Courtesy of the Philadelphia Flyers
Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren
Q: Can you start with the injuries and the surgeries?
“Well the actual exit medicals aren’t until tonight so I don’t really have the complete list, I’ll get that to you guys as soon as I have it, but there will be a few guys who will need some surgeries.”
Q: Can you give us an update on Chris Pronger and if you think there’s any chance he could return next season
“Update, he’s doing probably the same and any chance of returning, I would say your guess is as good as mine.”
Q: Do you have to then proceed this summer as if—
“I don’t know I think at some point ill sit down with Chris and see where hes at. Probably prior to July 1st, we’ll make an assessment on where he’s at. I’m still, as it relates to Chris and as much as anything else, I’m a glass is half full kind of guy. I believe he’s going to play, but I don’t know, I don’t have anything to back that up.”
Q: When you say he’s the same, does that mean he’s still having problems with light and such?
“I think he still has headaches from time to time yeah, he has concussion-like symptoms.”
Q: If July 1st comes and you’re going to have to go forward without him, what kind of money relief can you get from that?
“Well I don’t know that either. Right now there are certain rules and the rules change in the next CBA so I don’t know.”
Q: Does the expiration on the CBA impact how you’ll do business this summer? I think we have the understanding that there will be some sort of temporary cap…
“Yeah they’ll set the cap at, wherever they set it at. It’s probably going to be, I don’t know, maybe 69 million, I would think. That’s what I believe anyway. I would assume it would be business as usual.”
Q: You made big changes last year, what is our greatest need that you’d like to add to this team going forward?
“I’ll go through our process of talking to the coaches and finishing up player interviews….I like our team. I think a lot of it is just going to be experience. I think a lot of our young players, over the course of 82 games and the playoff games they played in, that experience is good. So I’d like to believe that the younger guys will be better next year. Some of the additions we made down the stretch, like Nicklas Grossmann, a full year I think is going to be a good addition to our hockey team…I think Ilya’s going to be better next year.”
Q: Some people think if Pronger’s not going to be here you guys need to go out and get a big defenseman and there might be one available this summer…if there’s a big start defensemen who’s going to hit unrestricted free agency, do you see the Flyers being big players in that?
“I think it’s fair to say when we get to July 1st we’ll look at ways to improve our hockey team.”
Q: Does the talk about a possible labor action impact that at all?
Q: Some of your players talked today about the captaincy and they were in support, if it needs to be changed, about giving it to Claude Giroux. Can you talk about when a decision like that would have to be made and do you consider Giroux, at such a young age, would he be a good captain?”
“Well right now Chris Pronger is our captain and until he’s deemed unable to play next year, I’m not sure I even want to get into that. I think Claude’s a good young leader on this hockey team. I think we have good older leaders too in Kimmo and Danny Briere. I think we make too much of this captaincy thing, to be quite honest with you, that’s my opinion. Right now Chris is our captain and that’s the way it’s going to stay until he’s deemed unable to play. “
Q: Jagr is saying this is the most fun he’s had in the NHL, he also said he wants to play in the NHL next year but he stopped short of saying that he will come back here and hinted that he wants to see what kind of plans the organization will have, what kind of role he’ll have on the team…Would you like to bring Jagr back, do you still see him being in impact player next year at 41?
“I can still see Jaromir being a good player in our league next year. We did talk to him and his agent briefly during the year about next season. We kind of agreed to talk about it more after the season was done, but I have not met with Jaromir yet so we’ll see.”
Q: Did you think he looked a little tired in the playoffs?
“I think a lot of guys did against the Devils. Not just him.”
Q: Would you like to have him back though? Or do you still need to weigh that?
“I’d like to have him back. We’ll see, I think there will be other teams that would like to have him on their team too.”
?Q:What happened in [the second series]?
“I think you are going to have to give the Devils their due. I think they played tremendously. We had no answer for them.”
