The season wrap-up continues at Scotiabank Place as Sens Head Coach Paul MacLean passed along his thoughts on the season that was.
He reflected on the performance of the team in 2013, its outlook going forward under his guidance, his own job as head coach and, of course, the inevitable Daniel Alfredsson retirement speculation.
Here's the full rundown of what he had to say...
First of all I'd like to take the time to compliment my players on a tremendous season of growth in our process of working towards being an elite team and a challenging team in the Stanley Cup playoffs for years at a time. To my training staff and equipment staff for a 48 game schedule that was, the compression of it, even for all of you and for ourselves it was a difficult process and they did a lot of the work, nightly work, that goes unseen and unheralded and they did a great job for us. And also to my coaching staff, again in a shortened season, for the work they put in, in order for us to have the success that the team had.
We're tremendously pleased with where we are in the process of becoming good and we look forward to next season and next training camp. We found out a lot about a lot of players this year. We had a lot of, I believe, tremendous growth, not only on our NHL team but our Binghamton team and I think that gives us almost two years of growth in our players in one season so next year's training camp -- I'm looking forward to it right now because we're going to have some decisions to make, and some hard ones, and that's a good sign for team, the growth of our team and the process that we're in. Again, I look forward to it and I'm excited already.
On 'two years of growth':
I think if we had just had the season regular, we would have just had our players here, we would have taken up one or two guys but with the injuries we had that created five or six spots in Ottawa plus five or six in Binghamton that players who would have played in Elmira or been out of the lineup in Binghamton got to play important minutes in Binghamton. We got growth in two places where players played major roles that, normally, they wouldn't have.
On anticipated battles in camp:
At this point we've had a number of players that we've brought up and played. I don't know, I haven't put a real number on it, but we've had a lot of guys play here and play well. We're going to have to make some decisions on some people. I'm not sure what the number is going to be but I do know that the best players in training camp are going to be here.
On places to improve:
I think what we learned in the second round against Pittsburgh was size, speed and skill are important parts of the game as you move forward... I think it means a lot of things. It could be a scoring winger, a defenceman, a centreman but we want players that have size and speed and good skill at whatever position we can get them at is what I would think. I don't think there's one specific need but if we can get one anywhere I think that would be a great addition.
On players who grew the most:
For me Kyle Turris and Zack Smith had outstanding growth as players. I don't think their statistics bear it out but the way they played after Jason Spezza got injured, they were forced to play against number one or two centres in the league and this team had success while we did it. No they didn't necessarily score but the other guys didn't score. What they learned and how they learned to play consistently without the puck and play against the best players in the league gave them the most growth.
On injuries as a blessing in disguise:
Well, we're trying to look at them that way. When they happened we didn't want them to happen and we didn't look forward to playing our season without five of our best players. At the time once you're into that you have to still play the games. The players had to step up and play and I thought Kyle and Zack really stepped up and played consistently for us at a high level and that's great growth for me.
On Zibanejad and Silfverberg going forward:
For them they got over here, this was the first time both of them lived away from home and in another country so they adjusted to that, however much time it took one or the other to do that, and they found out what the National Hockey League is all about, how to play in a small rink, and I think to varying degrees one had more success than the other but what they can bring away is now they know what it takes and now they can be prepared better for it coming into training camp next year knowing that this is what it's like to play in the NHL and they can, in fact, play here. Now they have to adjust their game to be successful here.
On their offseason plans:
They're both coming back, I don't think they're staying the whole summer, but I don't think they're staying in Sweden for the whole summer either. The conversation I had with them, they're going home to see friends and family they haven't seen in a while but I know for sure Mika's going to be back here sooner than Jakob is so I don't think they're going for the whole summer, they'll be back to train and work as well.
On how the team would have fared if it was healthy:
I think we would have been way better than we were for sure and once you're better than we were at least you have, possibly, an opportunity. We would have had a better opportunity than we had.
