Good morning, Avs fans! Welcome to the last Thursday of the '14-15 season. As always, Roy's full interview can be found at 104.3 The Fan's page and is really worth the listen if you get the chance.
Team Mentality & Captain Leadership
The first topic of the day was about how the team has played since being mathematically eliminated. Roy stressed that he was very happy and proud of the effort. Even with a slow start against Nashville, they found a way to come back and win it without giving up.
Roy also believes that Landy did a very good job as a Captain this year. He loved how Landeskog mentioned in the paper that the team wanted to keep playing for the fans even after elimination, and he feels that Landy's leadership is a big reason why the group is so tight this year. The two of them talk a lot together, and he's impressed that someone that young is doing such a "soo-per" job as both a big role player and leader.
[ The coach was a lot less talkative today than usual. He busted through these questions without really tipping his hand like he normally does on Thursday mornings. However, I liked what he said about Landeskog. It's comforting to know that the 21-year-old has fully won him over as the leader of this team. ]
Lessons Learned & Role in Personnel Decisions
The next question focused on what Roy learned from the season and if there is anything that he'll do differently next year. Just like in weeks past, he said that after the season is finished, he'll reflect on what he could have done differently or better. He doesn't want to have regrets, but he did stress that there will be more practices and no scrimmages at training camp to help the team prepare for a better start.
He also talked about his role in personnel decisions. He regularly meets with Sakic to discuss every aspect of the team, from positional/player analysis to who's available on the free agency market. There's a plan behind what they're doing, and they've worked together to create it.
[ There's not much here that we didn't already know. I think that the training camp strategy should help, even though I doubt the players will come in as complacent and disjointed as they did this season. Roy's also clearly not playing for a draft pick, which is probably great for the few season ticket holders and stubhub attendees dropping money to see them live. However, as a long-term fan, if the team manages to play hard and fall short in the next two contests, honestly, I can't say I'll be upset. A high draft pick will help this team down the road more than two meaningless wins.
Our front office set-up is a bit of an unusual one, but there's something to be said for the coach getting direct say over the players he wants on his roster. It's going to be much, much more difficult for a coach in this setup to get run out of town; disagreeing star players are likely to be shipped out first, which isn't normally the case. It's a bit of an experiment, but it's possible that if we end up successful, other teams will start copying it as well. First the butterfly style, then the pulling the goalies, and now possibly the overall management structure.... Roy really likes changing the NHL, doesn't he? ]
The play of the week was Hishon's first NHL goal. When it was scored, everyone on the bench was obviously happy and excited, especially because it was the go-ahead goal at the time. The coach believes that Hishon has been some good hockey for the club, and he really took advantage of his 3rd line opportunity after the Everberg injury. He's doing very well on faceoffs, brings some speed, and has Roy's trust in his own zone. Sometimes it's hard for coaches to send players back to the minors out of training camp, but Roy feels like in this case, it was very beneficial, particuarlly in regards to Hishon's defensive zone play. He was pleased that Hishon was making the most of this call-up opportunity.
[ First of all, HISHON!!!!!! I still have happy feels from that goal the other night. This was also the first question that Roy really seemed to open up and gush as he normally does. I do think the small center is earning the trust of the coach, and judging by the tone, he seems to have a fighting chance to make the team next year. I would be shocked if the Avs don't offer him another contract at least. ]
The Central Division, Team to Watch in the Playoffs, and Points System
When asked what teams could surprise in the playoffs, Roy first wanted to point out just how strong the Central Division is. There are 5 teams that could have upwards of 100 points, and all 7 still have the chance to get to 90. Even the tough Adams Division when he was in Montreal wasn't that strong. He did acknowledge that the OTL point skewed it, but it's still very impressive.
On that note, later in the interview, he was asked how he felt about the current points system. He likes the current setup, OTL point included, but he's not as wild about the 1, 2, 3 guaranteed division playoff spots. Roy wishes that it was more conference based so a strong division isn't punished by being paired with a weaker one.
As far as playoff teams go, he likes Anaheim with Getzlaf and Perry, but he questions their goaltending situation. St. Louis is going to be good as well, especially since they're currently sitting 1st in our Division. Still, the wildcard teams in Minny and Winnipeg will be hard to play.
[ Our division is brutal. Something to keep in mind when talking about all these high point totals is that we play a huge bulk of our season against each other, guaranteeing that someone in the Central is going to lose those contests. If any of these teams, COL and DAL included, were in another division, I think they'd be playoff teams. In some ways, it's unfortunate that we've ended up in such a tough group, but it's hard to deny that it's clearly shown the weaknesses on our team. It should make us better as a result, even if a conference-based (and less confusing) playoff system would benefit us more. ]
Draft vs. UFA
Roy isn't crazy about free agency. The team will do what it can to find opportunities to add defensemen, but it's not the preferred method. Ideally, he wants the team to build from the draft. He knows our defense is in need of upgrades, and he mentioned that Bigras, Geertsen, Butcher, Storm, and Wood are on the way. Spencer Martin is also in the pipeline as a goalie, and he's curious to see how Bleackley develops after his up-and-down year. He likes our core, the depth we're building, and the team's vision for the drafting future.
[ First of all, fist pump for not believing in UFA. Everyone here knows my issues with big UFA signings, so I'm happy Roy's not overly smitten with the process. Also, when it comes to the young defensemen, did you notice the name that's missing? It may not have been an intentional slight, but the fact that Siemens isn't on the list may say something. He's going to need to have a strong camp next year to get back into Roy's good graces. ]
Defensemen, Puck Possession, and Transition
Someone finally asked the million dollar question: does having only two good defensemen hurt our transition and puck possession? Roy disagreed that we have only two good puck moving defensemen, citing EJ and Barrie first, but adding that Holden and Redmond do a pretty good job as well. However, he likes having those sort of players paired with what he called "Stable Defensemen", guys that finish checks and can deal with the Getzlafs, Perrys, and Thorntons of the league. He then went on to praise Brad Stuart.
[ Ugh, Brad Stuart. Here comes that discussion again. Look, I'm of the opinion that Roy knows he's stuck with the guy, so he might as well pump his tires a bit. Also, if Stuart was played in a very limited 3rd line role, it wouldn't be a huge deal and he could do his veteran whatnot across from Holden or Redmond without destroying this team. Just a few minutes prior to this lovefest, Roy did openly admit that the defense needed upgrades. Guenin was also not mentioned, so there's that. To me, all this statement emphasizes is that the team wants a mix of bigger players to go with the smaller ones, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I just hope the team picks their targets a little bit better that they did last summer. Size is good, but there needs to be some puck-handling skill there as well. ]