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Peter Chiarelli, Dave Lewis Conference Call Transcript

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone, I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department. I'd like to welcome you to today's call. This is the first of three calls we are conducting today and tomorrow featuring new management teams as they prepare for the beginning of training camp next week in the opening of the 2006/2007 National Hockey League season in early October. With us on this call we have general manager of the Boston Bruins, Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins head coach Dave Lewis. Thanks to both these gentlemen for taking the time today to answer your questions, and thanks to Heidi Holland of the Bruins public relations department for helping setting up the call. The Bruins open training camp next Thursday at their practice facility in Wilmington, Massachusetts. They open the pre-season on Sunday, September 17th against the New Jersey Devils at Lowell, Massachusetts, and then open the regular season in Florida against the Florida Panthers on Friday, October 6th. At this time we'll open it up for questions.

Q. When you look at the conference this season, there's a wide-held view by many that it's fairly wide open, a lot of parity. Is that something that kind of excites you guys given you have added some important members to a team that didn't make the playoffs last year?

Peter Chiarelli: Yeah, I think definitely the talent has been a little more spread out in the division. There's a lot of departures from teams. We made some additions. Just by simple math, it's good to know that right off the hop, we're going to be in the hunt just because the division has changed so much.

Dave Lewis: I agree with Peter. The changes, in particular here in Boston, may be more radical than most teams. Everything is a real plus-plus for us. Looking forward to the start of the season because the competitive balance has changed. Any time you get players that are unrestricted free agents that move from team to team.

Q. Obviously upgraded up front with Savard and on defense with Chara. How do you feel about your goaltending? Some might wonder whether there's enough experience there with both Toivonen and Thomas?

Dave Lewis: I feel really good about them. I think they complement each other. I was talking with Bob Essensa, the goaltender coach. He's high on both of them. They're very compatible. They work well together. They work hard. I think they're excited about having the team that's now going to be in front of them. The younger of the two is only going to get better. Timmy Thomas, he works hard day in and day out to prove he's a National Hockey League goaltender.

Peter Chiarelli: I feel the same way. Hannu has always been projected as a bona fide goaltender. He doesn't have the experience we would all feel a little more comfortable with. Nothing's changed in the projections. Tim is a battler who has faced a lot of adversity. He's come into his own. He can go back and pick three or four teams with goaltenders of limited experience that have done very well. I feel comfortable with that.

Q. Peter, when you look around the league, so many teams lost key players. A lot of teams gained key players, your team among them. Have we become like the National Football League where you can be a team that's near the bottom, but by changing two or three or four players, because of the parity around the league, you can go from being a non-playoff team to a team that really can entertain the idea of making a splash?

Peter Chiarelli: I think that's certainly on the horizon. I don't know when you compare the two sports how much is based on two or three players, how much the success of the team can be placed on two or three players. I look at our team as being intact from the very start of the season, there being a fresh-start environment, people wanting to prove themselves. We expect a turnaround here. Because there's simple turnover from team to team because of this new system, I think that's a trend you're going to see. I just don't know how quickly it will happen compared to the NFL.

Q. Dave, you had Nick Lidstrom, another premium defenseman. Two different styles, he and Chara. Can you talk about the luxury of having a premium defenseman and how you see Chara impacting this team, what he will do for the Bruins.

Dave Lewis: I agree with you in two points. He's a premium defenseman. A lot like Nick Lidstrom, having him on the ice there's a certain comfort level a coach has. I know his teammates have that comfort level, too. They'll play probably comparable all the same roles as far as ice time, special teams play. Late in games when a big play is needed, I'll look to Chara the same way that I look to Lidstrom to execute those plays. They bring a certain high standard of competition. They're a bit different in that, you know, obviously Chara is a lot larger man, but is fluid and can be as effective as Nick Lidstrom. Any time you talk about Nick Lidstrom, you're comparing the best with the best. That's what I expect to see. I think he's looking for the challenge.

Q. Dave, when you left the Red Wings, they made a coaching change. Is there always some concern you're going to get a job again? Obviously, you were following Scotty Bowman in Detroit. Different situation, but how do you look at that?

