The head coach on the 2006-07 season and what lies ahead
In his end-of-season huddle with reporters, Islanders head coach Ted Nolan discussed a variety of topics. Here is a summary.
On his own performance:
"My evaluation of myself is probably harder than anybody else on the team. There are certain things I can improve on, certain things I want to improve on and there are certain things I will work on over the summer.
"Coming to a new organization you don't know the personnel and you don't know the players. Now I know all the players. I know the area. I know what to expect from individuals. Now it's my job to get better.
"Whether it's a player or coach, you have to question if you're satisfied with what you accomplished this year. Are we satisfied with that we did this year? I am not. We did come a long way from where we were in Yarmouth, but we still have a long ways to go to get where we want to."
On the leadership support surrounding captain Alexei Yashin:
"It turned out okay. Can it be better? Certainly. That's my job. I need to get the most out of our athletes and the people on our team. Yashin is part of this team. We have to find the right buttons to push and make him even better. Garth, the coaching staff and I will evaluate everyone on the team. Yashin is part of that group. Making decisions on our strengths, weaknesses and what we can improve on is our number one priority."
On his relationship with Ryan Smyth:
"I thought we formed a good relationship. We had a nice, long conversation on Sunday. Ryan is a special guy. We'd love for him to be a part of the team next year. You build championship teams around guys like him. It was a pleasure to coach him and get to know him. What he added to the team was immeasurable. So we have to bring him back.
"My relationship with the players is hopefully sound and something the players have faith and trust in. That's a big thing I wanted to try and relate to Ryan. The intentions of winning here are everything that we're presenting. Do I want to win? No question about it. Do you win by yourself? No, you need people to do that and Ryan is one player who could take us to the next level."
On what he thinks it will take to keep Smyth on Long Island:
"He needs words that say 'We want to win.' Ryan is a winner. And you're not going to get him because of money or just because he likes the area. I personally have learned to love Long Island, but do we want to win? There's no question about that. We just have to relay the message to Ryan that we're here for one reason only, and that's to bring back the glory days of Long Island. You could see the atmosphere at the end of the season, and to have that feeling all the time will be something special. You need special athletes and special people to help you get to the next level and Ryan is certainly that."
On his evaluation of the team:
"We made a lot of strides in bringing the right guys to change the attitude. Attitude is everything. You look at all the guys we mentioned all year. We added some good, strong character guys. It's not necessarily about the skill. Skill can get you so far. It's the will, the commitment and the passion for the game that these guys have. They're on the ice all the time and look like they're enjoying it.
"They were sad to see the season was over. They enjoyed one another. It's a good step. And now we have to build on that first impression. We brought guys in who didn't just come to the rink to put their time in. They came in to make us better, work and compete. That to me is the most important thing - the willingness to compete."
On the excitement at the end of the season:
"To win you need strong-willed individuals. You put them together to form a championship-caliber team. The way we ended the season was exciting with the Rangers game, the Leafs game and the two playoff games. It gave us a real good taste of what to build upon. It's not about resting on what we thought we accomplished. Yeah, we made the playoffs, but the playoffs are a given. You want to win a championship."
On changes for next year:
"One thing with pro sports nowadays is that you're not going to go with the same team year after year even if you're a dynasty team. You're going to lose people. We'll probably lose some people. That's the beauty of sports. We'll bring in some more people to add to what we've got, keep the good pieces and put the jigsaw puzzle together. Hopefully, it's a combination to win a championship.
"We're looking for the types of players we added: players with the attitude and the desire to compete. You look at the playoffs and that's what it's all about. It's not about the skill level. The next level to get over that edge is the competitive edge. How competitive are they? How do they prepare themselves? How do they treat their teammates and approach the game on and off the ice?
"We'll address the fact that we could use speed up front, but we can't just have speedy guys. You need a good character speedy guy. You can't just get a big, mobile defenseman who moves the puck up well. You have to see what type of guy he is, and what kind of competitive spirit he has. We're going to be adding more competitive players."
On losing Sean Hill for Game 5:
"One thing I liked about this team was their willingness to fight through adversity and overcome certain things. People had us down and out a number of times, but we overcame it. With Hill's situation coming right before one of our biggest playoff games, it was a little bit of a shock. The team still battled and fought through it, which is a testament to these players.
"As Garth mentioned, there is no room in the game for any enhancing substances. We support the National Hockey League and its decision. Sean has to deal with his own issue, and if he feels he is wronged, it is up to him to fix that."
On Jason Blake:
"You get to know people along the season, and Jason is one of the most competitive guys I've coached. Sometimes he goes over the edge, but at the end of the season he started to develop as a really good hockey player and teammate. He deserves everything he gets. That's the beauty of free agency. It's Jason's and Ryan's choice. I have no bad things to say about Jason Blake. He is as competitive as anyone. I think he really enjoyed it here. We had a nice conversation on Sunday and a good get-together with the team. Hopefully, things work out and we get both Jason and Ryan back here. We'll cross our fingers."
On Sunday's team dinner:
"We had everyone there. We talked about what we did and didn't do, and how we're going to get better. Now there are no excuses."