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Five Questions: Around the NHL with NBC's McGuire

by Dan Rosen

As NBC's lead "Inside the Glass" analyst, Pierre McGuire has a unique look at the players on the ice, trends in the game, highs and lows on the bench, and an ear on any coaching adjustments before they play out in front of the viewing audience.

Agree or disagree with him, McGuire is a fixture in your living room if you watch games on NBC and NBCSN.

He has been with NBC since 2006 and full-time on the network since 2011. He previously worked for TSN after starting his broadcasting career calling Montreal Canadiens games on the radio in 1997. McGuire also won the Stanley Cup twice as a scout and assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and served as head coach of the Hartford Whalers for part of one season.

McGuire went around the League with on Monday for five questions that turned into more because of a long discussion on advanced statistics near the end of the telephone interview.

Before the conversation turned to stats, McGuire touched on Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene's injury, the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings rookie Gustav Nyquist and which coach will get one of his Jack Adams Award votes.

It's all below.

Here are Five (eight) Questions with … Pierre McGuire:

We're not sure yet of the extent of Jonathan Toews' injury, but we do know that Matt Duchene is out for four weeks with a knee injury. The Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche will likely play against each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Can Colorado beat Chicago in a seven-game series without Duchene, even if Toews is out and Patrick Kane is just coming back from his injury?

"It'd be a reach. It'd be a big reach. Matt Duchene is one of the more dominant, young offensive players in the League. What he's done this year has been remarkable. What the entire group in Colorado has done this year has been amazing. From Joe Sakic to Patrick Roy to Semyon Varlamov, they just deserve so much credit. Erik Johnson is one of the most improved players in the League. They have the no-name defense that plays with so much character and grit. I've got a lot of respect for what they've done there, but I think it would be a reach for them to beat the defending Stanley Cup champions without Matt Duchene."

There are a number of opinions as to why the Toronto Maple Leafs are in a freefall with eight straight regulation losses. What is your opinion on the collapsing Leafs?

"I think they have to have a long internal look at just how good their team is or isn't. There are some clear deficiencies on the back end. There is a lack of depth down the middle. Obviously the injury to David Bolland set them back and he's not 100 percent, but they've got some issues down the middle and on defense. And when you have those issues, that's a hard way to win in this League. If you look at the best teams in this League, they are very deep down the middle and very good on defense."

Speaking of the best teams in the League, do the Boston Bruins have any flaws?

"No. This might be the best I've seen them play since 2011. They're a tremendous team, extremely well coached, character personified. They could have mailed that game in [Sunday], but they chose not to. And the enthusiasm around their bench against Philadelphia was amazing. It starts with Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, but the coaching staff with Doug Houda and Geoff Ward, Doug Jarvis and Claude Julien, has done a fantastic job of keeping these guys with their eyes on the prize. They haven't had any kind of Stanley Cup Final hangover. They've really put the pedal to the metal. The goaltending is really deep. The defense is outstanding and will continue to improve. No, this team is for real.

"And I think they have the best third line in hockey right now with Chris Kelly, Carl Soderberg and Loui Eriksson. Chris Kelly might be one of the most unselfish guys in the League. He's always been a staple at center, but the coaching staff goes to him and says, 'Listen, we'd like Soderberg to play center, do you mind moving over?' Kelly says, 'Not a problem at all.' He goes and plays left wing and he's done a fantastic job of it."

Who does Gustav Nyquist remind you of and why?

"There is a lot of Glenn Anderson in him, in terms of his speed and his ability to finish plays off the rush. There is a little bit of Teemu Selanne in him, in terms of how he can skate and explode, especially when Teemu was younger. I see so many different players in him because he can score from long range, he score from in tight, and he doesn't bail out of difficult situations. I see a lot of different players in him.

"The thing that amazes me the most about him is his desire to want the puck. There are a lot of guys who need the puck to come to them; he goes and gets it, and he's really good at it."

The broadcasters vote for the Jack Adams Award. What factors do you consider for your vote, and who is in the running to lead your ballot?

"I'll tell you one I'm voting for right away. I won't tell you the other two, but I'll give you Patrick Roy. He is one of my votes.

"Ken Hitchcock is going to be in the discussion. Mike Babcock is going to be in the discussion. I think you have to have Lindy Ruff in the discussion. I really think Todd McLellan in San Jose needs to be in the discussion. This has been a phenomenal year for coaches. I think Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay needs to be in the discussion. So this isn't something you just throw up against the wall and see what is going to stick. If you're voting for an award, you have to take it seriously.

"But I don't think there was anybody before the season started that had Colorado making the playoffs and potentially being a home-ice team in the first round. So no matter what, Patrick Roy is getting one of my votes. I have to think about the other two, but Roy is definitely getting one of them."

Do advanced stats, such as possession numbers based on Corsi, etc., factor into your analysis during broadcasts with Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk?

"No. I watch tape. I know that 'Doc' and Eddie do the same thing. We watch a lot of games. We watch a lot of tape. Basically how I try to do it is you formulate five to seven points that you want to focus on during a game, and hopefully a lot of those tendencies come to the fore and you already have the tape made and broken down so you're ready to go. But you also have to let the game come to you because it's such a fluid game.

"Boston-Philadelphia [on Sunday] is such a good example. A lot of people thought Boston was just like, 'OK, we clinched, we're the Atlantic Division champions, the biggest thing we're playing for now is basically our pride and maybe the Presidents' Trophy, which really doesn't mean much when you get to the first round of the playoffs.' But Boston shows up and plays and they played a hard game, they come from behind and they win in a shootout. So whatever those stats were before the game that you may try to play to, they get thrown out the window pretty quick."

I understand, but the analytic community uses these stats are used to measure a team on the whole. For instance, the Maple Leafs have below-average possession numbers, they give up a lot of shots, and now their warts appear to be costing them.

"It's a great question and an interesting point, but if you looked at their [the Maple Leafs'] stats from a few weeks ago, they were actually giving up more shots than they are now. When they went out on the West Coast and they won in Anaheim and they won in L.A., they gave up more shots than they did this weekend against Philadelphia and Detroit, and they lost both of those games. That's why you can look at those stats and those stats might be valuable when you're doing a seven-point plan for a playoff series, but when they beat Anaheim and L.A. they gave up more shots than they did when they lost to Philadelphia on Friday and Detroit on Saturday."

So you're in the category of watching is more valuable?

"I love watching. I can't watch enough games. I love being at the rink for practice. I can't watch enough practice. I've had two amazing mentors in my career, the late Bob Johnson and Scotty Bowman, and both of them used to stress all the time that you can't watch enough games, and more than anything else you can't watch enough practices. You find things out. You can build a book on players. You can build a book on coaches and you can build a book on organizations just based on watching them practice. In their internal depth, you can find out workers and non-workers. You can find out organized coaches and unorganized coaches. You can find out a lot about team chemistry. You can find out how teams are in terms of their health. Practice is a very important vehicle in terms of evaluating things.

"This is 26 years in hockey [for me], counting college it would be 32, and every day you learn something new. That was the other thing Scotty and Bob used to say all the time when I was a young guy breaking into the business, 'Every day you go to the rink, learn something new, whether it's about a player, a system, a coach or even a rink.' Back in those days they had The Aud in Buffalo, Le Colisee in Quebec, the Forum in Montreal, the Garden in Boston, the Stadium in Chicago and they were all different. Now we've got cookie-cutter rinks, but they have little characteristics to them such as boards, glass, partitions -- physical things. You can find out a lot. Every year you're in the League, you learn more and more. I think that's important no matter what job you do in the League."


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