Dave Lewis: I think any time -- you know, as a player you get traded, each season you have to reprove yourself. As a coach, I don't think they're a lot different. You have to reprove that you're capable of a high level of performance. I did follow Scotty. The expectations -- if I would have won a Stanley Cup, I would only have been equal, so that was a very difficult task. It's a difficult trophy to win. You know, I did have interviews. The fortunate interview was with Peter in Boston, the Boston Bruins. I'm excited and thrilled to try to reprove myself again. That's the way I look at it. I have something to prove. I have something to accomplish individually. I have some messages that I want to send to the players.

Q. Dave, about being a pro scout last year, does that give you a better feel for the league? Was that very beneficial to you?

Dave Lewis: Yeah, it was extremely beneficial. I talked to actually Darryl Sutter, general manager in Calgary. We had a conversation one night during the winter about his position. He did the same thing that I did after one of his terminations. It helped him extremely to understand the balance of the league, the depths of organizations all the way from maybe the 30th or 40th player on your roster to the first player on your roster, how lines and teams just grow and develop. The first while it took time for me to look at it as a pro scout rather than a coach critiquing the other coach and why they're doing what they do. After a while it became second nature, and I gained an awful lot of experience from that.

Q. Peter, last year in Ottawa, you would have seen the Bruins quite a bit. They played the Senators very well in the second half of the year. There's a lot of talk in the Boston media in the aftermath of the season about a culture change. When you came in, how much of that did you believe had to be done? Did it impact the type of players you were looking at getting in style and talent?

Peter Chiarelli: Well, I've answered this question before. When Ottawa played Boston towards the second half of the years, Boston always played Ottawa very hard. They had a lot of success. It was in kind of the second games after that that Boston didn't fare too well. When you look at that, as a general manager, when you're assessing the situation, why didn't they maintain the level of play on successive games, but they could reach that level of play against an elite team like Ottawa? Well, to me that meant there was a pretty good core here. It wasn't so much of a rebuilding. I mentioned about new culture. But you want to bring in just a couple of key players. A big addition was bringing in Dave. He's got a fresh outlook. As you mentioned, he wanted to reprove himself as a coach. That goes a long way to introducing a new culture.

Q. Peter, coming into this job, did you anticipate maybe if other teams would kind of try to test you and feel you out, see where you were, being this is your first year as GM? Have this they done that at all?

Peter Chiarelli: No, it's been pretty good. I mean, the testing I guess you refer to when you talk about potential trades, player evaluations, whatnot, no, it's been pretty good. Again, when I was in Ottawa, John Muckler allowed me to do a lot of these things that I'm doing here now. The transition has been fairly smooth that way. But I expect down the road that guys are going to low ball me on things. I would expect that. Everyone's competitive.

Q. Dave, so much is made of Chara coming in, Marc Savard. There's also been a veteran core added. When you get to this rookie camp now, which starts on the weekend, can you see that a kid realistically has a chance to make your club this year, or do you anticipate going in with a pretty veteran group this year?

Dave Lewis: I always think there's spots open on any team at any time of the season. If it's not right now, it could be later on. If a kid in the rookie camp opens our eyes that maybe it's unexpected that you might say, Well, in three months we should make room to get this person into the lineup, or we should make room now to get him into the lineup. I always like to think that it's such a competitive sport that always somebody is knocking at the door that wants to take your job. So the veterans have to be ready for that because it's the nature of our business, and the young players have to understand they might have to do a little bit more early onto open the eyes, like I said, so that we can recognize their talent, ability, and where they might fit in. The time frame might not be day one of the regular season, but it could be a little bit later. Injuries or whatever really play a factor into all these decisions.

Q. Dave, I was curious, with all the pressure and hype that's surrounded the Phil Kessel signing, being drafted, do you have a philosophy going into camp how you're going to deal with all that or is it as you go along and see where things are? In the past, the Bruins had trouble with Joe Thornton when he came in, struggled. Do you have a feeling going in how you're going to handle that whole situation, or is it something that will come along as you go?