Q: You don’t think it was a personnel thing?
“No, I think they played. We couldn’t generate a fore check. They did a good job on the fore check and outside. From a technical stand point, I am sure the coaches will look at a lot of the things on what happened. I have met with Peter [Laviolette] just on overall review of the year. We haven’t gotten into the playoffs yet. We will talk some more and evaluate it and assess what happened over the summer when we have lots of time to think and talk about it. I don’t know if it will go further for me than the league. The Devils played great and the league is so close. I have said this before, it is a hard league. It is no small fete to make the playoffs anymore. To win a round against the Penguins is no small fete. To get beat like we did against the Devils…our guys tried as hard as they could. We had no answer for how they played. I am giving them the credit.”
Q: If they did try real hard and there was a five game gap…
“You start to dissect it. We one the first game after the seven game win off. We looked great for two periods and they were tired from playing a seven game series. I don’t know what happened in the second game. We didn’t look like we were there. The third game, I thought was a fairly even game. In overtime, we got served up two power plays and we didn’t generate enough opportunities to score. To me, you have to score on the power play. The fourth game, I thought they had their way. The fifth game, I thought we played a good game.”
Q: Overall this season, did you over-achieve or under-achieve?
“I don’t know. I think we had a decent year. I am disappointed we are not playing. When you start the year, your goal is to win the Stanley Cup. The fact that we are sitting here talking today, I am disappointed. I am excited about how our team is going to look next year. That is what I am excited about.”
Q:What would you say was the biggest positive and negative surprise from this season?
“I don’t know if I can sum it up.”
Q: Did you expect the rookies to be as good as they were?
“We knew we had a good group of young guys. I think the coaches did a good job of putting them in situations and giving them roles that keep them excelling. To their credit they did. For [Sean] Couturier to play the role he did in the playoffs as a shut down centerman and make plays gives you a glimpse of what he is going to do in the future. It is pretty neat.”
Q: Do you think being here a year will help [Ilya Bryzgalov]?
“I absolutely think being here a year will help him. He had a lot of things to adjust to and adopt to. From playing in Philadelphia and the scrutiny of the media as compared to what he came from, the scrutiny of the fans from what he came from and a different style of play. I don’t think there is going to be any question that Ilya will play better next year. Did he play as good as I expect this year? I would say no. I think he is going to get one year under his belt. I have said this before about players who come from different organizations and sign a big money deal with a new team. There is an adjustment period. I thought that Kimmo [Timonen] went through it and Danny [Briere] went through it. I think there is a little bit of an adjustment period for Ilya in that position as goaltender for the Flyers. I think he handled it pretty good and he has probably learned something.”
Q: [Ilya Bryzgalov] made it pretty clear during the year that he was told to tone it down a bit, do you think that effected his play at all?
“I am not sure how to answer that. His job is to stop pucks and help us win games. It is not Comedy Central. There is probably a middle of the road scenario somewhere in there. He is a funny guy to talk to, I don’t think there is any question about that. He has got some interesting concepts of life and walk down the road.”
Q: Did you get a kick out of that or he went to far?
“I know when to walk away. When I am talking to him I just say [can't hear because of laughter].”
Q: Were you upset on how he handled the Winter Classic?
“No. We are all different, him included. We all learn lessons in life and I think Ilya, for one year in Philadelphia , he has learned a lot of things. I think we will see a different person next year. We will certainly see a different goaltender.”
Q:On goals against this season
“I think that is a good question. That is probably a question for the coaching staff. There is no question in my mind that we have to do a better job with goals against. It is related to Ilya a little bit. It is related a little bit to how we play. We are an offensive team that can score. We just finished a five game series where we didn’t score a lot of goals. We certainly didn’t generate a lot of offensive chances. We have to look at what happened there and what you are going to do about it when you get into that situation next year.”
Q: We’ve already said you’re okay with the personel on the team right now…so with the style of play, you think there will need to be some tinkering?
