(Voorhees, NJ, April 9) - Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren and Head Coach John Stevens met with the media on Monday regarding the end of the 2006-07 season. Holmgren and Stevens gave their thoughts on the past year, as well their plans moving forward this offseason.
Below are excerpts from their media availability.
To listen to the final FlyerCast of the season, click here.
Can this year be looked at as a learning experience? Holmgren: "I think we had a lot of young players that played in a lot of different situations. Hopefully they can learn from it. They have been through the year now and a lot of them played at this level that might have been over their heads at the start but didn't look as bad in the end. The older guys, Derian Hatcher, Sami Kapanen and Mike Knuble and players like that can learn from it as well."
What do you have to do this summer? Do you have to make wholesale changes or just some little things? Holmgren: "I don't think it's wholesale changes. There are some things we need to do this summer, whether they are via trade or free agency to try to get back to being a good team. We just weren't a very good team this year for a number of reasons. Having said that, I do think we have some pieces in place that are going to be part of a good team in the future for the Flyers. I don't think it's years away; I think it's quicker than that."
How much do you look forward to the challenge of this summer? Holmgren: "As I said earlier, we knew this day was coming for a long time here because of our record. I think now that the season is over, I'm extremely excited about what we can do and what we're looking forward to do this summer in terms of the draft coming up and [free agency beginning] July 1."
On the team's youth: Holmgren: "I think we were too young in a lot of areas this year, but some of those young players that went through this year are going to be better next year because of that. I think through either trades or free agency we have to add somewhat of a veteran presence to our team.
"We do have a good crop of younger players as well as some veterans that I look to be part of this next year. But, we need to make some additions in key areas. I don't think having gone through this year and seen what's transpired any of us wants to go through that again. We realize that there is some work to be done here and there are some holes we need to plug. With the young prospects we have and the draft picks we have, and the salary cap room we have, I think we're well-armed for what can transpire this summer.
"I do think we need to upgrade our defense. Whether we have to get one or two guys, I'm not sure. We threw a lot of young guys into the fire this year that perhaps weren't ready. Having gone through this year, that doesn't mean they need to start with the Flyers, either.
"As I said earlier, I think we're well-armed to do a lot of things this summer with our draft picks, prospects and salary cap room."
How much do you feel you grew as a coach this year? Stevens: "I think immensely, to be honest with you. I think you always do every year. I played hockey until I was 32 or 33, and I feel like I got better each year or tried to get better each year. It's no different as a coach. Certainly, being in a new league in a new situation with new players, it was a lot to learn about both the league and team we had. I feel we're much better prepared now moving forward than we've ever been."
Were there any lessons to be learned this season? Stevens: "There are some hard lessons to be learned, there's no question. I think any time you go through a year like this there has to be some important lessons that you take from this year. Obviously, it's not the kind of year we want to repeat. Training camp becomes very important next year. We kind of stumbled through training camp last year with our performance and then we got off to a really bad start. That can't happen if we want to compete and be a playoff team next year."
On meeting with the players one-on-one: Stevens: "I think it's just important to sit down with the players one-on-one. The relationship is pretty strong with our players and we know each other pretty well. We'll certainly follow up with these guys as we move through the summer here. In terms of their physical state we'll find out where they are tomorrow [during player physicals]. Everyone is excited about the direction of the team and I think everyone is excited about next year and getting this thing turned around. That was the common theme in the meetings today."
What makes you excited about next year? Stevens: "I just think the direction that Paul Holmgren has put the team in here down the stretch, and the players that we've acquired and the fact that our younger players have gained some valuable experience and showed the ability to be good players against good teams. Our younger players are going to be more prepared to be key contributors next year. We've got some key veteran guys under contract, ready to move forward, and we've got some money under the cap to go out and fill some of the holes here that we need to fill. I think everyone is excited here, and everyone is committed to making sure this is an important summer. We've prepared for what needs to be done next year."
On next season: Stevens: "It's going to be very important the way we head into camp. There's going to be no confusion, and it will be very clear what's expected coming into camp. We're going to put a huge premium on fitness. We want to play a high tempo style of game, and we want to be able to play that way for 60 minutes and tough stretches of the schedule. Our guys know now already that camp is going to be very demanding and how important their preparation and commitment in the offseason is. They are all wholeheartedly willing to do the work. I think they understand that the way we come into camp is going to show the kind of commitment that we want to make to turn this thing around quickly. Both the guys we have here and the guys we acquire, we will make sure we follow their progress to make sure we can come into camp and hit the ground running."