Dave Lewis: I think it will develop as it goes. You know, what you do as a coach, I never met him yet. I heard lots of things. People in our organization here, people outside the Boston Bruins organization, everybody has an opinion. What you want to do -- and I've learned this from the culture in Detroit -- is things sort of develop. You get to know the person individually, you get to see his ability on the ice, you get to watch how he trains, how he interacts with his teammates, how competitive he is, how he loves hockey. All these things factor into your decision. I don't think rushing anybody at that age is a good thing. I think you have to let water seek its own level and be smart with your decisions. Right now we haven't had one practice where he has been on the ice with the Boston Bruins jersey so we can evaluate him compared to what we have. I think the evaluation is not what you see on the ice, but all the other side factors that go into decisions of becoming a pro athlete and making decisions based on what you see visually in front of you.

Q. On a different note, there's been a lot of talk about the additions that you've brought in, the big names. You've seen him play a lot when you were in Detroit. If you could talk about what you see Shean Donovan bringing to the team.

Dave Lewis: He brings hard work every night. He's a character guy. He competes hard. He's a great skater. He can chase the puck, create turnovers. He can forecheck, be the first man in. He'll block shots. He's the ultimate team player. He's the kind of guy that makes a team stronger. You just don't want a collection of players; you want players that fit into certain roles. I have a real idea of the role he'll play for us. I'm certainly sure he'll relish in it.

Q. Dave, going in it would seem like there's a pretty good competition among maybe about half a dozen rookie forwards to get maybe one or two spots. Do you go into camp kind of looking at that particular area as maybe the biggest unanswered question for you?

Dave Lewis: Well, you know, in my mind I'm trying to formulate, you know, what lines will function, the chemistry amongst players, how the special teams are going to look. Then the training camp process is part of that equation, trying to figure out the right decision for the spots that are available. The only way you can make those decisions are after watching practices, getting test results in training camp from the testing we do, the pre-season games. Then you figure out what is best for the team, what is best for the player, and what is -- where this person would fit in. There are spots that I think there are still question marks. It's up to the players to decide themselves where they fit in. Competition is great, particularly in training camp. That's what we're going to wait and see. The same thing, just show me where you're good enough and where you can play.

Q. Dave, when you're coming into a new situation going into camp, do you have an idea in your mind on who you would like to see play together in terms of line combinations or is that totally dependent on what you see once you get them out on the ice?

Dave Lewis: I think that decision is based on, you know, some of the line combinations that were here last year in Boston, and then just watching and interacting with the players, trying to get a feel for what's going on. I'm the kind of coach -- I learned this from Scotty Bowman -- you have to try different combinations, you try different things. A lot of times in hockey today pairs are probably more prominent than lines of three. You'll see pairs, a centerman and a winger, mostly a center and a winger, not too often two wingers being interchanged with centermen. I'm not afraid to try different things. I think you'll see a lot of experimenting. Then we'll come to some conclusion on what we should do once we get closer to the start of the season. But that experimenting will go on for part of the season also because you have to be ready for injuries and players have to assume different roles. I've always found that that's the best process to go. Sometime as natural left winger might have to play the right side for two weeks in the regular season just to make your team a more effective team.

Q. Peter, with your negotiations with Phil Kessel, how much consideration went into the new CBA, the fact that he would be eligible for unrestricted free agent status as early as 25?

Peter Chiarelli: That was a determination that I had to make prior to entering into negotiations. Is this someone weapon wanted to turn pro? There's a variety of things you look at when you're turning someone pro. That was one of them. Seven years down the road, we may lose him to unrestricted free agency. But there's a lot of other reasons why you want to turn someone pro. We decided to negotiate and get him to sign the contract regardless of that. It's something that you always think about. You hope to address that when the time comes or before then.

Q. Peter, can you update us on the status of Alexei Zhamnov, how he impacts your salary cap situation either way?

Peter Chiarelli: Alexei Zhamnov was on long-term injury exception last year. He will be placed on that for this year. Actually what it does, your salary cap prior to the start of the season is essentially crystallized on the roster that you set. When you place a guy on long-term injury exception, his amount of salary basically gets taken off of the cap. Alexei is at 4.1. That amount would basically be pushed up. If you add 43 and a half at the start of the season, you'd get 43 and a half plus his 4.1. That would essentially be your forgiveness under that exception.

