ATLANTA – Less than 24 hours after his team’s 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night in San Jose, Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson stepped off the plane and into the line of questions at the All-Star Coaches Roundtable on Friday in Atlanta.
Wilson was named the assistant coach for the Western Conference All-Stars after leading his team to a 22-13-5 record, a .631 points percentage, through the first half of the NHL season. Only Mike Babcock, head coach of the Detroit Red Wings, led his team to a better record in the West. Babcock will serve as the Western Conference’s head coach.
Wilson and Babcock, along with Eastern Conference coaches John Paddock (Ottawa Senators) and Don Waddell (Atlanta Thrashers) participated in a Coaches Roundtable discussion, answering questions posed to them by moderator Gary Green, members of the media and e-mails submitted to the NHL Network, which carried the discussion live for television viewers.
Wilson’s comments during the roundtable discussion can be found below, available by clicking here
For Wilson, this marks the first time in his 14-year NHL coaching career that he will be coaching in an All-Star Game. He ranks 11th all-time in games coached and third among all active coaches.THRASHERS’ WADDELL ADDED AS EASTERN CONFERENCE ASSISTANT
The NHL announced on Friday that head coach and general manager Don Waddell of the All-Star host Atlanta Thrashers has been named the assistant coach of the Eastern Conference for Sunday's 2008 NHL All-Star Game.
Waddell, who will assist Ottawa Senators head coach John Paddock, replaces New Jersey Devils head coach Brent Sutter. Paddock and Sutter had earned Eastern Conference All-Star coaching honors after their clubs posted the Conference's top records at the regular season's midpoint on Jan. 5.
The only general manager in Thrashers' history, Waddell has posted a 23-19-4 record since taking over head coaching duties on Oct. 17.
2008 NHL ALL-STAR WEEKEND
The 56th NHL All-Star Game will be played on Sunday evening at 3:00 PM (Pacific) and will be broadcast by VERSUS and NHL Radio. Coverage of the Dodge NHL SuperSkills challenge will also be carried by VERSUS and NHL Radio on Saturday night at 4:00 PM (Pacific).
The Dodge NHL SuperSkills event on Saturday night is a showcase of skill and creativity as the best players in the world compete in various hockey events including: fastest skater, hardest shot, the elimination shootout, a competition between the YoungStars and much more. To read more about the new format for the event, click here
Wilson's Comments at the Coaches RoundtableRE: A full 82-game season
“Well, personally, I do think 82 games are too much, myself. I'd like to see a 70-game schedule, a few more breaks in there. I'd like to see around a week because the players playing off your team in the All-Star Game are your best players. They do play the most minutes. And you're giving the other guys like three or four days off to rest up. I'd like to see us have a week that we put aside and at least give the All-Stars a couple of days where they can be with their families and just rest and get away from the game.
“But every game is tough. We've seen a jump in our conference this year with the number of teams improving rapidly that's made it really difficult. Chicago, St. Louis, teams like that, Phoenix in our division have really improved this year. Without a big drop-off from the Detroits as well as San Jose. Anaheim's coming on. Every night is a difficult game no matter where you play.”RE: The length of the playoffs
“No, I think the playoffs are fine the way they are right now. You shorten the season by shortening the regular season. But the playoffs, the 4-out-of-7s, I played in the NHL when it started as a 2-out-of-3 and you had all kinds of upsets early. You don't have that in other sports, but hockey's a sport where there could be upsets, where the 8th place team could beat the first place team in our League, especially now.
“But the 4-out-of-7s, I think it's really exciting. That's when the players play their best. They're focused, and I wouldn't change the playoffs at all.”
RE: Optional pre-game skates (jokingly)
“On my team when I call an optional, everybody goes on the ice. When we have a mandatory practice, I've got five or six guys who have little aches and pains who can't practice. So go figure that.”RE: Potential NHL games scheduled in Europe
“Well for us, the extra travel (is a concern). We'd be coming from the West coast and I've seen how difficult it was for Anaheim this year to get out of the gate. I suppose we would prefer, being a West coast team, to be able to play a game in China or Japan.
“But I'd be all for it. I played for six or seven years in Switzerland and I've been lobbying in San Jose for a few years to have a training camp in Davos where I played, where Joe Thornton
played as well. Altitude training, and I think the hockey would be good enough there to give us a challenge and prepare us through the season.”RE: The current level of coaching in the NHL
“I don't think it's a matter of overcoaching anymore. Though I believe that coaching has improved. You have so many more resources. You see the other team playing all the time. You have coaches who break down stuff. But the improvement in the National Hockey League, and the parody that's there now has to deal with the number of quality players that are playing in our League. The athletes are so much better. They're quicker, stronger, faster, certainly a lot bigger. There's not much room on the ice. I have yet to play a team this year that I thought was poorly coached or poorly prepared. It's just an incredible League.
“If you study the past of the NHL back when it was six teams, there was parity. There were top teams and bottom teams. But all the scores were 2-1, 3-2. That's the point we find ourselves now in the National Hockey League.”RE: The lack of “showboating” in the game today
“I don't think that comes from the coaches. I think that is part of the hockey culture. The players police themselves with regards to people who showboat. That's certainly, for example, this year I haven't said anything to Jeremy Roenick who is maybe the last guy standing from that point of view. Listening to JR's quotes in the past, it was always great entertainment, but you always wondered, ‘Do I really want a guy like that on my team and what's he going to be like?’ I've had him on my teams, National Teams and things like that for a short period of time and you can handle that. But this year I read one article in ESPN magazine that said, ‘When is he (Roenick) Going to Wear Out His Welcome?’ So I say that to him every day (jokingly
), ‘JR, you're wearing out your welcome.’ We laugh about it. But he's a great guy, a leader on our team.
“I don't think it comes from coaching, to be honest with you. I think that's been part of hockey's culture. I don't know if we need that. I watch NFL games or NBA games, and I don't know if we need that, personally. I know at our level with the threat of being beaten up for showing up somebody, as long as we have fighting in the game, that kind of gets policed out, right there.”
RE: Managing players on the team in the event of a mid-season call-up
“When you are doing call-ups for injuries and things like that, you're taking not necessarily a first-line player, a guy who just scores, you're bringing somebody in who has a little bit more of a complete game. I know when I've coached and you bring somebody up and you understand that he is a goal scorer, I try to avoid playing them on the fourth line. He'll get an opportunity in San Jose to play with a Joe Thornton
or Patty Marleau. And we try to make him feel as comfortable as possible and enhance his skills as soon as possible.
“You don't have many guys playing in the minors who are going to be first and second-line players in the National Hockey League. They may think so, but you've already got your core people up front. They've got to learn the game defensively. They've got to learn to be accountable. And that is the number one priority when we send people down.
“When you get called up, you don't want to be a liability. You don't want to let your teammates down and you want the opportunity to play. If you can't play in your own end, I don't think you're going to play on any one of the teams that are coached by the guys in this roundtable. I think that's pretty universal now.”RE: The increased media access both during the games and on practice days
“Not really, what we do as coaches isn't exactly rocket science. I've done the (you know) put the head phones on and talked while the action's going on live. It was actually a mistake (the first time). I didn't intend to do that. It was supposed to be taped and they did it live and I didn't want to like throw the microphone away. So we went with it.
“Now it's become pretty standard. There are a few teams that came up with the idea of having a reporter come during timeouts. I think the Kings were the first team to do that and we picked up on that. There are cameras, it seems everywhere. I think you get used to it. I'm sure I'm not any different than anybody else; resisted it in the beginning, but if it helps sell the game, makes your team more accessible, you're willing to do all those things.”