Central Division Conference Call w/ Adrian Aucoin
DAVID KEON: Good morning, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department. I'd like to welcome you to the fifth of the six divisional conference calls we are hosting this week as we prepare for the opening of training camps next week and also for the opening of the 2005/2006 National Hockey League regular season on October 5th.
This morning we are featuring the Central Division and are pleased to have with us from the Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash, from the Detroit Red Wings forward Kris Draper, from the Nashville Predators forward Paul Kariya, from the St. Louis Blues goalkeeper Patrick Lalime. We should have Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Adrian Aucoin joining us shortly.
Operator, we'll open it up for questions.
Q. Kris, could you talk about the culture change players are going to have to get used to regarding the new rules. We're told simply putting a stick on an opponent is going to be called a penalty. Are you ready for that?
I think for defensemen, they're going to have the biggest time adjusting. Obviously, there's so much play down low, just on this phone call alone you've got great players like Rick Nash, Paul Kariya. You give those guys a lot of room and a lot of space and it's going to be tough to defend against those guys. I think training camp is going to be a real learning experience this year, and I don't even think we'll have it all down pat by the time of the home openers on October 5th. But guys are committed to opening up the game, making it a lot more entertaining and letting guys go out and use their talents and do what they do. We have such great athletes in this sport, let them skate, let them do what they do and the excitement should come back real fast.
Q. Paul, obviously the Predators haven't been real active in the free agent market over the last couple years. I'm curious, could you walk us through the thought process you had of choosing Nashville's offer and how many offers were out there for you and how did you end up with the Predators?
I guess I think Nashville has one of the best up-and-coming teams in the league and they've got great goaltending, defensemen that can move the puck and forwards that can skate. With the new rule changes, it fits really well for our club. I'm really excited to be here. In terms of other offers or other clubs involved, I have been just basically saying that's for you to dig up, but we're not going to talk about who was involved or what the other offers were.
Q. Kris, especially in light of Pavel Datsyuk's apparent decision to stay in Russia, could you talk about how the Red Wings have been affected by the new CBA and by the salary cap and how much the team has changed as a result of that?
Even though we did, we didn't quite get enough. Pavel was demanding a lot of money, and unfortunately with all the salaries and all the players that we had tied up, we just couldn't get anything resolved, and we lost a terrific hockey player, a very talented hockey player. It's a big gap for us to fill. Really there's not a lot out there right now, we were able to get Henrik Zetterberg signed, which is a big plus for us.
You don't replace a guy like Pavel Datsyuk. You can look at us, the Detroit Red Wings, a model of how we've been affected by the new CBA. I guess that's just how it is. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get all the guys signed we wanted to sign. We had to have some buy-outs. Our team has changed quite a bit.
Q. Have you tried the new equipment? What do you think of the rules restricting goaltender's movements and playing the puck?
For one thing, we're going to be a little bit faster, a little bit lighter, I believe. I mean, I'm sure the play is going to be opened up a little bit more. I think the factors around will be a big factor with no red line, probably more power plays, all that stuff.
But, you know, we'll have to have a lot of more communication with the defensemen as far as dump-ins, cross dump-ins, stuff like that. The big part, with the equipment, it's going to be a little bit of adjustment, but I'm glad that we stick with that instead of going with the bigger nets which would have been really big adjustment for us, change the whole way we play the game. I think it's going to be fun and we're all excited. We all want to get the game better. If it's what it takes, we're all in for that.
Q. Patrick, I know the Blues organization is up for sale. If you could shed some light on the thinking here. I don't know why they would give up two of the best players in the league in Demitra and Pronger. I don't know if they're thinking this might be a rebuilding season. Have you heard anything about that? Can you shed some light on that?
You know, it's part of the process with the new CBA. They had to get some money down the line. They thought they had to make at least one move, and they did. I think we'll know in the long run. We've got a pretty good player in return, I should say three of them, Eric Brewer, as far as playing in the NHL. The two other guys are young defensemen, I think they should be pretty good.
Every team's going to look a little bit different. It's no change for the Blues. But, you know, I'm excited to be here. I think there's a good core, a good bunch of guys, and we're really looking forward to start the season here.
Q. So it doesn't seem like the transition period, like a rebuilding around there? It seems like everyone is pretty solid together?
I feel confident with the team we have here that we can do a pretty solid job. We'll find out. But I think we have a good core. I met a few of the guys here. We're going to have a good team on the ice.
Q. The St. Louis Cardinals baseball team let go of three of their great players. They're the best team in the league. Good luck.