“I think that’s a question for the coach, it’s something that we’ve talked about. I think Peter, when I talked to him this morning he said he wants to see the series again and see what the Devils did. He’s a good coach and I’m sure he’ll come up with something that will make us better next year.”
Q: There was a perception, accurate or inaccurate, that you didn’t have the most tight-knit group in the locker room but this year it seemes a lot more harmonious. Are you encouraged by how theses pieces fit together moving forward? Just the atmosphere in the room seems better.”
“I’m not sure how that relates to……I think we have a good group and a good mix of veterans and young kids. Our young kids got to learn from some good veteran guys and Jaromir was a huge part of that, huge. Not only his play on the ice and what he brought to our locker room and what he brought to the practice rink and our strength and condition room was outstanding. I think he was just….having him around for the young guys was a great, great thing. “
Q: Can you evaluate Matt Carle’s performance this year and would you like to re-sign him?
“I think Matt had a good year. He’s up there in numbers and Matt’s a good defensemen. I’ve said that before, if Matt wants to be here, we’d like to have him back. I don’t see any reason why we can’t work out a deal. We’re in a position now where we cant sign him because of tagging space but this is something that could be done quickly, I think. His demands, when I spoke with him and his agent, nothing was ever out of line. Could we get him under market value? I would say that we probably could. So I don’t see any issues there. “
Q: You’ve been very good at beating the market by negotiating trades before free agency opens. Would you look at that this year?
“I guess you could look at everything. We’re always looking to improve our hockey team and looking at ways to do that.”
Q: On Giroux and van Riemsdyk’s seasons
“Obviously Claude had a great year. Did he exceed expectations? I don’t know. He’s sort of been trending that way for me the last couple of years. This year maybe because of the changes we made last summer gave him obviously a little more of a role, and he jumped all over it and had a great year. James, if I was grading him, I’d give him a huge incomplete just based on injuries. There was something wrong all the time with him, from his oblique to his stomach to the break in his foot, little bit of a concussion issue. I think James is a good young player that unfortunately for us was not a factor for the most part of the year because of injury. “
Q: On the Carter and Richards trades working out
“I hope the best for Mike and Jeff. I hope they do win the Stanley Cup at some point. They’re both good kids and that’s what they’re playing the game of hockey for is to win, so that’s good for them. I’m happy the way it’s worked out for us. I wouldn’t change anything.”
Q: On the effect on the chemistry in the locker room
“I have a hard time answering that because really what you’re asking is were those guys problems, and I don’t think that’s the case. I think those guys were good young players and we decided we needed to make changes, and a lot of it revolved around Ilya and salary cap and stuff like that. This group was a good, tight-knit group. I have no problems saying that. Was it tighter than last year’s team? It’s hard to compare. This was a good group because we had a bunch of young kids that were willing to just listen and learn from a good group of older guys.
Q: We did hear that some players or management came to you after last season and said there needed to be some changes…
“I must not have been there when they came to me. I have no recollection of that.”
Q: Does Kimmo Timonen have something left in the tank?
“Absolutely. I met with Kimmo this morning and we talked a long time. He wants to play, not closing the door… I know his contract is up after next season, but he’s certainly willing to talk about playing beyond next year, which is good news for me.”
Q: Is Nick Cousins a guy you could see coming into camp and competing for a job right away?
“That’d be great if he did, but that’s a stretch for me. He’s a good young player, but that’s a huge stretch for me.”
Q: Will van Riemsdyk need surgery?
“I don’t know that for sure. He’s got a stomach issue that’s been bugging him, but I don’t know if that’s something that we need to look at from a surgical thing or not.”
Q: Eric Wellwood was one of the guys that actually looked fast against the Devils. Is he a guy you need to really consider next year?
“Based on how he was used in the playoffs, I’d say yeah. From a role standpoint, I’m not sure if anybody played better in their role than Eric did. I don’t know if he had a point in the playoffs, but he killed penalties, he gave us energy, he used his speed… he was good. Very good.”
