The Pittsburgh Penguins have officially reached the midway point of their first season under new management, a new coaching staff and with a lot of new players. With so many changes during the offseason, we checked in with a few of the team leaders to see how the Penguins have adjusted to all the changes through the first half. Here's our 1-on-1 with Marc-Andre Fleury.
What’s your biggest takeaway from how the coaching staff has been working with you guys and what they want to get out of this team? It’s been good. I think there were definitely changes we had to adjust to, especially the players, mostly with the system. But I thought (Mike Johnston) did a good job teaching it quick. I think we picked it up pretty good and we’ve had lots of injuries and sickness for the last little while, so it got maybe a little tough but overall, I think it’s been good. I like the changes and the way it’s going.
You’ve seen more changes than any Penguin on this team. What’s the process like getting used to a new staff, and what can changes like the ones you guys had this year do for a team? It’s not as bad (for me) because I don’t have to skate in the system and all that. But mostly I think the biggest changes have just been with the defensemen and doing the right play around the net and executing the way we play in the defensive zone so I know what to expect from the other team. You never want to see somebody lose their job and you always feel somewhat responsible for it, so it’s always a little tough, but I think for the team, it might have been okay just to get different ideas and I think it’s good. New ideas, new perception of the game, new systems – I think it’s been helping us out.
Obviously the atmosphere is going to be different with a new staff, but in what ways has it been different? I think it’s good. They’re pretty upbeat and want us to be, too. They want us to win and have fun doing it.
How has the defensive zone coverage changed? I think we’re maybe a little more disciplined in our zone and in making sure we’re being in the right spots, stopping in the right spots. And coming out of the zone, too, everybody’s close together, helping each other to get out of the zone. So if somebody messes up or a puck bounces up, there’s always somebody around. So I think it’s been helping.
You mentioned all the injuries. You’ve been a rock back there through all of that. How calm and confident do you feel between the pipes? It’s been good. When you win and stuff, it’s always going to give you confidence. There’s been a few guys missing for parts of time, so I just tried to do whatever I could to help out the team. I’m getting older, so I have a little more experience, a little more calm, I think. So I guess that’s been helping.
How much credit do you have to give to the guys in front of you for the way they’ve dealt with the adversity of the first half and what does that say about this group? I think we’ve had our fair share this year and the past few seasons, it seems like. It’s a little crazy, but it just shows the depth we have on the team. Everybody’s been picking up their game, trying to find ways to win games and the guys coming up from Wilkes-Barre, too, they’ve been very good for us. All of that together just gave us a chance to stay in games and get points and get wins.