Devils President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello met with reporters on breakup day to discuss the past campaign and the upcoming offseason.
Is this, in your mind, an offseason of uncertainty with all of your potential free agents?
Lamoriello: I don't think any offseason is any different. You're always going to have free agents. We certainly want to keep our free agents like we always do. If there are people that we don't, we speak to individually and tell them honestly. But we'll do everything we can to sign our players.
In a year that you missed the playoffs, do you feel this team needs a lot of change? Do you have the right foundation for being right back in it next year?
I think we could have been in it this year. Unfortunately we're not; we didn't get it done. You never look for excuses. Could this team have been playing today? Absolutely, with this team the way it is. But we're not. You can go through any number of reasons, which I won't go into because that sounds like excuses, but that's the way you have to answer your question. Certainly, there are changes every year, whether you win or lose. And there will be. But as far as foundation, no. There's a foundation of veterans and young players and middle players. Unfortunately, this team had players not play up to their abilities, through no [one's] fault. When players are out, players have to rise to the occasion. We've always had that happen, and we did not get it done this year.
Is it be simplistic to say you just didn't score enough goals this year?
I don't think you ever score enough goals, no matter what year it is. We just didn't get it done at the right time. You can look to a fine line: go back to the two games in Florida where we were ahead and lost in the last minute and lost two points over it. You can go to the fine line of overtime games. You can go to different things and you can pinpoint different situations. But there was a certain point where the way we played, we thought we could win. There were other nights where maybe we won and didn't play as well. Overall, we didn't get the goal at the right time, if that's the question. It's not how many goals you score, it's getting the goal at the right time. There was a year we led the League in goals and I read where we didn't score enough goals. That's always going to happen when you're a team that prides itself on defense. It's goal differential. It's scoring the right power-play goal. It's when you get certain goals and when you don't. Our penalty kill was exceptional.
The Draft is [in New Jersey] this year. Will you keep your [first-round] pick this year?
Is one factor because it's here?
Is one factor that it's going to be a top-10 pick?
You had eight defensemen this year… did it turn out to be maybe not as positive as you thought because you had some guys sitting around who probably wanted to play? Does that situation have to change for next year?
First of all, eight is the perfect number. If you could keep a team of eight if the roster were higher, you would do that any time, I've always said that. We had the ability to do it this year for different reasons, but we were fortunate, too, we didn't have injuries. Obviously it didn't affect someone like Peter Harrold, who sat around, then came in and played the way he did. With the personality and character of this defense, with the type of people in there, it didn't affect anybody. The only thing was how they were playing and what decisions had to be made. I don't think that, because of the personalities and character, who played, who didn't play did not affect anyone. Sure, they want to all play and they can't all play and you'd like to keep them playing, but they couldn't go down [to the AHL] except for Adam Larsson. I don't think it was a negative by any means.
Do you think your team needs to get younger next year?
You always want youth in there; you always want youth in the lineup. You want as much youth as you can [have]. But it depends on the veteran players you have and where the youth is in their progress. We had youth – Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson last year – you can't get any younger. And [Jacob] Josefson. These are young players.
It's been so rare that you miss the playoffs. Do you get angry or do you sit there and say, I didn't do a good enough job?
You always look in the mirror first. You never, especially right now, you always do your own self-evaluation and only you know what the reasons are and the seat you sit in. It's the job you take, and no one else knows that, even when you make decisions that no one else can understand and why. It's because they don't have the information that you have, and rightly so. You look at everything but there's a lot of intangibles that go into it and every job. And so until you sit in a certain seat, you can't know what that seat is. You take that with it. I don't shun it; I don't go left or right. We'll go through some thought process and we'll go from there. But I don't like standing here today talking about this and not playing. That's an understatement.
You have an evaluation period for all your players after a season. I assume you have evaluation period for all of your coaches too?
Are you satisfied enough with your head coach to keep him?
Yes. I've said all along and put it to rest. The season's over now and I think that getting into all that stuff during the year and asking all those questions, I'm never going to answer one way or the other. But this coaching staff worked as hard as any coaching staff I've had here.
It's easy to like what coach did getting to a Stanley Cup Final. Do you still like what Pete DeBoer did even though the team missed the playoffs?
What is it that you like about him at this point?
Who he is as far as, he's intelligent, he knows the game, and he listens. Not afraid to change, and he works at it. He respects his assistant coaches. Not everybody always agrees. You sometimes disagree to agree.
The team didn't win down the stretch, but I don't think anybody would say that they didn't play for this coach.
That to me is the underlying factor for a lot of things that you do. There's a reason to do something, if it's going to make us better, doesn't matter who it is. It's not about liking people or not liking people. It's great when you have both, and certainly Pete is that type who you like and respect. But it's about the bottom line. It's about evaluating. That's the job you have. There's a lot that goes into it. There's a fine line between everything. I know there are seasons where one puck, one offside could've helped us win a Stanley Cup. Then there are seasons where one save – I can still see something with a hand where if we had video replay, we might've won that year. The fine line has to be looked at. The only thing I do believe in, winning isn't a sometime thing, it's an all time thing. Working hard isn't a sometime thing. That philosophically will never change. But you have to be careful where you look and how you look at things. Because it's so easy today to do something. Tomorrow comes awfully quick. That's why you spend the time and you don't let emotion get in the way. You don't let anything get in the way. You have to trust your judgment, you have to trust the information you have, and you have to trust yourself.
How pleased are you for Adam Oates?
I couldn't be more pleased. Adam was great for us here. He's a quality human being. It's like he was a Devil the day he first walked in. It's great that he stuck with it after a tough beginning [in Washington] and I'm happy for him.
When you look at the progress your young players made in Albany and also here, are you happy with that development?
I think that their development has been good. Consistency has to come with some of the young players, and confidence has to come. Some of those things have to be looked at, whether it be Adam Henrique, Adam Larsson or Jacob Josefson or [Andrei] Loktionov. These are all potential A and B players in the NHL. This is talent. So we have to get them at the level they should be playing at. We have to look at that. We have to look at some of the reasons why and why not. You saw two young defensemen come in, [Alex] Urbom and [Eric] Gelinas. Urbom was the best defenseman on our team [in Albany] last year and didn't play as well his first game as Gelinas did his first game. These things happen. Adam Henrique came in last game of the year two years ago after spending a whole year in the minors and played so well, he gave us that feeling and he came in the following year. There's a fine line and this is what goes on all the time.