Exit Interviews: McPhee, Gallant, Fleury
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Courtesy of the Vegas Golden Knights communications staff, here are a selection of exit interviews from yesterday. More coming soon.
Thoughts on the character in the room and next season…
Certainly. We had a terrific room this year. They’ve all commented on it. So far, we’re doing player exit interviews now and that’s the theme that they really like. This group and organization has done a tremendous job of putting a good group together. I asked them what can we do better in this department, that department, that department? It’s all good news right now.
The reality is in the salary cap world, you have to make some tough decisions. This team, not everyone will be back. We’ve all learned lessons over the years. You examine what happens in the salary cap world. You have to be smart about what you do and the contracts you’re handing out. Or if it hurts your team, it gets in the way. There was a time when there was no salary cap and you could do whatever you wanted. You can’t do that anymore. We’ll do our best to keep this group together, but there’s always changes.
Thoughts on your satisfaction with the progression of your top prospects like Suzuki, Brannstrom and Glass and is there any potential for them to be on the team next season…
Those are probably long shots.
We did a really good job drafting them, and that’s the first thing you have to do. The second thing you have to do is develop them properly. They’re going to have to be really, really good to make this club.
I never really wanted teenagers in the NHL. I don’t know if they make you a whole lot better. We have to develop them properly and we’ll take our time to do that. You’re going to overcook them sometimes at the junior level or the American level than put them here. Because it's not just the play on the ice, it’s the social part of it. Young guys and you’re putting them in with guys with families and everything else. That’s like taking a kid from eighth grade and putting them in 12th grade. It doesn’t work. So, we have the luxury of taking our time with young guys. And the smartest thing you can do is do that. Take your time and develop them properly.
Thoughts on how those prospects have progressed…
Yeah, it would be hard for me to go through every player, but we’re delighted with them.
When you talk about our first three or four picks, Glass and Suzuki are incredibly productive. Brannstrom almost made the world championship team. Hague was voted the best defenseman in Canada at the junior level. It’s remarkable. He had a remarkable season, to get that kind of player in the second round.
Some of the other guys that we drafted are doing really well too. It’s the start and we have to keep doing it. The team that just won the Cup did really, really well for a number of years and that has to be done here too.
Thoughts on what resonates with you now about the job you and your staff have done with this team and getting them to this point…
Well, the Vegas Golden Knights have been a great story this year. It certainly didn’t end the way that we had hoped or wanted, but sometimes a great book or movie or story doesn’t have a great ending. It doesn’t take away from the plot or a great narrative. Some interesting protagonists along the way or antagonists and the character of all the authors.
It’s still a great story and we wish it ended a little bit better. Individually, we all would’ve wanted to win a Cup. Collectively we would have wanted to win the Cup as a team and it would’ve been great to deliver a championship to this city. We all know what the real story is this year. It would’ve been great if we could’ve made things even better.
Thoughts on what kind of identity will emerge in the maturation of the team…
We’d like to keep this identity. It’s a very tight-knit group. It’s a hard-working team. They really played well for Gerard. He coached them well. That’s what we want to keep. What I love about our room is there’s no hierarchy. There’s no entitlement. It’s just a bunch of guys that show up and work their tails off and get along and represent this organization and this city very well.
Thoughts on the free agents going into the offseason…
Well, you have to be really smart on all of the deals that you do. It doesn’t matter where in the lineup, you have to be smart about what you do.
We have all of these resources now and we’re in a cap world. You have to trust your instincts as a management group. You have to trust the reports from your pro scouting staff. You have to trust the data that you’re getting from your analytics group. That’s something that we didn’t have years ago and we have now. It tells you certain things and you have to pay attention. We put it all together and try to make the right decisions.
Mistakes happen and you don’t want to be a part of them. They only get in the way of winning. There are different ways to make a team better. You look at all of the different resources and ways to do that and figure out how we make this team better for next year.
Thoughts when he saw Ovechkin raising the Cup…
I didn't see any of it, to be honest with you. We left when the game was over and went down. Sat in the office. It's a really vacant, empty feeling.
It's interesting this year...it never felt during the playoffs like a long season. Nobody felt overwhelmed. It felt like all the right things were happening. And last night, it was just complete emptiness.
Washington has been, and is, a really good team. They've been a good team for a long time. They've had a lot of heartache. They slayed those dragons this year. They beat Pittsburgh. They were very resilient. They were better than we were.
For a guy like Alex, he's absorbed all the heat, all the criticism in that market for over a decade. Whenever the team didn't prevail, it seemed to be all on him. But all he has ever done is play great. He's played great in the playoffs. Nothing's really changed. He has made it easier for a lot of players on that team. They don't take the heat he has. He's finally won, good for him. He's earned it, he's deserved it.
Thoughts on Nikita Gusev and your plans with him moving forward…
We like him a lot and we would like to have him over here as soon as we can get him over here. He has got another year in his deal and then we will see what we can do. He is a talented guy and we will do what we can to get him here. We have talked to him and we will continue to talk to him.
