league. And I think that it should be a seamless fit to fill the few holes or deficiencies that, through the interview process, were identified, and continue to be strengths of mine in all facets of the game – five-on-five, power play, penalty kill. It just seemed like an awesome fit hockey-wise and the more I learn about the New England area and what Boston has to offer for a city from a family-living standpoint, the family life seemed to be a match made in heaven as well. And we’ll get to experience that in short order, and all in all it’s something that we just had to jump at and glad to be a Bruin.

On what his impasse was with the Blues organization in terms of signing a new contract there…
Yeah well it wasn't an agreement on term or dollars. Typically, without getting into any specifics, you want to give one and get the other or, you know, and vice versa. And it just didn’t seem like there was much movement and more of a business approach from their end. And I respect that and it’s their right, but also a right that I’ve earned to explore the market and see what else is out there. And knowing how a few teams had approached me, a few a little more aggressive than others, we decided on free agency, ended up going for July 1 at noon eastern, that we’d have a few cities and we may need to turn that page. And again the fit with Boston … Every time I had a conversation with someone from the organization, that kind of goosebump feeling on your arms and that emotional connection and thought process towards what it would be like to maybe have a different sweater and be able to join what they’re trying to do in Boston really just kept building. And then the opportunity presented itself not too long after 11 struck. Once the agent and Don Sweeney figured out the numbers, it was let’s move on with this and sign the deal because it makes so much sense on so many levels.

On what discussions he had with Boston in regards to playing at center or on the wing…
Yeah, we talked mostly about me being a center iceman, and through the process, I was asking questions and didn’t want to pull myself out of being part of the Bruins. But you’ve got Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who are the top-tier center iceman and they’re both right-handed, you’re going to bring me in as another right-handed centerman. You’re top three centermen are all going to be right-handed — how does that look in the process? That wasn’t a thought that they didn’t have, but they know that guys can take them [draws] on both sides. With the faceoff percentage of Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] and his ability to dominate that dot on either side, I can take them on both sides, and so can Krejci, and other than that, that was really my, ‘Hey, how’s this typically going to work?’ And we also vetted, ‘Hey, we were able to see you play wing at the end of the season in St. Louis and in the playoffs, and you really had a lot of success there, so we may have an opportunity, depending on how some of the younger players are playing, if a guy like [Ryan] Spooner can play the third line center and I move up to a right side with Marchand and Bergeron, that gives us that heavy, responsible line that can put a lot of pucks in the net and we’ve got a lot of options with you on this team.’ And if you want to call me third line, I completely respect that – those other two guys are awesome – but I imagine we’re going to share a lot of responsibility and not burden one guy with all of the hard ice or the heavy lifting, when we have responsible guys that can share those roles. Then we can all flourish on the other side of the ice and have tons of energy still left for ends of games to close it out or to score a late big goal, or over the course of a tough 82-game season, to have plenty of gas in the tank at the end of the year to make a push to the playoffs and be playing our best hockey going into the playoffs, and take it up another notch so we can have success and play into June.

On how he feels he’s holding up after so many years with his physical play, especially after this year’s playoffs…
Feeling really well. I think that physical style has been one of my calling cards for 10 years, and I think maybe if you start to slow down a little bit, and you get a little bit older, your intelligence and your hockey sense and your ability to think the game is accelerating maybe faster than you’re slowing down. And those types of efforts to be efficient I think make – in my world, I think it’s made me a better player, and been able to carry that physical play and pick my spots at key moments, rather than just hitting everything that moves like it’s a rugby match. Being able to perhaps finish on certain guys on the other team and other ones, it’s not worth going the extra two, three steps out of your way to expend that energy and to go for that hit. I’m 32. I’m not 52. I think there’s plenty of legs and plenty of physicality and energy left in me and the term’s been something that maybe a few people have questioned, but for me, I expect to still be at the top of my game for that last year and be a contributing member for the Boston Bruins and training differences, being able to really take care of my body, listening to it and just give everything I’ve got and I think that’s the way I’m going about it and I would expect to be really good in that fifth year still.

