OCT. 5, 2015
CHRIS MCCLOSKEY: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us today for our NBC Sports NHL season preview conference call. Today we’ll be joined by NBC Sports executive producer, Sam Flood, and our game broadcast team of Mike “Doc” Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Pierre McGuire. Coming off the second most watched Stanley Cup Final on record, and the third most watched Stanley Cup Playoffs in 18 years, this season begins NBC Sports second decade of broadcasting the NHL. Since our first year in 2005 and ’06, NHL viewership has grown 79% for the combined regular season and playoffs from roughly 560,000 per game ten years ago to over a million per game last year.
This season once again begins on NBCSN, the home of hockey here in the U.S., with a doubleheader Wednesday night that will include the Blackhawks banner raising. Let’s begin with opening remarks from NBC Sports Group executive producer, Sam Flood.
SAM FLOOD: Thanks, everyone for getting on the call with us today. We’re very excited for season ten. It seems like a long time ago when we started this project and created the Inside the Glass position which Pierre McGuire has become the king of it and changed the way hockey is covered for everyone else in the business of covering hockey. Everyone now uses Inside the Glass. It is the industry standard and we’re very proud that ten years ago we started the process and started that position and created it around Pierre.
Then obviously teaming him with the multi‑Emmy Award winning Doc Emrick who has taken hockey into mainstream sports by being the best in the business at play‑by‑play in the industry right now. It’s gratifying to see hockey being mentioned alongside the NFL and baseball as the top sport. It belongs in that category, and Doc is a big part of that.
Along the way, we created Wednesday Night Rivalry which I think is one of those breakout nights for the sport of hockey. It got more people watching, more people talking, and I loved hearing those stats from Chris earlier in the conversation.
Our goal this year is to continue to build Sunday night, and once the NFL season ends and Sunday Night Football, I don’t know if anyone knows that, but it’s the No. 1 show on television, we hope to continue that Sunday night energy with the Sunday night games on NBCSN during January, February, March and into the playoffs in April.
So it’s an exciting time to grow the game. Everyone on this call is passionate about hockey, passionate about growing the game, and everyone’s proud of where we’ve gotten. We’re going to continue this year with our friends from TSN with Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger coming in to give us insights and information like Peter King and Mike Florio do on the NFL for Football Night America. So it’s great to have the two premier information people on our show.
One change for this year is going to be Brian Boucher who we used in the playoffs last year. He’s going to take on a bigger role and be doing a number of Inside the Glass games. Pierre is taking Brian under his wings, trying to teach a goaltender how to see the game from the middle of the bench versus inside the goal or at the end of the bench. So we think that’s going to be an exciting edition to the team this year.
But most importantly, the wonderful team of Doc, Eddie and Pierre is reunited. They’ve done nine years together, which is exciting. They are the best in the business, so we’ll pass it off to Mr. Emmy, Doc Emrick.
DOC EMRICK: Sam, thank you. There are times you arrive at the start of another season and you realize how thrilled and honored you are to be with the same people as in the fall of 2005. This is my 43rd year, and so to have the same group of people to work with, and I’ve been lucky back through time to have that as well, particularly with the Devils and Flyers in those years. So this is just a personal note.
It’s a thrill to reassemble our group after the summertime off and me watching our next voice do horse racing over the course of the summer. So it wasn’t really a summer off for him, but very fortunate indeed. Especially in our first game of the doubleheader on Wednesday. Because we have a banner raising for a team that’s won it three times in six years and two 90‑year‑old expansion teams in the Blackhawks and Rangers who have been to the Finals recently. They know what it’s about, and they have a kickstart, in particular the Rangers do, to get back there and take that one step further that they almost got two years ago against Los Angeles.
So with that, and I don’t pick a Stanley Cup winner in the fall. I tried that last year. I chose Boston. They didn’t even make the playoffs. For that reason, I don’t even step out on that limb anymore, but I’ll turn it over to our expert on hockey and horses, Eddie Olczyk.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Thanks a lot, Doc. Great to be part of this team and great to be back again for a really exciting time for a lot of teams, a lot of fan bases. I know for our NBC Sports crew over the year and on the cable network. A lot of people are excited and really looking forward to getting back to work and following the greatest game in the world, and I’m certainly honored and privileged to be a part of this team.
