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Assessments already under way

by Phil Coffey

It gets late early. That phrase may seem confusing, but it also makes a lot of sense when assessing how your team is playing. As the NHL nears the end of October, already teams are taking a hard look at what’s working and what isn’t.

Remember as we pointed out at the start of the season, points squandered in October can come back to haunt you in a big way in April.

So here is a sampling of some of the assessments that are going on around the NHL.


“It’s not time to panic. It’s October, for God’s sake. I know what this group can do. I’ve seen it. I believe in this group.”

-- Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke


“My philosophy is that if I’m getting their undivided attention and their effort, then we’re all going to work through it together. We’re very much a work-in-progress, but it’s not the time to get into psychological and irrational warfare. We’ll just stay with the program.”

-- Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish


“We don’t want to be a team that doesn’t make good plays on a two-on-one, a three-on-two or even a two-on-two. We want that to happen. But when you’re trying to force a pass ... through a defenseman, a forward and the other forward to hit somebody on the far side of the rink, you’re better served taking a shot and having guys go to the front of the net. Even Buffalo, a lot of their shots, if they didn’t have anything, they threw it to the far-side post and forced (Capitals goaltender Brent Johnson) to make a save on a rebound.

“We want our players to be creative, but there comes a time on the rink when it makes much better sense to get it in front of the net.”

-- Capitals coach Glen Hanlon, noting that the simple play often is the best play.


“Our sport is about mistakes. There would be no goals if there were no mistakes. But what good puck support does is, if there is a turnover, you have a better chance to react to it. If you are clustered around the puck you have a chance to retrieve it a lot better. You have a chance to defend and deflect the attack. We haven’t been real good in the last few games doing that. It has cost us and it has cost us dearly.”

-- Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz


“Realistically, we’re not off to the start we wanted. We have found a way to lose points in a couple of games that we really felt we should have won. But what we have to do is come together as a team and learn from this. This is a different team from last year, a new team, and we have to work to make it our team.”

-- Dallas Stars defenseman Phillippe Boucher


“It’s been frustrating but at least I can deal with it now. It’s three to six weeks rather than just waiting for it to get better, and I’m already at three weeks, so, hopefully, next week I’ll see some progress.”

-- Edmonton captain Ethan Moreau, after an MRI revealed a fractured bone in his left foot.


“The less you play in the defensive zone, the less shots (the other team is) going to get. We need more time on offense. When you play on defense, everybody gets tired, forward, defense everybody. ... It’s always easier to control the puck than to chase somebody.”

-- Atlanta Thrashers defenseman Alexei Zhitnik


“It’s up to us right now to go back on the radar. We have to win some games and bring the fans back and have them get excited about us. Obviously, it’s a big sports town and we know the Red Sox and Patriots are huge. Obviously, we’re following that as well. We’re trying to play as hard as we can and bring the fans back.”

-- Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron


“Last year was a disappointing season for everybody. But I think it’s fair to say I’ve seen the highs, I’ve seen the lows now and hopefully I’m better because of it.

-- Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward


“I trust them — I have full confidence. They’re young, but they are elite players and their will is huge.”

-- Chicago Blackhawks coach Denis Savard, on rookies Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.


“It’s breathtaking, absolutely awesome. All one side is windows. When I was with the Canadiens we used to go to Squaw Valley (California), where they had the Olympics, and that arena was all windows.”

-- Devils assistant coach Larry Robinson, after taking a tour of the team’s new home, the Prudential Center in Newark.


“I’m doing the things that I’ve taught myself to do throughout my career to score goals. I’ve gotten some real good wood on some perimeter shots. But I’ve also gotten some real good scrambles and some shots from in tight around the crease. I need to just draw from experience and say that, so long as I’m doing those things, this is what gets you goals. If all my shots were perimeter shots, if all my shots were missing the net, I’d be a little more nervous.”

-- New York Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan, who has no goals and just one assist in his first five games


“We need flexibility with our roster right now, because we have some injury issues to deal with. Waiving Jesse doesn’t necessarily mean we want to lose him.”

-- Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, on waiving suspended forward Jesse Boulerice.


“We’re not waiting on Teemu (Selanne). We’re exploring other options. We just haven’t been successful. I called eight teams this morning, to see if there was anything going. I talked to, I think, 12 teams yesterday. I was in this morning at 6. That’s when I start working the East Coast teams.”

-- Anaheim GM Brian Burke isn’t going to stand pat as Teemu Selanne decides to retire or return to the Ducks.


“Just like many teams in the league, we believe Peter Forsberg is a great player. We were there. He was there. So we dropped in.”

-- Dallas Stars GM Doug Armstrong on the visit he and Brett Hull paid to Peter Forsberg in Sweden.


“Everything is like a blur, and these last couple of months have been a whirlwind. Just a few months ago I was graduating from high school. Next thing I know, I’m here playing against guys I grew up watching.”

-- Chicago Blackhawks rookie forward Patrick Kane.

Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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