Q. How much of an impact do you think your success in Davos is going to help you this year with the NHL?
Q. What kind of impact do you think Adam Foote is going to have in the locker room?
Q. Kris, I want to know about the divisional play this year with 32 games in the division. Are the players looking forward to that or are they going to get tired seeing the same teams over and over again? Paul, with no red line, are you licking your chops, expect to get a few breakaways?
Do you get a little frustrated with playing with the same team three nights, three games in a row? I think you kind of look at it as a mini playoff series. Those points are obviously going to mean quite a bit when positioning yourself come playoff time. It's definitely going to put a big onus on wins and losses in your own division, and it's going to create some pretty exciting matches. So I think everyone's kind of looking forward to that, just the fact that you go out, you're going to compete against these guys, and you realize it's going to be a big plus if you can win your division and be successful within your division.
PAUL KARIYA: Well, obviously it's going to be great for the game to open it up. I think, you know, on the power play, you're going to see a lot of set pieces that guys can utilize that extra room and that extra space.
Q. Adrian, with Foote going to Columbus, Kariya to Nashville, can you size up what looks like a more balanced Central Division? Kris, you guys being the favorites for the past couple years, how do you see the division now in Detroit?
Going down the line, Nashville picking up Paul, you know, he's a proven entity in this league. Obviously, he's one of those guys who wants to win every night. He knows how to do it. They have a great, great young team there. I think even they haven't maybe met expectations, they've always had quite a lower salary budget and still done quite well. Now that they're obviously bringing some guys in, that will make a big difference. St. Louis is still St. Louis. They've had to get rid of a few guys, but they still have great guys.
Q. Kris, you talked about changes in Detroit. What have you noticed different about the new coaching staff at this point?
Q. You haven't met them yet?
Q. You mentioned the Scotty Bowman era. Did it almost kind of need to come to an end in Detroit?
Really, that's how this team gets measured, how the Red Wings do in the playoffs. We had a first-round sweep against Anaheim, then we also lost out to Calgary in the second round. I guess that's why Kenny felt that changes needed to be made. Instead of kind of tinkering around with the coaching staff, he decided to go with a whole new direction. That's something that Kenny felt was obviously necessary.
Q. Paul, do you remember what were some of the big differences that happened when Mike Babcock took over the Ducks?
Q. Adrian, with most teams feeling a lot better about themselves through free agency pickups or more level economic system, will that lead to higher expectations and perhaps a bit more pressure to get off to a good start this year?
Q. Kris, given the changes made in especially Chicago and Nashville and Columbus, do you think the new schedule will help or hurt your team?
Q. Adrian, in joining a team that's gone through a big overhaul, could you talk about what Dale said that won you over. Talk about the kind of impact you think Khabibulin will have on this team.
With Khabibulin, it goes back to what I said before, the good players play as hard every night as they can. Doesn't matter who they are with or who they are playing against. Knowing the fact you have Khabibulin, most players can attest to it, when you have that confidence in the great goaltending, you seem to just play better. You let the shots come in from outside and you just worry about your own job and things just seem to take care of themselves a little easier. I think he's going to be a huge addition obviously.
Q. Kris, a lot of coaches in the National Hockey League coach not to lose the games, the games are low-scoring, play the trap. Do you think the coaches can change their tactics now with the new National Hockey League? How tough is it going to be for them to suddenly open it up?
I think you're not going to have any choice but to open it up with the way the rules are. You're going to play against guys that can obviously skate. They're going to have opportunities to generate a lot of speed through the neutral zone, down low, trying to get to the net. It's just a whole different -- it's going to be a whole different mindset not only for the players but for the coaches. As we try to adjust to the new rules, I think the coaches are going to have to coach to the new rules as well. That's going to make for a lot of changes in philosophy of the way coaches used to want their teams to play.
Teams that can skate, teams that can make some great passes, teams that have some great defensemen are going to be one step ahead of this game because, you know, it seems that's the direction that it's going. It's going into a speed game, it's going into the fact that you can stretch defenses out. That's something that, as players, we look forward to doing.
Q. Patrick, with all the rule changes in the National Hockey League, the new landscape coming in, how tough is it with all the rules being instituted towards offense that the Blues are going to have such a young defense in front of you? Is that difficult?
Q. Kris or Rick, how long do you think it's going to take a lot of the teams to get up to speed with all the rules changes and get in that mid-season flow?
DAVID KEON: Thank you very much, Adrian, Rick, Kris, Paul and Patrick. Thanks for your time today. Thank you for joining us.