I think when you get to this stage of the season the anticipation and you look and see what teams have done, what teams haven’t done coaches that might be on the hot seat, and certainly Pierre and I can speak to that for sure.
But I think what’s been proven is that if you can stay healthy and give yourself an opportunity to get to that first week of the playoffs if you’ve got a legitimate chance. I know we’ve had some consistent winners here over the last handful of years with the LA Kings and obviously the reigning champs, the Chicago Blackhawks. But you’ve just got to give yourself a chance to get in.
You look at what teams have done over the course of the summertime, whether it was coaches being dismissed, staffs being let go, teams making big moves and pressure on coaches and teams to take the next step, maybe it’s from within, maybe it’s from managers going out there and spending to the salary cap, I think there are a lot of interesting situations from Dallas to Anaheim to see what Columbus has done, to see what Washington has done.
So I just think to name a few teams that this year just give yourself a chance like we’ve talked about in the past and you’ve got yourself a chance to win the greatest trophy in sports.
So with that, I’ll, again, kick off the year by passing the puck on this tape to Pierre.
PIERRE MCGUIRE: Are you saying I’m going to fumble it, Eddie? Thank you.
EDDIE OLCZYK: If you had a wood stick, you would not do that.
PIERRE MCGUIRE: Thank you, Eddie, thank you, Doc, thanks Sam, thanks Chris, thank you everybody for being on the call. What an exciting time as they have already talked about. I think the big thing for this year is change. Eddie referred to it, Doc referred to it. You look at all the different coaches. How is Jeff Blashill going to do replacing Mike Babcock? How is Mike Babcock going to do replacing Randy Carlyle in Toronto? Nobody knows. First time you can say that about Mike Babcock coached teams.
How is Danny Bylsma going to do in a rebuild up in Buffalo which I think will go amazingly well because of what they’re doing there? Everybody talks about the young players coming into the league, what about the great young players in Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid, everybody expects them to battle for Rookie of the Year.
But don’t forget Dylan Larkin in Detroit out of the University of Michigan who is the earliest player pick the Detroit Red Wings have taken since they took Marty Lapointe way back when with the ninth overall pick.
There are so many things that are positive about the league this year. Eddie talked about Washington and Columbus. I’m looking at Minnesota and the New York Islanders and I’m saying, don’t forget those guys. Minnesota maybe has the most mobile defense in the National Hockey League, and they’re learning how to win.
One of the teams that’s helping them learn how to win, the Chicago Blackhawks. I think they’ve taken a lot from their lessons of losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the previous playoff seasons that’s going to help Minnesota.
But the New York Islanders to me, John Tavares moving off Long Island, moving into Brooklyn, going into the new building. Superstar in the making, and we’ve all seen his great work.
Doc, you and I and Eddie worked a lot of those seven games last year between the Islanders and Capitals. That was about as barbaric a series as we’ve ever seen. I think the Islanders learned a lot from that, but in particular, John Tavares.
So this is going to be a resounding season. Everybody’s always excited at the beginning. We have so many story lines, it’s going to be phenomenal to watch.
Q: I’d like to get all three of you broadcasters, your opinions on the young coaches in New Jersey and Philadelphia, and whether you see that as creating more interest outside of just the fan bases in those two teams?
EDDIE OLCZYK: I think on the Philly part of it with Ron Hextall signing Dave Hextall as his coach, obviously relationship with Ron’s son playing at North Dakota the trust factor of going off the board because that was a hiring that not a lot of people saw coming. It is a different game. It’s a much different lifestyle going from college hockey to the National Hockey League.
But I think that Ron Hextall has done an incredible job of gathering draft picks and seeing the moves that he made last year by just off the top of my head thinking about the moves he made by moving Coburn down to Tampa, and then moving Kimmo Timonen who ended up being two second round draft picks for a guy that hardly played in Chicago and missed the majority of the season. So I think he really has a plan and he believes that he’s brought in the right guy for this team.
