By: Chad Lynch
On Monday, Brett Hull started skating with some of his fellow Coyotes teammates. It was his first chance to see what this year's club looks like on the ice rather than just on paper. On Wednesday, following his latest workout, Hull sat down with phoenixcoyotes.com to discuss the up-coming season, the state of the National Hockey League and what he expects playing for Wayne Gretzky.
Q: Since the Phoenix Coyotes last took to the ice in 2003-04, the club has made several changes including the additions of players such as Mike Ricci, Petr Nedved, Curtis Joseph and yourself. How do you see this team in comparison to other teams in the Western Conference?
Brett Hull: I think it really all comes down to teams having the ability to have players that can adapt to every aspect of the game, and this team definitely has it. We have two great goaltenders that can steal us a game, can play the puck and can control the tempo. Both are experienced and are capable of great things. On defense, we have a talented group that can do it all. At this level you need guys who can keep the opposing star players from getting to the net, you need guys that are capable of carrying the puck up ice, you need guys who can play a devastating, physical style of hockey and guys that can add to the offense and we have all of those areas covered with this defensive unit.
Our forwards have the talent to make things happen at the other end of the ice, but also and just as importantly, we have guys who are committed to being defensively sound and complete players.
Q: This off-season, there were a multitude of player moves around the League. Were there any moves that really surprised you?
Brett Hull: As far as players going from one team to another, you knew when the new deal was in place that there were a lot of teams that were going to have to get rid of guys and those guys were going to end up somewhere. The thing that impressed me was Mike's (Barnett) vision. He was prepared for everything that happened and had built the team accordingly so he had the luxury of adding or subtracting players to get the best fit. You saw a lot of other teams that just signed some guys because they were in a panic and felt like they had to make a big splash in the market.
Q: Personally, do you feel like you have something to prove to people this season?
Brett Hull: No way! I don't have anything to prove to anybody. I am just trying to survive out there (laughs). The only thing I want to prove is that this organization is as good as we know it is. For me it is more a question of looking for success for the team. That being said, I have never missed the playoffs in my career and I am not about to start.
Q: While there is some strong veteran leadership in this dressing room, there is a lot of youth who haven't had a lot of experience in winning. Do you feel like this club is ready to win and go deep into the post-season?
Brett Hull: Absolutely, this team is more than ready, they are very anxious to win. The biggest part of that is knowing that we have the talent here to win. Every guy can look around this dressing room and rely on his teammates. We are a team that is so deep and covers every aspect of the game that we will win here. Some nights we may need our forwards to step-up and score a big goal for us to win. The next night we may need the same guys to keep the other team from scoring that big goal and that is exactly what we have in every player inside this room. It makes winning a lot easier when you have an entire team to get the job done as opposed to having to rely on two or three players.
Q: What type of effect do you think having Wayne Gretzky as the head coach is going to have on this team?
Brett Hull: At this level (NHL) guys know what needs to be done and they know that it doesn't matter what his name is, the coach is going to set the tone for the players and it is their job to make plays on the ice.
However, this is a unique situation. Yes, he is the greatest player in the game's history, but that can't be what you are thinking about when he is in the room. The good thing is we have a lot of veteran leadership on this team in guys like myself, Reech (Mike Ricci) and Doaner (Shane Doan), who are there to give some of the younger guys a kick in the (butt) and get them focused on the task at hand.
Q: How hard do you think it will be to get fans to come back following a year without hockey?
Brett Hull: I don't know, but if they do have a hard time coming back, we have nobody to blame except ourselves. I know that if they don't come out right away, they'll come out later because this team is too exciting and fun to watch and people are going to want to come see us be successful.
Q: What excites you the most as you head into the 2005-06 NHL Season?
Brett Hull: Just getting back to playing with the guys on the ice. The break was too long and I haven't stopped thinking about getting back to playing and now, with the team that we have in place, this is going to be a very special season for the Coyotes organization and for Coyotes fans.