On where he sees himself towards the end of the contract, and how reliant he will be on his legs to be an effective player…
Yeah, I mean, I don’t think the game’s getting slower. I think that it’s a fast game, but if you start to manage the puck in the right way, and you can occupy the offensive zone and do a lot of the things that teams that are heavy and control the puck and occupy zones do, it’s not a track meet up and down the ice. With Pittsburgh winning the Cup, a team that was kind of designed on that track meet, let’s go, let’s see who can skate the fastest up and down the ice, there may be a trend or a tendency to start to build teams like that, but you’ve also seen other teams in the L.A. Kings, the Boston Bruins, in recent history, win playing that heavy game, and maybe not having the fastest team, but winning every battle that you get into, being able to control the puck once you get it and then owning the important areas of the ice which is in front of the net. And when you’ve got a guy like Zdeno Chara in your defensive zone, you’re feeling pretty good about the front of the net and if we can start spending a lot more time and just camping out in front of the other team’s goalie for screens and tips and rebounds, that’s a good recipe to score more goals than the opposition and that’s what it’s all about.

On if he was surprised to see Loui Eriksson and him end up getting the same amount of salary on the market…
You know, in the unrestricted world, there are a lot of loose ends and it’s very dynamic and fluid, and always changing from minute to minute, or day to day. Guys can sign with their own teams or this team that was interested got a different guy or made a trade and filled the need. For me, I was really concentrating on what my situation was, trying to juggle the teams that were interested. I had a preferential list made up prior that I’d like to go to certain teams over another, but when it came down to it, I was ecstatic to sign with Boston, and then you start to watch the TV and the reports come in of where other guys went and it seems like all the GMs did their homework and the guys that were available that were historically 20-, 30-goal scorers every year, 50, maybe 60-point guys all were getting around that same amount and based on age, were getting anywhere from four to seven years and I think it was right in line with the rest of them.

On Patrice Bergeron…
He, personally, was one of the guys that I was able to talk to. I can maybe flatter a little bit now that he’s my teammate, but I hate giving players credit, giving them any edge, when I’m playing against them. But he’s a guy you were pissed at by the end of the game because he never made a mistake. That’s a good way to be successful defensively and then, by the end of the game he typically was producing something [on the] offensive side of the score sheet, too – just a guy that you can’t take a shift off because he’s going to make you pay. If you’re going to get anything done against him, he’s always in the right spots, he’s winning draws against you, he’s a fearless competitor, he just keeps going and keeps his mind focused on what he needs to achieve during the game. He’s a winner. He’s won a gold medal, to my dismay. He’s also won a Stanley Cup. You can’t discredit any of those great achievements that he’s had.

On his philosophy on leadership…
I think without getting too deep into it, the difference level is that we need a cohesive leadership group that’s made up of prominent players that have a loud voice and walk the walk and not just talk the talk. If you have that – a good four to five guys with those qualities – the rest of the team has no option but to jump on board and fall in line. If that’s what you have, that pretty much cracks the whip on everyone else and that’s going to breed a ton of success. That being said, I think it’s something where leadership in my past has been you’ve got to be the first guy willing to put team success ahead of individual success. Again, prominent players that are putting team first, the rest of the guys have no choice, and that’s a really great culture to cultivate winning and have that be the way that things go. And as a group, when you win it doesn’t matter who’s got the statistics personally, everyone’s happy, everyone gets rewarded, and if you win your last game of the year you get to have a bunch of parties and parades. That’s what we’re trying to do here.