And when you have the leadership of a guy like Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, to me the Flyers are certainly ‑‑ I don’t want to say they’re in the fast lane, but they’re certainly in the right lane on getting this thing back to where Flyer fans would want it.
PIERRE McGUIRE: I agree with everything Eddie said about Hextall. I’ve watched him coach a lot at the university of North Dakota and I know his pedigree in terms of the types of players he’s developed over time, or recruited whether it be Zach Parise, whether it be Jonathan Toews.
You look at some of the elite players that he’s cultivated that have gone through his program. It’s really impressive. I don’t think a step to the National Hockey League is going to be a foreign endeavor for him. I think it’s going to be a comforting level. North Dakota’s an elite program that handles its players similar to an NHL style environment, and that’s why a lot of kids want to go there. Especially Western Canadian kids and Minnesota kids.
In terms of John Hynes, I have to tell you, I’ve been watching him a long time going back to when he was working for Jack Parker as a volunteer assistant. Saw him at the U.S. National Development Program, had long talks with him at the World Junior over at the Czech Republic in 2008, and then watched him coach in the American League, obviously, with Willkes‑Barre. His future is brilliant.
You’re already starting to see how they’re changing the landscape in New Jersey and the type of attack‑oriented type of team they want to have. I spoke a lot with John over the summer this summer. I’m really encouraged by both these hirings. I think with Blashill and Hynes and Hextall you could see an evolving trend in the National Hockey League in terms of less recycling and more opportunity for younger coaches that can really communicate with young players.
DOC EMRICK: I think the Red Wings aren’t really done when it comes to winning hockey games and making good decisions and I think they did that to protect themselves with Blashill a year ago when they signed him to a three‑year deal. But the realization was that Mike was going to move on, and why not get a winner out of the American League?
For that reason I think that Mike Stothers, an old time hammer of an American Hockey League defenseman who once fought the same guy 11 times in a seven‑game series, you might not think he would turn into a great coach, but now he’s the reigning champion in the American League, and he’ll probably be one of the next that will go up.
The American League has always been sort of a proving ground for guys to get a chance to be assistants or head coaches in the NHL. You look at the last few Stanley Cup winners and you find guys that have done just that, but I think that that route that you mentioned with Hextall was unconventional. But in Philadelphia it might just work for reasons that Eddie gave.
Yes, it generates interest among us, and I know it did among you, Rich, because you asked the question. And congratulations to you on how many years now covering the Devils?
Q: A lot of them.
DOC EMRICK: From the beginning, right?
Q: Yeah, from the beginning.
DOC EMRICK: Okay, good for you. I’m glad you got to ask the question first.
EDDIE OLCZYK: Rich, I coached with Jeff Blashill for team USA at the Ivan Hlinka tournament for the Under 18s a handful of years ago, so I know the type of guy he is. I know the type of hockey coach that he is. He’s paid his dues. He has from assistant coach at college hockey to working his way through the USHL and to Western Michigan and being an assistant coach in Detroit for one year. Let’s not forget that he did spend, obviously, a very beneficial year with the Red Wings as an assistant to Mike Babcock and then went down to the American League and won a championship.
He is a winner. He has a way of communication, and he’s a great listener, and I think he has a lot of respect inside that locker room in Detroit. That’s not easy. That is not going to be an easy pair of skates to fill and being a former goaltender he has that way about him. I think that he will have success there, and he knows a lot of these guys which I think is very important because he coached a lot of these young guys and knows a lot of these guys from his time in Detroit as an assistant and head coach when he was down in Grand Rapids.
Q: Can I ask Sam one thing before I pass it along? Sam, there doesn’t seem to be too much interest in the Devils this season as far as broadcast, simply ratings. Is that what it is?
SAM FLOOD: Like every year you earn your air time. So if they can get it going and fill some Ws on to the right side of the ledger, they’ll get flexed into as we go. But, again, two things dictate air time. How well you’re playing and how many eyeballs you bring to the set.
