Tom Kurvers, the Director of Player Personnel for the Phoenix Coyotes, has an office at the Glendale Arena. But, you're more likely to find him in his seat at the west end of the Al Shaver Press Box during a Wild game, scouting for NHL talent. Kurvers, a native of Bloomington, has been with the Coyotes for eight years serving as a professional scout. He also served as the Coyotes' assistant coach on an interim basis during the final two months of the 2004 season.
The 1986 Stanley Cup champion played with seven teams over his NHL career. He also won the Hobey Baker award in 1984 as a member of the UMD Bulldogs. Kurvers sat down with Wild.com to discuss some hot topics surrounding the Coyotes, as well as the Wild, the NHL, and the Gopher rivals to the north, the Bulldogs.
Here's what the other "T.K." had to say.
How did you hear about Brett Hull's retirement?
"I actually found out the day before that it was all happening.
I think the year and a half off put a lot of the veteran players in a tough position. There were a number of hall of fame players that retired before the season started. Brett decided to give it a try, and he made up his mind that one and a half years was just too long for a guy that's 41-years-old.
He made his decision based on how he felt out there on the ice."
As an observer, did you feel that the timing was right for him to end his Hall of Fame career?
"I think it was pretty clear to everyone involved that the game has gotten faster, and at 41, you're not getting any faster. With the rule changes, there are a lot of different kinds of players that are benefiting, and a lot are going to have trouble with the change in the game. Especially with the older guys, the speed of the new game makes it too hard to keep up."
What have been the effects of Wayne Gretzky taking over as coach of the Phoenix Coyotes?
"I think it's brought an attention factor to our team in Phoenix. The Phoenix Suns had a terrific team last year while we were sitting on the sidelines during the lockout. There are a lot of Pac-10 sports, and major sports in the city. And there are plenty of fans to be had.
So far, Wayne has taken to coaching and taken to the day-to-day detail of the team I think more seriously and with more enthusiasm than anyone would have guessed."
You got a taste of coaching with the Coyotes at the end of the 2003-2004 season. How did you like it and how does it compare to scouting?
"Oh, I really enjoyed it. What it boils down to is this. For all of us who are fortunate to stay around this game at this level, it's all about the game. So standing on the bench brings you as close as you can come without actually playing. It's exciting. It's fast. And you step away from your experience on the bench with great respect for every player that plays."
Have you noticed a big difference in play with the new rules in the "New NHL?"
"I think it would be interesting to get down on the bench again to see these new rules up close. It is faster and it is set up for the skill players to succeed more. And, it is different. From up here, you can see how players that were established NHL players, for all the right reasons, are having a hard time with the game now. It's because their game is built on a lot of the rules that are no longer part of the game. Or, they bent the rules, which is no longer tolerated.
We're talking about good players who have built good careers, and are valuable teammates. Now, we have to kind of reevaluate every player. It's very clear early on that the pure skaters are going to have an advantage going forward. But, a lot of these guys will make adjustments and they'll improve their game in certain areas. And, they'll eliminate some of the things that are outlawed now that made up a part of the good players baskets of skills, if you want to call them that."
You are seeing a lot of the Minnesota Wild this year. What are your thoughts on the Minnesota club this season?
"Well, again they are well coached. They are not going to get out coached. They are the best-coached team in the league. If you look at their history and you look at what they've done with the talent they have...
They're building a franchise the way that you plan it out in the boardroom, or the coach's office. And then, they follow through on it. And that's hard to do, because there are a lot of pressures on teams in every market to succeed, to speed up the process, and to make room for certain players, whether it be a local player or a fan favorite.
This team has really stuck to the philosophy of building from within and sticking with guys who play the game the right way."
Finally, we've got to get your take on the UMD Bulldogs and their prospects for this season.
They had a tough start, getting swept by Bemidji State, but they are a young team with a really solid recruiting class. That was proven in the last NHL draft. A number of those guys were drafted.
I think the key will be goaltending and their goaltender, Isaac Reichmuth, has proven in the past that he can get the job done.