Q: There has obviously been lots of talk here about Roberto Luongo and his state of mind. How much have you talked to him this summer and what can you tell us about those conversations?
A: I don’t want to get into specifics, but I have talked to Roberto four times. In fact, I just talked to him yesterday. I’ll tell you, from talking with him he has told me he is working very hard as far as conditioning and getting ready for this season. He knows there is a lot of talk and probably a lot of questions coming his way with how it all unfolded here. I think he’s prepared for that and the bottom line is he told me “I just want to play.” I think that is the most important thing, if there is some conflict or you are unhappy about certain things, the bottom line is and he understands it, is that he is playing for his teammates. Those are the most important people. I have done a lot of talking to people who have coached him and know him and there is just tremendous support for what kind of pro he is. You don’t have to be happy about a lot of different things. You can be really happy about this, unhappy about that, as long as you are ready to play. I think he gets that. So I am really excited about where he is mentally.
Q: I am sure you have pored over the schedule. There is a lot of early travel, including a seven-game trip to some familiar (Eastern) spots for you. What are your impressions of the schedule?
A: I don’t mind a long trip early in the year in this situation where there is a new coaching staff. I think sometimes it’s nice to get away and be with one another. One thing I have found, and we have pored over this five or six times since we have got this, is when to leave after games. I am not used to it. I am spoiled rotten by the last five years in New York as far as the amount of time you are not in your own bed. I think a huge point in my learning curve moving out West is the recovery of athletes. It’s a much different type of schedule. We have spent a lot of time with it and hopefully we are going to get it right so our athletes stay as fresh as they can.
Q: Has Mike Gillis hooked you up with the sleep doctor yet?
A: We have had a lot of talks and I meet with him I believe on the 6th of September and I am interested. This is what I like about Mike. He thinks out of the box. I am a gut guy as a coach, but I also need to get out of that Neanderthal stage as far as the science of the game. I think that is what Mike is trying to do. He is trying to find an edge and I am all for it.
Q: What kind of training camp and pre-season can the players expect?
A: It will be a strenuous camp. Some of the testing we do, it’s not only physical, it’s mental. Some people get the wrong idea, that we’re just trying to kick the hell out of them, but it really isn’t. We just feel that it is one of the things you can control as a team, your conditioning level. I think the higher the level, then you are not chasing the game, it’s coming to you. So there’s no question we have it set up those first four or five days there is going to be quite a bit of conditioning. There will be some little tests you go through without even knowing you are going through them to see that you don’t give in. It’s a mindset. We are going to go about our business that way.
Q: Are you satisfied there is going to be healthy competition for jobs at camp? And when you were here accepting the job you talked about needing some more “bite” in the lineup. Have you got it?
A: I don’t know. I need to be honest with you. I need to get with the bodies. I can ask all the questions, which I have done, and I have gone through the lineup and watched tape. There’s no question for me, and it’s not a criticism, it’s just an observation, we want to make plays, we want to be offensive — I want to make sure you understand that — we also have to be fighting for the puck on a more consistent level. And in the six, seven, eight games that I watched I don’t see it. That is a mindset, I don’t think it is about bringing in a bunch of guys that are going to fight. It’s more about an overall attitude about how we play. The team looked like it was pretty easy to play against at times in the tapes I watched.
And there’s no question when I look at the roster we need to get younger. I am going to give the kids as long a shot as I possibly can. I want kids in the lineup. I hope they take other people’s jobs. It’s certainly not going to be given to them because we don’t want to hurt the kids either. We need to be smart about our decision-making and not force-feed. But I watched in New York, we brought kids in, the Stepans, the Hagelins, McDonagh coming in, it changed the whole dynamic there and we have to be very careful in Vancouver. It’s an older team and we need to get younger pretty quickly.
Q: You talked earlier about your discussions with Roberto. Have you talked with many of the other players and do you plan one-on-one meetings with most players?
A: I have had a number of conversations with players this summer. I talked to Henrik. I talked to Kassian, Roberto, Kesler. I saw Higgins and Garrison at the news conference. I think there will be a lot of one-on-ones for me this year just to help them understand me a little bit. Maybe not even talking about hockey. I think the onus needs to be on me to extend myself so they understand me. A lot of people say it takes a bit of time to get to know me. I need to fast-forward that.
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