Thoughts on what was wrong with Malcom Subban and other injuries on team…
Malcom had a lower body injury. (laughs)
He had a sprained ankle. Some other guys played through some stuff. One series we had a couple guys that if they had gone another game I don’t know if they would have been able to play. So, it is just the way it is and it is remarkable what some guys can play through. Some guys can’t play through it, some guys can play with it but they aren’t very effective, and then there are other guys that seem to play through injuries and their performance doesn’t tail off, and those players amaze me.
Thoughts on injuries through the series that require long-term rehab…
I don’t think so. But when you get to this point in the season you typically have three or four guys who need some surgery. It’s like a tune up for your car, you know you need something fixed. It’s not uncommon and we may have a few of those. We are doing the exit medicals today so I will meet with our medical department Monday and get the low down on what needs to be done.
Thoughts on what Washington did that took the team out of their comfort zone…
Well I would begin by saying, and I don’t want this to come off like sour grapes because it’s not, they were really good and ready to win.
I was concerned going into this series about having played, in the three weeks leading up to the series, only five games. I thought it was a factor in the Winnipeg series. We lost the first game in the Winnipeg series because there was some rust there. We did okay in the second game. I didn’t think we played all that well at home in Games 3 and 4. When we finally got to our game in Game 5, and suddenly, we’re sitting around again for eight days. If you look at it in its totality, it’s five games in 21 days. Hockey players are accustomed to 13, 14, 15 games in a month. I didn’t think we were as sharp. We weren’t executing as well as we could have. We had five weeks off in the playoffs. People may have different theories, but that’s how I felt going into this series.
We didn’t have a lot of luck, but excuses are for losers. I just think Washington was really good. Their team was ready and they were mature, a veteran group. A guy like Kuznetsov, we didn’t have an answer for him. He’s like a young Fedorov out there; he was outstanding. Their whole group played really, really well. They were good everywhere. They won because they played better.
Thoughts on the season overall…
It’s been an exceptional run, obviously. From back in October to today, it’s been unbelievable. For us to be playing until June 7th was an incredible story. We just took it one day at a time and one game at a time all year long. We had an incredible run. We fell a little bit short to the big prize. But it was an unbelievable season. Got the best out of our team and that was really important for us.
Thoughts on how the way this season has unfolded changes his views going forward…
This is the way that I’ve coached, always. It just turned out to be an expansion team with players coming from all different teams. We got the team together the best that we could through training camp. It worked out real well. The lines came together real quickly. The character in the room came together real quickly.
We didn’t make a big deal out of us being an expansion team; we made a big deal out of us getting ready to play every night, competing every night and trying to win games. I think for the most part we did a great job with that. The players really responded every night and played hard. Whoever was in the lineup played the best that they could play. That’s what happens when you work hard, compete hard and you give yourself a chance to win. You have an outstanding season like we did.
Thoughts on how much fun the season was…
We had an exceptional season, we had exceptional fun.
Like I said last night, you get that close to the prize and it really hurts. It makes you a better person for it when you go through that experience. Hopefully, when we get there again sometime in the near future, that we’ll prepare better for it.
We lost to a really good hockey team. Washington is a really good team and you can’t take anything away from them. They made us not play as well as we played in the past. They competed, they battled, they’ve got great superstar hockey players. They deserve to win a Stanley Cup. Hats off to them.
Thoughts about the potential changes to the locker room in the offseason…
It’s pro sports and pro hockey, we’ll see what happens. George McPhee, Kelly McCrimmon and our staff will look at things in the near future. As you know, free agency starts real quick. It’s July 1st. We went so deep that there’s a lot of stuff that’s going to happen pretty quick. The draft comes up and development camp comes up, free agency comes up. The season isn’t over yet.
Hockey is done, but there’s still a lot to go on. We’ll see what happens. I’m sure a big part of our team is going to be back, for sure. It’s a good group of guys and you try to get better every year. We’ll do the best that we can.
Thoughts on George McPhee picking the roster and if want to be involved in potentially adding to the team…
I think we talk about it all the time, George isn’t going to pick up some players and not ask me about them. We discuss players all the time and line-ups all the time. We are in contact daily whether we are here or not.
They will go into things and see what’s available and we will talk about those players and talk about the players we want to keep. It’s a daily discussion about players. I’m very excited about this roster. It’s not a typical expansion, we have some star players and some character guys on our hockey team, so it’s not like we are going to take a step or two back next year. We are going to continue to build and continue to try and get better.
Thoughts on if the Capitals were superstars in this series…
No, I think it was the team in the series.
You look at a lot of their guys that made a difference. Obviously, Ovechkin, Kuznestov and Backstrom are outstanding. Devonte Smith-Pelly was really important. Tom Wilson was really important. You look at their d-core and those guys that aren’t stars but are really important in their group.
