One-on-One with... Predators forward Martin Gelinas
/ Nashville Predators
NashvillePredators.com sat down with Preds forward, and former Stanley Cup Champion, Martin Gelinas to get his thoughts on Nashville’s playoff match-up with the Detroit Red Wings, his past playoff experience, and how he can impart that experience on the current Preds team.
NashvillePredators.com: In 2004 you were a part of a Calgary team that made the Stanley Cup Finals out of the No. 7 seed. Are there any similarities between that Calgary team and this year’s Nashville team? Martin Gelinas: You see a lot of similarity. We (Calgary) had to work extremely hard just to get in the playoffs in 2004. The second half of the season we started playing a lot better and made the playoffs, but not by much. And sure enough our first round opponent was a tough opponent. We were playing Vancouver and people were saying that Vancouver was going to walk all over us, but we gave them a run for their money and we won Game 7, won in overtime in Game 7. From there you could see the confidence building in our team. We had a feeling that winning against a team like Vancouver meant we could go far in the playoffs. It just kept going and growing and confidence and the guys were playing hard. It was fun. The way we ended the regular season with Calgary, though, is pretty similar to the way we ended the season here in Nashville this year. And not many people outside the team have given us much of a chance in this series, just like they didn’t give us much of a chance in Calgary against Vancouver.
NP.com: Is there any similarity between the goaltending with that Calgary team and this Nashville team? MG: That’s right. We brought in Kipper (Miikka Kiprusoff) mid-season. He was untested as a No. 1 goalie, but he really showed us what he was capable of doing during the regular season and was a star in the playoffs. The players were really confident in him. And you see the same thing in Dan Ellis. Elly came on strong at the end of the season. He was the difference why we made (the playoffs). He was solid; won some games for us. And you need that. You need a good goaltender, not only in the regular season, but especially in the playoffs. That first game in Detroit, his first playoff game, I thought he played a really good game. Hopefully we’ll get a few games for him and we should be all set.
NP.com: In ’04 your Calgary team won a six game series against a heavily favored Detroit team. Can you talk about the similarities between that series and this current series? MG: Yeah. You know what, there’s one thing in the playoffs. You have to just keep believing in what your system can accomplish and what your teammates are capable of doing. And by hard work, good goaltending, get some breaks and momentum gets rolling. That’s what you have to do against Detroit. They’re just a skilled team and an experience team. Year after year it seems like they always have a lot of leadership and experience. You just have to play as smart as they do and maybe get some fresher legs than they have and hopefully get some breaks.
NP.com: In 2004 you scored a NHL record three playoff series clinching goals. That’s a pretty amazing run. Can you talk about that? MG: We were just a blue collar team that year – again a lot like this year’s Nashville team. The city, everybody kind of got behind our team, which got the ball rolling that way, helped us build confidence, momentum. It just happened that I scored the three clinching goals. But I do love the playing in the playoffs. I love challenges. There was a great challenge both personally and for the team in each of those series. I was fortunate to play with some great players and be at the right place at the right time and get some goals.
NP.com: How important is your playoff experience to this current Predators team? What can you bring to the locker room even though you’re not able to play right now? MG: If the coaching staff or the players come to me and ask what I’m seeing from up there (in the press box), I’ll be happy to tell them. If something needs to be said and they want me there, I’ll be happy to help. But at the same time now, they’re in like a tunnel … where you’re so focused and you’re going in one direction. And I don’t want to distract too much and so on, but I’d like to help out in any way I can.
NP.com: You won a Stanley Cup title early in your career with Edmonton. What was that experience like? MG: I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time there with (Mark) Messier, (Glenn) Anderson, and (Jari) Kurri and (Grant) Fuhr and list goes on-and-on with that team. But I took it for granted. I was 19 years old and I won a Cup. I thought this was going to happen all the time. And you know it took years before I got back to the Finals. The next time was ’94 (with Vancouver) and then 2002 and 2004 (with Carolina and Calgary, respectively). So, I took that (win) for granted and I’ve been chasing my dreams since that time. As you get older, you realize that this is what you play for and it’s hard work. Timing has to be everything to win (the Cup). I just hope to get another shot.
NP.com: There seems to be a trend recently of lower seeded teams making deep runs into the Conference Finals and Cup Finals. Is it easier to make a long playoff run without the burden of high expectations? MG: That too, but from the No. 1 seed to the No. 8 seed, the difference in skill level is not that big anymore. It’s not like 10-20 years ago where you could see a big difference between No. 1 and No. 8. Now it’s pretty even. Obviously No. 1 did it all year long and was consistent throughout the regular season. If you’re at No. 8, there were probably some inconsistencies in the season. But, anything is possible and you see that happening a lot more now.
NP.com: Before you even played a game in the NHL, you were a part of one of the biggest trades in NHL history, the trade which sent Wayne Gretzky from Edmonton to Los Angeles. Where were you when you found out about the trade? MG: I was back home in a small town, Shawinigan, just outside of Montreal. I was working at a hockey school and someone came up to me and said that I had been traded for Wayne Gretzky. That’s all they said. At that time I just kind of laughed, because Wayne Gretzky’s untouchable. And I chuckled and went back to business and so on. And sure enough I saw reports coming one after another. And I thought maybe there is something to it. And sure enough I did get traded. I was just a drafted player moving from one place to another. It was pretty special.
NP.com: Did you feel any extra pressure in Edmonton after being traded for Gretzky? MG: I didn’t and the reason was the other players who came in that trade. You had Jimmy Carson, who had just scored 50 goals with LA. I was just a Junior player that was just going to go to the NHL for his first year, so I really had no pressure going there, no expectations. I just went there and played my game. That first year I was there until Christmas and played in only six games – but I was around and learned quite a bit from all those Future Hall of Famers – and went to juniors after Christmas and I was ready to make the jump (to the NHL full time) the next year.
NP.com: You were a first round pick by the LA Kings. What was the draft experience like? MG: My draft year, the draft was in Montreal. So I had around 150 people from my hometown there at the draft. It was exciting, because nobody from my hometown was in the league. The last player from my home town to play in the NHL was Jacques Plante. It had been a while since a guy from Shawinigan had been in the league, so people were pretty excited. It was fun to be there with friends and family.
NP.com: What was it like to hear your name called in the first round of the draft? MG: Now the way it works you get rated and you have a pretty good idea if you’re going to get picked in the First Round. You just don’t know exactly where. When I was picked by Los Angeles, the scouting and ratings weren’t as public, so it was pretty exciting at the time.