On what about the Bruins appealed to him…
I think transition may be the word you chose, but I think it’s more of a kind of a re-tooling, with a new GM in the past couple years that with cap issues had to really change the look of the team. And now they’re trying to get pieces back that they think will get them over the hump. They barely missed the playoffs last year and if they were able to get into the playoffs, I don’t think anyone would have wanted to play them. That being said, when you can complement and share the load with a guy like Bergeron and [David] Krejci, that’s the way it was sold. It wasn’t, ‘Hey, we need you to come in and do all the heavy-lifting, take the D-zone draws, and change and the other guys get the posh ice.’ Or, ‘Hey, you’re going to be a first-line guy, you’re going to play with skill players, you’re only going to play in the offensive zone to start and these other guys will do all the heavy lifting.’ That wasn’t the way it was sold and potentially blow smoke and try to sell a guy like that. But it was honest, it was genuine, those kinds of conversations like, ‘Hey, we want you to come and be a member of this team that shares the workload with the other guys that work their butts off and works together as a group, we’re going to have success.’ These guys get it. They know what it’s going to take to win. That’s what I want to be a part of and it just sold me on the hockey side. We have to figure out, like I said, the living situation and do a little research on the Boston area. I’ve been there probably seven times to play in 10 years and it’s pretty much been the night and you’re out of there. But when we found out and through our reference and who we talked to, we just fell in love with it and can’t wait to experience it firsthand of what it’s going to be like to live in that area as well.

On playing either wing or center…
Absolutely, I’m into winning games, so if Claude thinks that we’re going to win more games with me playing wing then I’m in. If he thinks that we’re going to win more games with me playing center, I’m in. Whatever he thinks, you know, I’ll do it to the best of my ability. And you know it’s one of those things where it may be schedule dependent, it may be opponent dependent, it may be dependent on a bunch of different variables, but we’re going to have a game plan to win and we’re going to go out there and execute it. And whatever it is, and if the schedule is light and Bergy and Marchand can play 25 minutes and have a day or two to rest after that, maybe it's a possibility that I’m on that right wing and spread the minutes out and play 16-17 [minutes] and spread it out through the three lines and swap the fourth line in for energy and some of the great things that fourth lines bring in, then maybe I’m a centerman and the schedule is tougher, but those minutes all need to be high quality and not just eating them to run time off the clock. We need to be productive in everything that we’re doing on the ice.
 
On how confident he is in the Bruins ability to get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs…
I’d love to have some [crystal] ball to look into to tell you what’s going to happen and give you a great prediction. If we’re going to be honest on this call I’ve got 10 years in the Western Conference and you just kind of spot in an Eastern Conference game here or there. I really don’t know what that’s going to be like. I know a bit about the Bruins culture and what that team is going to look like and how good it should be, and from playing those other Eastern Conference teams spotted in, I think it’s going to be a very competitive team that should be able to get into the playoffs and be able to make a mark when we’re in the playoffs. That being said, there is a lot of new experiences that will come with playing in the East, but they’ve got plenty of guys on the team that didn’t play in the East for their whole career or haven’t played for an extended time and we’re not going to take a backseat to anyone. It’s Boston Bruins hockey and I’m excited about being up to it. Let’s get started. Unfortunately I’ve got to be enemies with a few of my teammates before we’re teammates for the first time in the World Cup coming up.
 
On how well he knows some of the current players and if he spoke with them this afternoon…
I don’t know any of them on a personal level. I know quite a few on a professional level, mostly opponents, and have a great level of respect for them as opponents and how they carry themselves and how they compete and just stay on task and never say die. And we’ve had awesome games between the Blues and Bruins, and it’s just kind of something that burned in my brain whenever we played those guys, it feels like it’s maybe a playoff game and one that really matters even though it could be game five in an 82-game season and you’d just never know. So that sort of passion drove me to the team and I didn’t speak with anyone that I knew because I don’t have a personal connection, but Bergeron has, I believe, an eight-month-old son and I’ve got a one-year-old daughter, that sort of connection whether it’s at where the new practice facility is going to be and having a house … I do a lot of animal rescue work and having a yard with a few of the animals that we have would be something that would be very nice, too. So of all of the combinations and those things we vetted and you know couldn’t say – Bergy and Marchand – both couldn’t say enough nice things about Boston and just letting me know that when I got there I was going to fall in love with it and as a group on the ice we were going to be able to accomplish some great things and I was sold.

#07/01/16#
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