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Q & A With Dave Tippett

by Staff Writer / Dallas Stars sat down with the Stars’ head coach to talk about getting ready for training camp, the 2007-08 season and what the internal expectation levels are for the hockey club. Stars Training Camp begins on September 14 and the season is just around the corner. With training camp approaching soon, what are some of the things you and your coaches are doing to get ready?

Dave Tippett: “We started working on this season right after the playoffs. There is a lot of planning and a lot of paperwork to do. You want to make sure that when you go to camp that you have everything in order. We have upwards of 50 players in camp so you want to make sure that everyone knows what they are doing and where they are going. There are a lot of tactical things we go over as a coaching staff in advance that will allow us to get the best out of our personnel. There is a lot of work within the summer to make sure that all of the players’ fitness levels are where they need to be going into camp. We have a lot of high standards in that regard and we expect all of our players to come to camp in very good shape. J.J. McQueen does a great job in monitoring that and we put a lot of focus in that area.

“We have a lot of players that are coming in now that are starting to skate and take some physical testing and we monitor that pretty close. We’re always meeting with our players to make sure they are in the right frame of mind coming into camp. We talk with our leadership group quite a bit and establish some quality discussion between all of our players and the coaches well before we hit the ice. We want everyone to have a full understanding of our goals and what we want to accomplish during camp and get off to a good start to the season.” What players do you think are ready to take a step forward this season?

Tippett: “We have a group of young players that are very good and some of them got some quality experience last year because of injuries and other factors. Guys like Loui Eriksson and Joel Lundqvist came in and played very well. Loui showed flashes last season of what he can do and I think he’ll be a good player for us this year. Lundqvist had a great playoff for us, is very competitive and plays a hard game. I think both guys are going to come in with confidence that they can play in this league and contribute to this team. The other guy I am looking forward to seeing come in and have a good year is Steve Ott. We were thinking that last season might be a good one for Otter but he got hit by injury early in the year and missed a lot of time. I really think this is a big year for him. I know he is really motivated after talking with him this summer.” This team brings back a lot of leadership in Morrow, Modano, Barnes, Norstrom, Boucher, Turco, Lehtinen, Zubov, etc. You’ve stated many times that you feel pretty good about the character that this team has. How important is that for a coach?

Tippett: “Having the strength in the dressing room is something you need to have if you are going to be successful. We felt we had a lot of that last year when we went through some tough times with injuries and a depleted line-up some nights. We had some guys step up and it built character within our team. I feel very good about our leadership on this roster. Having that is very important and it cannot be underestimated.” You know new Stars Director of Player Personnel Dave Taylor very well from working with him in LA. What can you share with Stars fans about why you’re excited he’s here? What does he bring to the table?

Tippett: “Well first and foremost, Dave is going to fit in with our hockey club very well because he is such a good person. He is very knowledgeable hockey-wise and is very thorough and methodical in his approach to the game. I think it is excellent that we have somebody who has looked at our team from afar and he can come in and analyze our team from a different view. Dave is a guy who has already come in and added some good ideas for our group. He adds a lot and we look forward to working with him all year.” We’re all disappointed that the Stars lost in the first round, but there were a lot of positives about last season. What can you build upon from last year?

Tippett: “There are a lot of things. You have to continue to build your group and we’re a team that has a lot of players that have come up within our system. Those players continue to grow. Players like Modano, Lehtinen and Zubov are all striving to get themselves another Stanley Cup. Some of the things we went through last year helped us get over some humps. Marty Turco was excellent in the playoffs and there were some things we can build on. No one was happy that we lost in the first round but there were some good things to build on from last year. We did some things very well and we expect to be a good team again this season.” The obvious goal is to win the Stanley Cup, but what other goals do you want to strive for this season?

Tippett: “There are a lot of things you look at. We always stress how important it is to get off to a good start to the season. Last season we were able to get off to a hot start and it was a catalyst to a successful regular season. It was one of those things where we got momentum and it helped get us off on the right foot. We’re stressing to be sharp with our game mentally and physically when we start the season. We want to get out of the gate early.

“As far as specific goals for the season, every year our goal is to win the Stanley Cup. But you have to put yourself in position to do that by making the playoffs. Teams that get off to good starts and play consistently well all season give themselves the best chance to win in the playoffs. The new NHL has a lot of good teams in contention for the playoffs. You have to make sure you are playing at the top of your game throughout the season to get there.” When you look at the West and specifically the Pacific Division, how do you view the landscape? There’s a lot of competition but you are confident in the way the Stars stack up, aren’t you?

Tippett: “Very much so. I think we play in the toughest division in the league. The teams in our division speak for themselves. Anaheim is the defending Stanley Cup Champion. They have a couple of players who are still considering retirement (Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne) but they’ve already added some good players to possibly replace them in (Mathieu) Schneider and (Todd) Bertuzzi. So they’ll still be a force. San Jose is a very good team led by Joe Thornton and they are a deep squad. Los Angeles is young but talented and made some changes to their line-up. They really want to make a push to make the playoffs. Phoenix has gone through a change in management. But they’ll also be young and play with a lot of energy. Then you look around the West at some of the teams that were big in the free agent market – Colorado missed the playoffs but signed Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan, both very good players. Every team is trying to get better. Those that did not make the playoffs are pushing to make that final eight this season and the ones that made it want to stay there. It should be a very competitive conference.

“This is an exciting time of year. We are really looking forward to training camp and to getting back to playing some hockey.”
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