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Fans take to Twitter to #AskJiri

by Rick Bowness / Detroit Red Wings
Jiri Fischer, the Red Wings director of player development watches over a prospects scrimmage. (Photo by Dave Reginek)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Red Wings development camp is one of the most important times of the year for director of player development Jiri Fischer. The annual week-long gathering of the team’s future roster players gives the former NHL defenseman the opportunity to get to know newly-acquired draft picks as well as see how more seasoned prospects are coming along in their development. On Sunday afternoon, Fischer took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions submitted by Wings’ fans via the team’s official Twitter feed (@DetroitRedWings) about his playing career, his current role with the team, and what he thinks about recent NHL rule changes.

QUESTION: What was the biggest highlight of your playing career? (from @ThatOneGuySteve)

FISCHER: “Well it’s hard to beat winning the Stanley Cup (in 2002). That was outstanding. Unfortunately I didn’t get to play in the last game (Game 5 of the finals) because I was suspended against Carolina but the feeling of lifting the Cup in front of 20,000 screaming people at The Joe was very empowering. Winning it at home was definitely very special. On the international scene (my biggest highlight) was winning the 2005 World Championship with Team Czech Republic in Vienna. That was just an outstanding tournament. It was during the (NHL) lockout and all of the best players in the world were there. From my country we had some really great players, Patrick Elias, Jaromir Jagr, Vinny Prospal. We had a loaded team. The final was against Canada and everybody was there for them as well, including Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby. Beating them was great. It was a great moment.”

Q. What was your favorite team to play against and why? (from @jball0918)

FISCHER: “Going to Colorado was always exciting. In the early-2000s they had a very good team and it was at the end of that really great Wings-Avalanche rivalry that started in the 90s. Playing them in the 2002 Western Conference finals was just outstanding. The tension in the air was great. You definitely knew that no one in Denver liked the Red Wings.”

Q. What is your favorite part about your job? (from @aqgrad12)

FISCHER: “Seeing guys improve. It seems that once players get out of the junior or college ranks they join the pros and sometimes their coaches are too busy with systems – how to improve PP performance and how to fix the PK – that there isn’t enough time for them to really develop that one-on-one relationship with the players, not just helping them with their games but really listening to them and working with them as individuals. I get to do that. Seeing guys start as young, skilled kids with raw talent and then transitioning to good all-around players is very rewarding. Guys like Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Jimmy Howard – players that are very important on the Red Wings’ roster right now – have all developed in our system the last few years. That is very satisfying to see.”

Q. What has been your most memorable moment since you retired as a player? (from @SuperGirl_30)

FISCHER: “That would probably be during the first year I started working in the Red Wings’ front office. It was 2008 and we won the Stanley Cup. It was the first time I realized just how fast the NHL is, watching from a different perspective. I was standing behind the net in Pittsburgh near the Zamboni entrance, maybe five feet from the glass, and I was watching the Red Wings’ stars – Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg and Nick Lidstrom – run a power play and there was no space on the ice at all. There were obviously only four Penguins out there on the PK but they were so quick, so fast – there was no space for our guys to do anything. It was really amazing. The Wings managed to win that game and that series but I’ll never forget that moment I realized how it felt to be on the other side of things, to not be a player.”

Q. Do you feel that the NHL has moved in the right direction with rule changes made in recent years? (from @Josh96OBrien)

FISCHER: “I think it’s been great what the league has done and what they continue to do to try and improve the game, to make it more entertaining for the fans. I like stats. I follow them closely. When you look at the numbers from the 1990s, the scoring totals were going down. Everybody was starting to trap, to clog up the neutral zone. Then someone figured it might not be a bad idea to take the red line out. Well, they made that rule change and all of a sudden the number of goals went up. There are a lot of smart coaches in the NHL though and eventually everybody figured out how to slow things down again, they fore-checked harder and things like that. So a positive rule change worked for a little while but then the number of goals started to come down again. Then the league started to really crack down on all of the clutching and grabbing that was going on and it was absolutely outstanding. The changes were more dramatic and it really seemed to improve the flow of the game. Goal scoring went up a little bit up again because a lot of coaching systems were caught off guard. But now coaches are figuring it out and have started tailoring their game plans accordingly. Scoring totals are coming back down again. Everybody adjusts though, just like evolution in life. Everybody learns to live within their means and everybody learns how to play within the rules. I’m sure whatever the next rule change will be well thought out. It’s going to be experimented with in the American League to see if it works before it’s implemented in the NHL. The one thing about rule changes since the lockout though has been that the game has sped up but players’ instincts are still the same. This is a generation of players who grew-up in a pass-first system and are still used to a lot of battling in the corners and a lot of clutching and grabbing and stuff like that. A lot of guys are getting caught off guard by all of the new open-ice hitting that is going on and they aren’t protecting themselves properly. So for the health of the players, they’re going to have to learn to protect themselves better moving forward.”

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