On if the team is a contender:
No, I think we're still in the process. We're going to be a contender when we're a contender and that can be next year, or were we this year or were we last year. My focus is still on the process of getting better and better and I'm not sure you can put a timeframe on when you can be a contender. We're a good team now so the process of our rebuild -- we've qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs the last two years at eight and seven. Can we get in at six next year or do we get in at five? That would be more progress. Or, in this league, you could play real well and be nine. I don't think we can adjust it based on that part of the process. We are still in the process of being in a rebuild. We've had some great growth in our team. Are we ahead of schedule? Probably. But what's that schedule? There's not a timeframe on when the success is going to happen for you that we all want. So we have to still, I believe, remain patient but, at the same time, remain diligent on how we prepare our team and how we choose our team to make sure we continue to improve as a team.
On next season's expectations:
I think the expectation in that everyone is trying to make the playoffs and that's the same expectation we have. How he we finish depends on the success we have. When we start training camp the expectation is that you're going to be one of the eight teams that gets into the playoffs knowing that that's hard to do in itself. That is hard to accomplish and that's the expectation. Where you get from one to eight, I don't think we're in a position to say we're going to be one of the top four teams or teams right now in the Eastern Conference. But are we a good team in the Eastern Conference? Absolutely. Can we be one of those teams? Absolutely. A lot depends on the growth of our players and the consistency in which we play.
On qualifying getting harder with realignment:
No, I think it's the same. It's the same. It's still going to be hard no matter who they put in there and it is what it is. It's the same for everybody and I think it's going to be just as hard next year and the next year and the next year as it is this year and last year. It's a difficult league and it demands a lot of hard work and a lot of preparation and a lot of dedication to be successful.
On his mindset going into next year:
I'm scared to death still. I'm sweating already. It's going to be very hard and success for me breeds fear. I'm scared, I'm really scared but that for me is a comfort because I've dealt with things that way for a long time and it motivates me to make sure that I'm prepared.
On his growth in his second year:
I'm not sure if I'm the right guy to ask that. I try to be consistent with my message and how I do things. I think, for the most part, I was way calmer especially with the officials as far as not being distracted by some of the things that happen over the course of a season and, at the same time, I think that led to some calmness with the players.
On Erik Karlsson's final month:
I thought we should commend him and Jason and Milan and Cowen for how hard they worked to get back to help the team and their dedication to the team I think deserves a lot of recognition. The hard part for Erik and for me talking with him and watching him was, it's hard to adjust your game, especially when you're a young player, to your limitations when you're not used to having any limitations. I think trying to adjust his game to play maybe differently than his natural instincts were was a difficult process for him. I think at the end of it when he just started to play he was better. It's a hard thing to adjust your game due to injury and I think that's the part he struggled with the most.
On his confidence in Daniel Alfredsson's potential return:
Very. He's the leading scorer on the team and in the playoffs, I thought he had a very competitive year but, again, it's up to him and whatever decision he makes I'm happy with.
On if he asked Alfie about it:
No. He wouldn't tell me anyway.
On any young players who surprised him:
Well, I think Eric Gryba and Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Those were two players who we knew who they were and we knew what they could do but we never expected that they would be playing on our roster in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs or the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Neither one of them was on the list to come to training camp on January 19 and, training camp on September 15, yes they would have played in exhibition games, early exhibition games and then would have been in Binghamton and wherever else they could have been and for them both to come and, this is the growth I mentioned earlier about how players got two years in one, these guys got to play major roles in Binghamton and through those, how they played there, got them the opportunity to play here. For me those two players had some tremendous growth.
On if the message gets more challenging as a third year coach:
The thing you can't do is get complacent and that's my biggest responsibility is to not get complacent with the message and I don't think we need to necessarily change the message either. Consistency is what we demand of our players so that's what we have to be as a coaching staff is be consistent. I think that consistent line of communication between us is an important part of it and I think the involvement of my assistant coaches in delivering the message -- it's not always me delivering the message -- so the voice doesn't get old is important. There are some things we'll have to do differently but I think with the way that our team is playing and the way that we're growing, as long as we don't get complacent as a coaching staff I think we'll be fine.
On if they're ready for Alfie to retire:
I don't know if any team is ready for that. It'll be a significant event and a significant chapter in the franchise's history will be closed if he's done as a player and I don't know if you're ever really ready for that. We know that whatever decision he makes will be the right on for him and in some capacity he'll be available to us so that gives us some comfort in the fact that if the decision doesn't go the way we want it.
You can watch the video version here:
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