In the spirit of the bye week, coach Bruce Boudreau was given some time off for this week's edition of Bruce Bites. In his stead is former Wild player and current assistant coach Darby Hendrickson, who sat down with Wild.com's Dan Myers to wax nostalgic, discuss what it's like working with Scott Stevens and talk about the keys to Minnesota's historic season so far:
Dan Myers: From your vantage point as the Wild's "eye in the sky," was has been the biggest reason for the club's surge this season?
Darby Hendrickson: I think you have to give the players the credit. The consistency of just about every player, our offense is spread out. Our leaders have gotten the job done all year. Obviously [goalie Devan] Dubnyk has been outstanding. I think a lot of our guys who are in their fourth our fifth year, the [Mikael] Granlunds, the [Charlie] Coyles, all those guys, [Jonas] Brodin, [Matt] Dumba, [Jason] Zucker, I think that class is coming into their own in both a leadership role and on the ice. In the past, we saw flashes of what they can do, and now, we're seeing a different level to their game.
DM: What do you attribute that jump to? Between Nino Niederereiter, Granlund, Zucker, Coyle -- all those guys seem to be having career years across the board. Is it the system? Maturity?
DH: I think it's both. I think there are a lot of things they have learned coming up, and I think Bruce has done a great job with communication and having the flexibility of having different guys move around and play with different people. Bruce trusts them, I think the players feel that and they have been able to take off because of it.
DM: You played a lot of games against Scott Stevens as a player. What has it been like to be on his side now and see him as a coach?
DH: It's been great. He's a very humble person, considering everything he has accomplished on the ice. As a coach, he's very detailed, and not just with his defensemen, but in all areas of the game. He brings a real detail to every meeting. He does a good job of -- and I think this is really hard for some former players who played at a high level -- but to be able to teach and handle the actual teaching part of coaching. That's a testament to him. He's just a great person to work with.
DM: Scott is a guy who went from television into coaching. You took the same route after your playing career was done. Was coaching something you always wanted to get into?
DH: I think it was something in my blood, that if something ever came up, I definitely would have been interested. I enjoyed doing TV, it was a great experience, I worked with great people, but I think the opportunity to be a coach and to be at this level, I couldn't pass it up. It's still fun to put the skates on every day and go out there with the guys. I enjoy my role, being the eye in the sky and being behind the scenes. But I also enjoy being around every situation and having input. I'm thankful and I really enjoy doing it.
DM: You have been a part of all three Game 7s the Wild has played in in franchise history, as a player in 2003 against Colorado and Vancouver and as a coach against the Avalanche in 2014. To you, which one of those three was your favorite?
DH: As a player, I think the one in Denver in 2003 was incredibly special because [Andrew Brunette] got the [overtime game-winning goal in Game 7] and he's my buddy. Just to be on the bench and feel that ... I think the other one [in Colorado], being a part of it as a coach, you don't have as much control over it. But they're all gratifying.
DM: Was the 2014 winner surreal in that, it was the same arena, same end of the rink, same opponent as the one in 2003? Did it seem almost like déjà vu?
DH: Yeah. It had an eerie feel that way, especially because Andrew Brunette was on our staff. That [2003 finish] was a team moment, even though it was a great moment for Andrew, there was a part about that was eerie. Colorado had had such a good year when Nino scored that one, and obviously, they were a superstar team when we went in there and won in 2003. Even though it was a total different era, totally different teams and a different time, the one constant was Andrew Brunette, scoring the first goal then as coach, and Patrick Roy, who was the goalie for the Avs then was behind the bench coaching them [in 2014].