Q: On Jake Voracek’s contract status
“I don’t know. We’ll talk about that with his agent here over the course of the summer. I think Jake had a good year. I think there’s areas he can still get better at. I think he can work on his shot a little more, he can probably shoot the puck more. But he’s an exciting young player who’s going to continue to get better.”
Q: On Sean Couturier’s defensive vs. offensive game
“I think you worry a little bit about putting a guy in a defensive role like that and stifling his offense. But we talked about this a number of times during the year, I think Sean next year will be a guy the coaches will probably think about using on the power play from time to time. I think he has good offensive instincts, maybe above average. He’s always produced offensively at every level. If history shows anything, it’s that guys who play in a defensive role against the other team’s better players, they generally get offensive chances because the guy you’re playing against doesn’t really want to play defense. So sometimes it’s a better situation.”
Q: On Holmgren’s approach to free agency now vs. five years ago
“That’s a good question and a hard one to answer. Five years ago, we were really active on July 1. We had a lot of cap space, we were the worst team in the league the year before. But every year the salary cap has been in place, the standings have compacted. I don’t know how to answer that. Again, we’ll look at every way we can to improve our hockey team. Do we have as many holes as we did five years ago? Probably not. We do have some holes and we’re going to try to fill those holes.
Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette
Q: Question about goals against…ls it a reflection of more than just goaltending and defense, it’s a reflection of the system? In hindsight, is there anything that comes to mind? Do you think your attack system may have some vulnerability against teams like the Devils?
“Against teams like the Devils?
Q: Or just in general, is there some tinkering that you would like to do…
“I don’t know. Do you think that attack systems have ever won Stanley Cups before? Do you think that attack systems have every gotten to the finals before? We needed to do a better job certainly in a lot of areas. I think defensively we could have been better. Offensively, in the playoffs we generated the least amount of shots and opportunities, in the playoffs. Certainly I think there are things that we need to do better. All teams need to play good defense to win championships. Pittsburgh and Detroit did it a few years back the way the Rangers played defense this year, not to say that they are moving on. Certainly there are things that we can do better. I can agree with that. Defensively we could have been tighter, offensively we could have been a lot better in this series then we were.”
Q: Peter, in March you guys were defensively were lights out after you got Grossmann. What was the biggest difference for that whole 4 or 5 weeks and in the playoffs, defensively, what was different?
“I think the month of March really stands out as probably the best month that we had. The record was good, we won a lot of hockey games. We played good hockey in that month. I think with the injuries that we were dealing with through the course of the season, when you add guys like Grossmann and Kubina back there to help settle things down, Bryz was real solid that month. I think there was a bunch of things that factored into it. Certainly, March was a good month for us.”
Q: And then compare it to the playoffs, what was different, was it injuries? Was it the opponent?
“In the first round?”
Q: Well, the whole playoffs…
“The first round our opponent. To beat the Penguins, it was a hard fought series, it was a great series, they’re a dynamic team and we were able to move on to the second round. I think when we look back at the entire season, really what we will be disappointed about, even the first game I really liked the way that we played, we were a little sluggish in the first, came on at the end of the first, but I really liked the second, third and the overtime. I think looking back at it, if I were to sum it up in a nutshell the last four games we lost and two of them we didn’t play very well. If you were looking to separate things, there’s the regular season and then the playoffs had been a good body of work. And game one. But then the last four games we weren’t able to play with our identity on the ice, defensively we spent too much time in our end based on their fore-check and the way they were pursuing the pucks. Offensively, we weren’t able to generate the way we had through the course of the season.”
Q: Does it matter, thinking about 2010, if you can play similar philosophies round after round? In other words, playing Pittsburgh , their philosophy to the naked eye seems dramatically different than that of New Jersey ’s, particularly if you have a young team, is there difficulty in making that adjustment?