PIERRE MCGUIRE: I’ll tell you one thing, on January 10th they’ll be on against the Minnesota Wild. I’ll be out there to do that game, and they better have their skating legs that day.
Q: This is for the whole panel. I know the Lightning is a very popular pick to make it back to the Final and get out of the East, because of their great run last year. But could you give me your biggest obstacle or concern or reason why Tampa Bay might not get back there again?
DOC EMRICK: First, the X‑factor is the thing that we can debate all summer that if they had a healthy goaltender and healthy left winger or centerman on that one line, they would have probably been just fine and maybe forced a seventh game and who knows whether they would have won it. And that’s that X‑factor called injuries. There is no way of predicting that at the outcome of the season.
Showing again that I still have a grasp of the obvious, but the other side of it is they’ve got so many guys back and they’re in roles that they’re used to, and they’ve had a winning spirit together. They are the most likely of the Final Four, I think, to wind up getting back to the Final Four this year. You could make a case of the other three from last year, but I think the strongest case is for the Lightning.
PIERRE McGUIRE: This is McGuire, I would agree with what Doc just said. And I would add the addition of Erik Condra is going to be huge for their group in terms of depth players and guys understanding their roles and coming over from Ottawa, the kid that was so brilliant at University of Notre Dame, I should say.
I think the biggest thing that is going to be the question mark around that roster and how they’re going to deal with ‑‑ Doc and I were around their team last week in Johnstown, Pennsylvania where we did a preseason game out of Johnstown ‑‑ it’s the Steven Stamkos situation. He’s the captain of the team, best player on the team. He’s proud to be part of that team. He was the No. 1 overall pick. He started there when things weren’t very good. He’s been there when things have been pretty darn good. He wants to pay it forward, cultivating and trying to build Jonathan Drouin, who has a chance to be an elite scorer. But if his contract situation becomes a problem, that could become a huge problem for the team. I’m not sure they want to go down that road.
Knowing all the people that are involved, whether it be the people at Newport Sports led by Donnie Meehan or Mr. Vinik and Steve Yzerman, I have to think they’ll handle things properly on all sides and hope they can get something done. But if they can’t get something done by January 1st, I think this could be problematic for their group.
DOC EMRICK: It comes down to, just on what Pierre’s touching on, in any business, because it ends up being a business decision, let’s not kid ourselves, is that when a player has the hammer, and certainly Steven Stamkos has his big ‑‑ as much leverage as any player would in this particular situation if he goes ahead and plays out this year and doesn’t want to negotiate or doesn’t want to get a contract done during the regular season up until that trade deadline, he holds all the cards. As an organization, what is your philosophy? Do you allow the player to drive your bus or do you drive the bus? And that’s what ends up happening.
When you get players on this superstar level and end up getting to this time in their contract, and they’ve earned that right. Look, when players come out of their entry level contract, very few players have the hammer coming out of their entry level contracts. Those guys really don’t ‑‑ they have no arbitration rights and you can sit out, you can go to the KHL, if you want, and the team has you over a barrel for a period of time. Then when the power switches it makes for very interesting business philosophy with the team. We see it in a lot of different situations.
We saw it in the up summertime with Chicago. Different situation as Brandon Saad was a restricted free agent, excuse me, and there was speculation that there was a pretty good chance that there might be an offer sheet out there and Chicago needed warm bodies, and they were very proactive. Next thing you know, instead of getting picks for him if he signed as a restricted free agent, they decided, you know what? We’re going to make a deal. We’re going to drive our own bus. We’re not going to let the player dictate it, and a couple days before free agency started, so it all comes down to philosophy.
Pierre hit it on the head. You can talk about all the different scenarios, the rule changes, who is on the hot seat, what teams are in or out. This is one story I don’t think is going to go away. Steven Stamkos is one of those rare players. It will be interesting to see what is the business philosophy when you’re handling a star player that is in the last year of his contract?