I believe it takes a team to win. I think if you ask the Washington Capitals, they will say it’s their whole team who are superstars. Our guys worked hard. Up until this series and our guys, people would say there are no superstars, but we beat three pretty good teams to get there.
Thoughts on if you were to look back at training camp and answer a question about winning the Cup, what would your answer be…
Well, probably the same way. I didn’t even think about it. I don’t remember that question being asked at training camp. If they would have said playoffs, I would have laughed a little bit too, but to say the Stanley Cup I wouldn’t have even responded to that question.
We had an incredible year. From day one there was no expectations about playoffs, there was no expectation about winning 20 games, it was about coming to play every night. I think I told you, and you are probably sick of me saying that it’s about the next game. It’s not about the game that happened in the last one. So, we just take it one game at a time.
We went through 82 games and finished first in our division which was a great accomplishment for our players. They worked hard and they competed hard.
You go into the playoffs thinking, you know what, it would be incredible to win a couple of games here and try to win a first round series and it was a great experience from our players.
We did an unbelievable job against LA and to sweep the Kings who are very good, and it was an unbelievable series for our staff and our players. Then you go onto the next series and say, San Jose is a real good team, but you didn’t fear them. You felt like if you played well you would win and that’s what happened. Then you a play a team like Winnipeg, who to me was probably the best team in the NHL this season, and we go into that series, lose Game One, and then everybody started to count us out. We peel out four games and win to beat Winnipeg. It was an outstanding thing, but it wasn’t like I was surprised by the way our team played the second half of the season and the confidence that built over the second half of the season.
There wasn’t a team that I was afraid of and that’s the way our players were. It didn’t matter who we were going to play, if we played well we had a chance to win. That was the feeling with our group.
Thoughts on keeping the chemistry in the locker room and anticipated changes for next season…
Yeah, you know it’s a quick turnaround. We just played our last game last night, so obviously George has more time to think about that stuff, you know. It’s a shock too, but for me it was a good season. We had great chemistry in the room, I thought we had great chemistry on the ice also. Everybody contributed to the success all season. I just hope some of the guys can come back next year.
Thoughts on having a short off-season and time to rebuild your body for next year…
I think it’s important to go and take some time off. Let your body rest, heal and then spend some time with your family, friends, then get back to working again. That’s what you do, get in shape for training camp. I’m sure everybody will be ready.
Thoughts on comparing this Stanley Cup loss to 2008 loss…
That time, I was thinking we're going to go again and again and again. Young group of guys. Over the years, you quickly realize how hard it is. Now, with the parity around the league, it's even better than it was...I'm just disappointed we missed this opportunity.
Thoughts on if there were any moments during the year that surprised or amazed you most about this team…
There’s lots. It was a crazy year. The support we’ve gotten from the fans. It was the best building to play on in the league. There were so many questions when you bring a hockey team to Vegas. I think the expectation was pretty much exceeded. It was a lot of fun, a great bunch of guys. To see how many people you see on the street and they would say they like the team, they’re proud of the hockey team in Vegas. It’s an honor.
Thoughts on this team’s ability to show the world that Las Vegas is more than the world of glamour, and bringing focus to the community…
I think it was just so disappointing last night, how our season ended. It feels crazy that we’re not playing anymore. Like you said, it’s been a great season, great experience. I’m proud to be a part of this team.
Thoughts on the Knights currently being ranked fifth in the NHL's power rankings for next year…
I don’t think that power ranking had us finished second last September. I don’t know, it doesn’t bug me too much how it’s ranked. I think you’re right though, I think next year everyone knows we can do well. As a group as a team, I think right from the start that will be expected, and we can settle and try to have a successful season.
Thoughts on your relationship with Alex Ovechkin and the back and forth play before the start of the last game…
I guess we’ve played our share of games against each other. We’re not like enemies, I don’t think. I think the last four games when I was warming up he gave me a little tap on the pad, and I said, “The next time he touches me, I’m getting him back.” I did, so I don’t know. He’s a very good hockey player, always dangerous around the net. Can’t say I’m happy to see him raise the Cup because I’m not.
Thoughts on how long it will take for the team to be able to just celebrate how good the season was for them…
Good question. I know it takes a while, but the next few days will be busy. We’ll spend some time together before everybody heads home, head their different ways for the summer. I think once everyone’s gone and you go home, you have some time to think about it a little more. You see how disappointing it was, but you see how good the season was too, and that’s when you can turn the page and get ready for next season.
Thoughts on how fresh you feel after having your best season statistically, and how long you see yourself staying in Vegas.
It was a good season, I think the numbers are something, but they don’t always show the game and stuff, but I think my teammates are a big part of it. They were a big help to me all this season. I don’t know, it’s weird. A year ago, I was told I was getting too old to play. I still had a lot of fun. Vegas has given me this opportunity to do a lot, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else, and hopefully I can finish my career here.