It may have been a short summer for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but head coach Michel Therrien is happy it’s coming to an end.
“It was a short summer and, hopefully, next year we’re going to have another short summer,” he said. “I think it’s good to take some time off and refresh. But, now it’s back to work and focusing on the season.”
Therrien, who arrived in Pittsburgh on Sunday, is getting ready for the Penguins’ training camp, which opens on Sept. 16. He took some time out to assist at the Penguins’ Youth Hockey School on Wednesday and also met with the media. He touched on a variety of subjects:
Losing Ryan Whitney for the first few months of the season due to foot surgery:
“This is something that all teams are going to have to face; that’s the reality of the NHL. What is important for us is that we were able to keep our core group. I am glad we were able to sign young guys like Malkin, Fleury and Orpik. The future really looks bright for this team.
“We heard last year and he had to finish the year with his injury. Unfortunately, he’s not going to be able to start the season with us, but I think it’s a good thing that they were able to find what was going on with his foot. They tried different things. Our medical staff, with Ryan, decided the only way for him to get better this year – and the future – was to have that operation. We support that. He’ll be ready in November or December, somewhere around there. Yes, we’re going to miss him, but in the meantime, we faced so many injuries last year that this is not something brand new for us. It gives a good opportunity to different players to show what they are capable of doing.”
Who might fill Whitney’s spot on the Penguins’ blue line:
“We’re going to let training camp dictate things. That’s why there is a training camp and there are some openings. There’s a young kid like Alex Goligoski, who played really well last year at Wilkes-Barre. We have some depth with our defensemen. We’re proud with our depth just in case injuries happen. The season hasn’t even started yet and Ryan’s not going to be there when we open up training camp, but we have depth. That’s the most-important thing for us.
“Through the course of a season, you’re going to end up losing players due to injuries. You have to make sure you have depth and players who are capable of replacing them and that’s the reason why we have depth this year, like we did the last two years. Our depth gave us a chance to make the playoffs. Without depth, sometimes, it could be tough. But, this year, I think Ray Shero and his staff did a tremendous job of making sure we had the depth we were looking for.”
What he liked from watching Goligoski play last season:
“I like his poise with the puck. I like the way he skates. He always makes a good first pass. He’s a good guy on the power play. He improved through the course of the season on his defensive game. It’s normal for players at that age to need to improve defensively. We’ll see during training camp where he is and we’ll make a decision based on performance. That’s not going to be any different than years past.”
How much a year of experience will benefit Kris Letang:
“Kris Letang really learned a lot last year. I was really pleased with the way he was capable of playing, for a young defenseman. He has one year under his belt this year and that’s part of the process with our young players. You have to be patient with young players and make sure you take the right decision and move them up at the right time because that’s a process with those young kids.”
Dealing with the loss of free agents Marian Hossa, Jarkko Ruutu and Ryan Malone:
“They were important parts of our team, that’s for sure. On the other hand, we got a guy like Matt Cooke. I like his intensity and he’s a hard guy to play against. We got Satan and Fedotenko and they will give us a chance to keep on going where we’re trying to go. It’s a fresh start for those guys; it’s a great opportunity to play with our team and we’re excited about having those guys in our lineup.”
The development of Brooks Orpik:
“He wanted to stay with the Penguins and that is great news for us. Brooks improved a lot in the last two years, especially after Christmas last year when he really started to play a mature game. He’s always been a physical player and this is what we like about him. But, what I really like about Brooks, especially toward the end of the year, is that he was always in the right position. That’s a great example that you have to be patient with players. They are not always perfect at the beginning and it is our job to try to make them better. He had a great playoff and it was a great pairing with Sergei Gonchar to get the responsibility to play against top players. He’s a guy who, right now with the way he is playing and the way he understands the game, could play against top players and even punish them because he is such a physical presence on the ice.”
The team’s goals this season:
“Winning the Stanley Cup. That is every team’s goal. I think last year, we got the feel of the Stanley Cup. We got a lot of experience out of it. When we went to the playoffs two years ago, that was the first playoff experience for a lot of those guys. Even though we weren’t successful, we learned a lot and gained a lot of experience and it showed last season. Just to get to the Finals last year, we were feeling more comfortable on the ice as that series against Detroit went along. We got experience and it gave our young players a lot of confidence, too. We think that is important and that’s why I am excited about the upcoming season. It’s going to be a good challenge, though, because when you look at the last two years, the team that won the Stanley Cup or been a part of the Finals, didn’t have such a great year. It’ll be a challenge for us to prove we are able to have a good season this year.”