Q: Sorry to break up the on‑ice talk here, but, Sam, I was wondering if you could comment on the new enhancements we’re going to see on NBC Sports Live Extra. Specifically it looks like you’re taking a page a little bit out of what you guys have done on the premier league side with really enhancing that digital experience with a lot of different pages and boxes and everything around the game. I was wanting to comment on some of the extra storytelling tools that are at your disposable now that this is available.
SAM FLOOD: I think the best think is you have a conversation with Rick Cordella and the digital team on exactly what they’re doing because I don’t want to misrepresent all the fun and games they’re putting together. We’ve had a number of conversations on how to make it bigger and better, and they have some great ideas. But it’s best for them to walk you through it. I’m sure Chris can set you up with a separate call to do that.
Q: Anything new meanwhile on the traditional linear broadcast that’s worth taking note on? Any new camera technology, new trucks or anything like that?
SAM FLOOD: We’re far from traditional. Any time you have Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire on your show, you’re far from the traditional world. One thing we are playing around with, and we’re going to just roll it out as the season progresses is Skycam. We’re working with a couple of markets right now to see how it will enhance the telecast and there will be an opportunity for the audience to get used to it, and we’ll see how we like it.
We used Skycam during Winter Classics, and it’s been a very, very useful tool, and we see it as an opportunity in a few of these buildings to try it, and the teams have been wonderfully cooperative to let us test a little bit in the preseason. We’re learning, and want to make sure it’s an enhancement to both game coverage and is something that’s fun to have in the building so that the audience inside the stadiums are as appreciative as we are of the opportunity to do it inside the different barns.
Q: Pierre, in the NBA Greg Popovich, the coach of the Spurs is very famous for sparring with the sideline reporters. He’s very dead pan. Occasionally makes it very tough on those reporters. Is there anyone in the NHL as far as coaches who you consider particularly a challenge to interview during a game?
PIERRE MCGUIRE: No, not right now. The landscape is full of really enlightened, smart, intelligent coaches, and they see this as a potential opportunity to take you inside the game and help sell the game. Mike Babcock’s the gold standard of doing it.
And one of the things he used to tell me all the time is it’s an opportunity to help grow the sport. To take the viewers at home inside what the team is thinking and what they’re thinking as a coaching staff. I think one of the things, Richard, that helps me and Eddie when he visits with coaches, is we coached in the league. We’ve had to make a lot of the same decisions that these coaches have to make. Some of us have done it for longer periods of time than others, but still it’s a big part of it. I think when you have that street cred with the coaches, they’re not just going to punch you in the mouth and say I’m not giving you an answer because you used to be part of their association, and I think they appreciate that.
Q: Just one follow up for you. Is there anything that you’ve either asked the league or you would like to ask the league heading forward in terms of unique access and given that this is a league that’s pretty progressive in terms of letting cameras around, whether that’s cameras in between periods or whatever sort of your imagination might come up with? Is there a place that you would love to get cameras that you may ask for in the future?
SAM FLOOD: I think the league really gives us everything we’ve ever asked for. That’s the amazing thing. It all started with Gary Bettman ten years ago saying we could put a reporter, ex‑player, ex‑coach, Inside the Glass between the two benches which is something that had never been done before and that partnership has gone from there.
We still get frustrated at times when we try to get our pregame warm‑up shots in the locker room when you get in there for 30 seconds and you’re getting shoed out before you get the shot you want. But we always have conversations with the leagues in figuring out better ways to do it, and we always respect what’s going on inside the room because we’ve got a group of ex‑hockey players and coaches that care about the game and want to protect the integrity of the locker room.
So we’re always looking to get those shots that give people a look inside the game. The league is very, very good about helping us. They can’t dictate to every team in every locker room we go into how long we can be there, and that’s one thing we’re trying to get a little bit more help on this year because some of the teams are a little bit antsy when the camera gets in there.
Q: What are your thoughts on Dylan Larkin, whether he’s ready for the NHL? What do you see the outlook being for the Red Wings this year?