“We did try to make adjustment through the course of the series. Remember now that we won game one so we took a plan into the New Jersey series and we played, in my opinion, well enough to win game one, it went into overtime but I really liked the way our guys played. We went into game 2 and we did not play well and at that point we looked at it and made some minor adjustments to what we were trying to do. Trying to keep our blocks of players closer together and tighter in all three zones. Made those adjustments, played a hard fought game and in game 3 lost in overtime when we had opportunities to win it in overtime and we weren’t able to do that.”
Q: Peter it looked like, and I know Giroux didn’t play the last game obviously, that they kind of took him out of what you guys were really successful at. Did they? And if so, how did they do that?
“I already stated that the New Jersey Devils played an excellent game, and I stated it that night. You have to give them credit for what they did. I think that they did a good job of shutting down our team and our identity and Claude certainly is a big part of that. Not necessarily what they did to Claude but just what they were able to do, one in our end with their fore-check and not allowing us to – not easy access out of our zone but to spend too much time in our zone, to constantly have to work to get it out. When we did get it through the neutral zone, if we weren’t crisp with what we were doing, we found it in the hands of Brodeur which really set up their breakout and eliminated our offense as well. Like I said, at the start, there’s things that we were trying to do and that we had done better all year that we weren’t able to do in that series.”
Q: A number of your players, especially veterans related what they did against you in that series to what the Rangers did against you in the regular season, do you agree with that?
“Not necessarily from a fore-checking offensive point of view on what New Jersey did. I think the New York team and the New Jersey team are a little bit different. They came extremely hard, New Jersey …
Q: They came harder than they did during the regular season too, I would think they stepped up…
“When we played those back to back games, we went back and looked at it, played New Jersey late in the year. The game in New Jersey we lost 4-1, they played that same exact game. We were out chanced 17 to 5 I believe it was. We came back to our building the next night, we won 3-0 and we out chanced them 17 to 5. So the series for me had been a hard fought series through the regular season. And the playoffs we found it to be as well. Defensively there were similarities I believe to New York .”
Q: Peter, Homer said he was a little disappointed in Bryz for the whole season but he said next year will be a much better year now that he’s acclimated to being here, living here, the whole bit. How would you evaluate his season?
“I would say that that’s an accurate assessment by Paul. I think that there’s always an adjustment period for players when they come in here to a big city. The thought of this group, or the majority of this group moving forward leaves a real positive taste in everybody’s mouth. There’s really not much else you can do, you can’t talk about would haves or could haves, it just leaves that hollow feeling right now. But moving forward, it’s a positive outlook.”
Q: Along the moving forward lines, you said seconds ago, I think they did a good job of shutting down our team and identity. Any of that have anything to do with youth possibly and in that case would you guys be a tougher out for somebody trying to do that in the future because they’ve been seasoned by this at all?
“I don’t think there is any question that there are players that gained a lot of valuable experience. Whether they were first year players or second year players or third year players, gained a valuable amount of experience. We’re extremely young, the core is very young. To get into a series like Pittsburgh and then to get into a grind against New Jersey , there’s no question there’s value in that.”
Q: Paul spoke in positive terms about Jagr’s contributions, especially in the locker room, are you hopeful that things could work out for another year here?
“Those questions in regards to free agents and contracts and all of that, that would be speaking out of turn. Jaromir was an excellent player for us and a good influence in the locker room. And you mentioned the youth that we did have and learning in the playoffs, new experience, I also think that you can learn by observing and working with people that their work habits are extremely good and Jaromir is one of those guys.”
Q: Peter, do you think at times that a team like the Devils or the Rangers, a grinding type of team. When they sort of get the upper hand in the series, can they use your aggression against you and do you think that they did, maybe you took too many chances trying to change things that only made it worse?