Q. You don't use that exception unless you're over.

Peter Chiarelli: Right. A misinterpretation of that exception was that, you know, when you're significantly under the cap, you use it, the money just gets taken off the cap. That's not the case, especially when you're near or close to the cap.

Q. How would his being on that long-term leave or exception help you out, or does it at all?

Peter Chiarelli: Well, it gives you effectively a cushion of that amount to add players, to replace him. It gives significantly more wiggle room.

Q. What is your number now?

Peter Chiarelli: Well, effectively there's a lot of off-season cap accounting that is being considered right now. When you get a regular season cap accounting, we'll probably be -- without him you're asking?

Q. Well, I mean, I guess I'm saying, if you include his 4.1, you'll be allowed to go over the 44, right?

Peter Chiarelli: We'll have three to four million of cushion.

Q. Dave, it's been 2003 since you've been able to get out on the ice with a team for a training camp. How are you feeling? Are you going to jump right out there with the rookies? What is your anticipation, excitement level coming back to do this?

Dave Lewis: I'm very excited. I had knee surgery done a year ago, so I know I can still skate. Yeah, I'm going to probably get out with the rookies, but I'd like to watch from the stands. I'd like to be on the ice to introduce myself, be there one or two days, then observe them, watch them get ready for the big camp, just interact with them, get to know them a little bit. I think that's important, that communication factor. Some of these kids might be only at a pro camp once in their career, so it's a thrill for them. I want to make sure we appreciate all their hard work and everything they've done to get themselves to this point. It's important for them to know that, I think.

Q. You've got maybe three days before you go into the first exhibition. Is that problematic at all? Is it good to get right into games?

Dave Lewis: Well, like I guess years ago it would be problematic, but today the players train year-round. Maybe not necessarily on the ice all summer, but I know a lot of them have been on the ice now for up to two weeks. They're skating daily now on their own. It's something that just happens. You worry about maybe groin injuries or things like that. Because they have been working out at a high level, they're in the best shape they can without playing the pre-season games. We'll have three days to prepare them and try to give them some video presentation on the system and styles and make sure we do the right thing on the ice with them to get ready for the games. There's a lot of different things we can do. We've talked amongst ourselves, the coaches that is, about what we'd like to do to get them ready for that first game in three days.

Q. Peter, there's a persistent rumor out there that there might be some interest in moving Brad Stuart to bolster your forward Corps. Wondering if there's any truth to that? If it is true, have you gotten a call from Kevin Lowe with the Oilers?

Peter Chiarelli: No, it's not true.

Q. Dave, how many people do you see carrying into the regular season? Do you see carrying the full 23 or going with a lesser number? Have you made any decisions yet or what is your plan in terms of naming a captain?

Dave Lewis: We haven't made any decisions on the number yet. I think it depends on your personnel. There's always an injury factor that a guy might be close, you might need some insurance. We open up on the road. We're five games on the road. We haven't really discussed a lot of that. As far as naming a captain, I think that's something that will just take its time through training camp. We haven't made any decisions on a time frame or a date for when that will be announced. I'm certainly sure -- I may be speaking out of line -- but before the start of the regular season would be a good time frame.

Q. Is the number on the roster going to be a hockey decision or does the cap play into that, too?

Peter Chiarelli: I'll answer that. It's a bit of both. But, as I said to Pierre earlier, we have a lot of cushion here. It's predominantly going to be a hockey decision.

Q. Dave, last year the Bruins had some problems scoring goals. They were down pretty low in the league totals. Do you feel like the acquisitions that have been made, the players that might possibly be on the roster, will solve that problem this year?

Dave Lewis: Well, I think players that were here last year all want to improve on their season, whether it's numerical in assists or goals. I know statistically, point-wise, collectively as a team they want to improve on. I think with additions, that will also help. I'm going to try to harp from day one that we want players going to the net and the puck arriving at the same time. We'd like a lot of traffic in the theme that hopefully that message is delivered and that results in a higher production of goals. I know the power play can improve with the personnel we've got just by itself, so there's another area. I think possibly the shootout production can be better. So hopefully besides that I'd also like to cut the goals-against down, too. You hope the factor of a half a goal more or half a goal less a game could be the difference in, you know, more wins.
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