PIERRE MCGUIRE: I’m a big Dylan Larkin fan. Have been for a long time. I had a chance so like Eddie probably watched them a time and Doc did too when he was at Michigan playing for the great Red Berenson, and watched them tremendously at the World Junior last year. What stood out to me was his speed, his two‑step acceleration was as good or better than anybody’s in the tournament.
And Connor McDavid was playing for Canada, and Jack Eichel was the captain of the American team and those are two of the leading candidates to be Rookie of the Year. Most people have to go through Grand Rapids before they get an opportunity to play in Detroit. Dylan Larkin is beyond that. I think he’s going to be a phenomenal player in Detroit for a very long period of time, and I think he has a legitimate chance to rival both McDavid and Michael to be Rookie of the Year in the National Hockey League.
EDDIE OLCZYK: I saw him play quite a bit with one of my boys that plays at Penn State, and I saw a lot of Larkin against Penn State. I think it will be really interesting to see because the pro game is much more structured than the college game, and I think he has the intelligence, just, again, from watching in person and on television is that he has that hockey IQ. He has that ability to be able to know that sometimes it’s okay to live to fight another day.
I think just his smarts will allow him to be a very, very impactful player in this league. But there is always that growing ‑‑ those growing pains that come with any player let alone a kid coming out of university hockey and getting to the National Hockey League.
So for me, this is one guy that’s got a chance, as Pierre touched on a little bit earlier. Red Wings haven’t had many high draft picks so to speak. But this is one guy that certainly seems that got a potential to be one of those guys that they’re going to rely on for a long, long time on both ends of the ice, and that’s very encouraging for a young player.
DOC EMRICK: Just an unresearched footnote, I was hearing the last teenager to make the Red Wings opening roster was guy that was GM of the year last year in Tampa. You may want to research that, because it was not necessarily a source I would always trust, but that’s what I heard this morning.
Eddie, we don’t see a whole lot of teams that make the Stanley Cup Final one year and make it back the next. Why is that such a difficult challenge nowadays for teams to be able to get back there?
EDDIE OLCZYK: Well, you look at the grind, Erik. You look at the travels of the teams and what they go through. We all know you need to be healthy and have great leadership, and certainly you look at Chicago and what Joe Quenneville has done and you look at the job that Jon Cooper has done down there and gotten the Tampa Bay Lightning to the next level.
You need some luck too. That’s what it is. It’s just so hard. And the one thing that Tampa will ‑‑ going through what they did, certainly it’s a learning experience. That’s what’s the greatest experience about history is learning from it. You can’t put yourself in a spot where you get down in a series. When you have an opportunity to eliminate somebody, and that time off and that rest is certainly a huge part of having success come playoff time.
And it’s a lot of hockey. It’s a lot of bumps and bruises. If you can eliminate somebody quickly, it’s going to pay dividends somewhere down the road. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to win, but I just think when you learn that and you find a way to do that, it’s going to make life a little bit easier come playoff hockey.
So I think it’s just it such a tough thing to accomplish, and you see what LA has done lately and what Chicago has done lately. Even though there’s been a couple of years or a year in between when they’ve won, it’s just difficult. That’s why it’s the toughest and the greatest trophy to try to earn more than anything else.
Q: Pierre, how has Ben Bishop grown to be the No. 1 goalie or is he in that status?
PIERRE MCGUIRE: I think he’s definitely in there. And Doc made the point before if they can keep their goal tender healthy Ben Bishop has been a very important player for them. You can go back to tracking his development at the University of Maine and going forward from there and all the time he spent in the American Hockey League.
And Eddie talked about it with Jeff Blashill, you have to learn your craft, as a coach, a player and especially as a goalie. I think the thing that Ben has done more than anything else is he’s learned his craft. He’s big and imposing and he takes up a lot of net. But he’s become so comfortable in his own skin.
I think when I watch him play more than anything, there is a comfort level that you didn’t see earlier when he was trying to make it with St. Louis or when he had a little run with Ottawa before he got sent down to Tampa Bay. Frantz Jean the goaltending coach in Tampa I think has done a very, very good job with him. There is obviously a real connection with he and Jon Cooper going back to their days to the North American hockey league. I think it’s more positive than anything else, and I think he’s an elite goalie in the league.