“We only tried to change things to –that could benefit, not to make things worse. When you talk about changes in hockey I think you go and make drastic changes you really confuse things. When we make changes, they are minor changes, where somebody is positioned, where somebody goes to, maybe a set break out, maybe something to look for to try and get away from D-zone coverage, maybe an option that might be open or putting the puck in a certain area but they’re not drastic changes to what we do. Our identity, I think you work on it in sports, in hockey anyway, I think maybe it’s different for other sports. Maybe in football where you have six days to change a game plan, maybe you change it based on the opponent but in hockey you really work at your identity. You try to become really efficient at it. When you get to a point in playoffs, you hope that you’re flying high with it and you get bounces and you stay healthy and there’s a lot of things that go through it I think. Having been through it a few times now, there’s a lot of things that go right but certainly you’re identity is on the mark and leading the way.
Q: Peter, the season Sean Couturier had, you had him in a primarily defensive role, do you think that there is more offense to him coming next season, maybe you’ll use him in more of an offensive role?
“I think the upside of Sean is really bright. He’s been an offensive guy his whole career, he comes with a tag of being a smart two way player as well. We had to find roles for all of our guys and I think that the role that Sean filled this year for us and the way that it increased and the way it stared and increased to the way that it ended, it was a terrific year and a terrific start for him. Certainly the option of more ice time and possible power play time and increased offensive role, that certainly factors into the equation.
Q: Along those same lines, can you talk about Wellwood…
“I thought Eric – the roles are pretty well defined on our team, if you ask a guy what they are supposed to do he could tell you. You mention Sean and his role, I think that Sean knows what his role was and he executed it very well. Eric also knows his role and I thought through the course of the playoffs that he did his role as well as anybody did their role on our team. So he may walk away with not scoring 5 goals and 10 points, but within the role and what we asked him to do and what we asked him to contribute, he did it as well as anybody.”
Q: But he is a guy with a little bit more of an offensive upside.
“I think that comes with experience and time. Certainly, in the conversation I had with him, he believes so and we believe so as well.”
Q: He seems so adaptable to your attack system. He was the only player in that series that showed any kind of speed.
“I wouldn’t say that he was the only player that showed speed. Certainly he has an extra gear and has been gifted with speed.”
Q: Can you assess JVR’s season?
“You pretty much just said it right there. With the injuries he had to deal with and coming back at the end of the season after missing close to three months time, I am not sure the exact time. It was substantial. Trying to jump on a train that is going 100 miles per hour is a difficult task for anyone to do. Sometimes you want to look to the positives and the future. There is not much he can do about his year or the injuries that he had. What you can look to is the summer, training and getting into shape and coming back and having a positive impact on our team. That is really what he is in control of.”
Q: Do you have a wish list?
“With regard to Jaromir [Jagr] and wish list, you need to go down the hall and a couple doors. If you are asking me if I continue to like my team and look at the body of work that has been done, there is a disappointment. There is a hollowness that comes to 29 teams at the end of the season. It should never, in any comment, should be taken that it is not a priority, it is. That being said, I think this team is so bright and the future is so bright. So many young talented young hockey players that gained a valuable season and year of experience. The room for growth is tremendous. Not what we want to hear in Philadelphia . That is not why we are here. We are not here to turn young players into second year players. We are here to win championships. When it comes to that is a disappointment. Certainly the thought of moving forward with these guys and watching them grow and develop is bright.”
Q:If you had Pronger and if Timonen was healthy, was this team a Stanley Cup Champion?
“I think ultimately you have to go out on the ice and win games. That being said, doesn’t guarantee anything. You have to go out there and generate, defend, get bounces, check and do all the things to be successful out there. I don’t think that guarantees anything. I don’t have a crystal ball in front of me to tell me if it is going to be good or not good. That is a speculation question that I would be guessing at that I don’t have the answer to. Given the choice to have a healthy Kimmo and Chris in my line-up, sure I will take them. They’re not bad, they are pretty good hockey players.”