TALKING POINTS: Hitchcock speaks about Puljujarvi's return
Read the full transcript as Oilers head coach Ken Hitchcock spoke at length about the recall on Saturday of Jesse Puljujarvi
Q: Your thoughts on Jesse Puljujarvi? Were you part of the decision-making process? You've had a history of liking big players.
A: I don't want to say it's 100% on me but it's 90%. I asked Peter. I felt like we could have two third lines and really do damage if we could put more heat on the puck. I watched two games that he played, one in the NHL and one the American Hockey League and I asked Peter if he'd give some thought to make him part of the group and we could really build a line. He said sure, so that's why we made the switch.
I like parts of his game and the way we're going to build that line. And hopefully down the line, moving forward within a month, he gets into a top-six role. Right now, I think we've got a chance to get a hard-charging line there and I want him to be a part of it.
Q: What do you want to see differently from him in the way that he plays?
A: I don't want to see anything different, I want to just let him play with the puck. I like a lot of the stuff that he does. I especially like that he makes little plays really really well in the offensive zone. I want to be able to work closely with him and quickly with him to get the glide out of when the other team has the puck. I want him to continue to stay -- I want to work with him to get him to stay on the hunt longer.
Like any young player, I think he shows the League a little bit too much respect and I want him to hunt it a little bit harder. I'm going to stay on him by that. I like a lot of things that he does that you can really make a good line from. I want that line to become a line that's tilted towards offence a little bit but still be responsible.
Basically, stay on the forecheck a little bit longer, stay on the hunt a little bit longer, track pucks a little bit longer. Those are things that doesn't come natural to any player. It has to be taught by the coach. So I'm going to push really hard here but I see something that you can really really work with so I asked Peter, would he do it.
Q: You've had lots of guys over many years. Is there another player that you took in like this that had some deficiencies that reminds you of this guy?
A: Oh yeah. There's five or six guys. I've had a lot of success, quite frankly, taking players like Jesse and having quick turns. Probably some days he's going to get tired of my voice because it's going to be during practice like it was today and he caught himself and away he goes.
When you see something that good and that much, as a coach you want to take responsibility for the growth of the player. You don't want to sit there and watch them play in the American Hockey League and think, 'oh he's going to score a few goals and that's going to fix everything or he's going to do this.' There's elements of his game, doesn't matter what league he's playing in, that have to get better. I want that responsibility because the top band is awful, awful high and I want to work with that.
Q: There's a balance between patience and results. This remains a team in a playoff hunt...
A: That's quite frankly why I asked Peter because I feel like this is the type of player, if we expect to win in this conference, in this division, we need players like him. You can't play in this League, especially in this conference, backing up. You've got to stay on the hunt.
I want him to stay on the hunt both ways. Not just one way. I want him to stay on the hunt both ways. If he does that, his reach, his size, he's got a great stick and he can really punch pucks back and create turnovers and hopefully create offence. I'm not going to base it on goals and assists. I think he can really play on a line that can turn momentum and I want to be the guy responsible for that.
Q: Today was the second day of a full practice as well. Is that the other part of it, just get him up here because everybody else is starting new with you here, too. So you get him up here as well.
A: The talk was to have him play again (in Bakersfield) tonight and I asked Peter, can we get him to practice. I think it's important to get him as a part of the group. This was a hot practice again. This group practices harder than most teams I've ever seen and I think he needed to be a part of it.
I know it was difficult for him but it was good for him, too. I asked Peter to do that, too.