Q: I’m just curious, you’ve seen it in preseason, but what are your thoughts on the new overtime format?
PIERRE McGUIRE: You’ve got to be fast, right, Doc and Eddie? You’ve got to be fast?
DOC EMRICK: Yeah, we don’t wind up caring for teams, but I hope if the game Wednesday night is close that it winds up being tied so we can watch it again, and I also hope we get a coach’s challenge.
One of the things that wasn’t possible for all of us to see in the preseason was the coach’s challenge because it doesn’t take effect until opening night. So I hope we get one of those in at least our two games on opening night so that we can all look at it and the fans will see it, because I think the fans will greatly appreciate what the three on three brings.
It certainly does settle a lot of games. The American League found it settled three‑quarters of their games last year, and that is that’s about the ratio we had in the preseason.
Q: Eddie, you got to see Eichel up close as a coach at that All‑American prospects game last year. At the end of the game you spoke so highly of him. Can you speak to what Jack will need to do to become a success on the Sabres in year one?
EDDIE OLCZYK: It’s always finding that consistency, Mike, as a young player. You’re going up against the best players in the world. There’s always going to be that learning curve. It’s not going to take them long at all. We saw the impact that he had all the way up and then obviously at BU. He’s going to have an impact for sure right away. But there’s going to be times when it’s going to be a battle.
But he needs help. You’re going to need that guidance from your teammates and you’re going to get it from the staff. But it comes with reps. It comes with being put out there in those situations. You’re going to go to school and you’re going to learn. But it’s all about that process of becoming a pro. It’s not just handling the practice in the games because he’s going to play a schedule that he’s never had before, and that’s going to take its toll.
But it’s also everything else that comes with it when you are a franchise’s new blood coming in and people are expecting a lot from you. It’s what it is when you’re a young guy and you come into the National Hockey League. There are going to be the ups and downs and it’s just keeping a nice level pace and a nice level head and take the good and when it’s not going great is you learn from it and you become better for it.
I think that we all think that Jack Eichel certainly has a great future in front of him. But there are going to be those potholes that you’re going to have to climb out of or try to skate over, and he’ll be able to do that.
Q: Pierre, Connor McDavid has given Edmonton fans a lot to look forward to. What do you feel will be his toughest adjustment to the NHL, and what do you anticipate happening to him?
PIERRE MCGUIRE: Bigger guys trying to take his speed away. His one major asset is his elusiveness through the neutral zone. Bigger guys are going to be in his way and have a formalized plan to take his speed away, especially if you consider other guys on that team. Edmonton’s such a speed team with Taylor Hall and McDavid being two of the guys that stand out in terms of overall team speed.
So that’s going to be one adjustment he’s going to have to make, and the other one is where he scores a lot of his goals because he’s not shy. He’s elusive down low coming offer the half wall or coming from below the hash mark. He scored a ton there, especially his first couple years. He’s not going to get that much room to get there, so he’s going to have to change.
So it’s a little like Stamkos. Stamkos used to score a lot from long range, and he really changed his approach in being able to play give‑and‑go hockey and getting more to the net. Not an easy thing to do. Eddie could tell you he scored so much darn goals getting to the front of the net. That’s one of the things he’s going to have to learn to do is adjust his game. I think he’s got the ability to do it, it’s just how quickly will he be able to do it?
EDDIE OLCZYK: I think on that, I think they have the perfect guy to coach the Edmonton Oilers in Connor McDavid and Todd McLellan. I just think the staff that he’s assembled, and I think that situation right there, I think it’s a perfect spot, and it will be fun. It will be a lot of fun.
I think we’re all fans at heart, but to watch that situation in Edmonton, because it obviously needs to get better because of everything that’s gone on there over the course of the last handful of years. It will be fun to watch Connor McDavid and the coaching that he gets from Todd McLellan.