The Carolina Hurricanes flew to Nashville Thursday in preparation for Games 3 and 4 in their first round series with the Predators which the Canes lead 2-0.
Assistant coach Jeff Daniels and Steven Lorentz spoke with the media Thursday evening. Here’s what they had to say
On having a unique perspective on this first round series: I got picked up in the expansion draft by Nashville so I spent a year there, mostly in Milwaukee, but I did get a taste up here. Maybe 10 games. I can’t remember seven to 10 games. Obviously it was the first year and you could see the excitement. It was new but the people were into it. After that year, I signed back with Carolina.
On looking back on the growth of each market: I think it’s huge. I even had a cup of coffee in Florida too and just to see the growth down there in Florida and all these… I guess newer, not newer now, but the Southern markets that people didn’t think hockey would work in. Sure enough you’re seeing that now. Especially in Raleigh. You’re seeing youth hockey really take off and a big reason why is the Hurricanes. The kids growing up have a team to watch, to cheer for and I think you are seeing both boys and girls going to college, getting scholarships, getting drafted, playing juniors, and playing college. It just keeps growing and that’s a credit to all the coaches out there that dedicate their time to help minor hockey grow.
On looking back on Nashville: I just remember that the fans were loud. No different than in Raleigh. I think they enjoyed the pace of the game and the physical contact. The music’s playing and they really do a good job of selling the game and keeping their fans interested in the game. Part of that is the excitement, the pace, the physicality of the game. It was a newer market. People were learning when to cheer and when not to cheer and it was no different than in Raleigh. And now people there are true hockey fans.
On Rod Brind’Amour’s growth as a head coach: There’s so many things. Right from the get go, you know he was a leader when he played and now he’s the leader as the coach of this team. He sets the tone everyday and he did that as a player. The way he showed up and just the way he worked on and off the ice. You see that now as a coach. His dedication. The details that he expects the players to play with. He expects them to work. He’s honest with them and a great motivator. When he was a player, he was a lot quieter. He was focused on making sure he was ready to play. Now he’s responsible with making sure the whole group is ready to play. He does a great job before the game making sure the guys are ready to go and they’re ready to jump on the ice and play for him. They have a ton of respect for him and like I said earlier, he’s honest with them and they know what to expect from him as a coach and it’s no different from when he was a player. You knew every night he was going to bring it and as a coach it’s the same way.
On Brind’Amour’s reception to outside input: That’s one of the great things about Roddy. It’s that he wants our opinions on things. From myself, [assistant coach Dean Chynoweth], [video coach Chris Huffine] and [goaltending coach Paul Schonfelder]. He wants us to throw him some ideas and get him thinking outside the box. At the end of the day, he’s going to make the final call on what way we’re going to go. But within the game itself, there’s a lot going on and if myself, or Paul or Dean can throw out another idea, whether it’s a system thing or maybe trying to make a line change or matchup, he listens and he wants that feedback. It’s huge as a staff to know you have a voice and I think he does a great job of making sure everyone is heard and that you feel valued.
On Brind’Amour feeling like the coaching job is a bit more personal: Without a doubt. For both of us really. You go back three years ago and when Roddy approached me about getting back on the staff. It was personal for both of us. We both played here. Both saw some good times here and we both wanted to get it back to where it was. So it is personal for both of us. This is home for both of us and we know the way this city rallies around this team when things are going well and we wanted to bring the Hurricanes name back to where people are talking about it again. As I said, that’s the biggest thing about Roddy. Give him a ton of credit for doing that.
On the characteristics of Brind’Amour that have helped establish a winning culture: Every team talks about the culture and as I said earlier, it’s right from day one with Roddy. All he expects you to do is go out and work hard and play fast. If you have those two things, Roddy’s going to play you and find time for you. If you don’t want to do those things, then Roddy will say this is probably not the place for you. The joke is that Rod’s always the first guy in the gym. Before the guys get there, he’s already working out. He sets the tone for them and on the ice he’s working with them and pushing them every single day. He’s the one that came in and set the tone as a player too. He’s doing it as a coach now. This is the way we play and this is the way he feels will be best for the team. We need to buy in and if you look at the last few years, we’ve definitely had that buy in and the guys believe in Roddy and follow him all the way.
On having a soft spot for the role and depth players: Without a doubt. I can relate to them. I know what they’re going through. Some nights when they’re maybe not getting the ice time they want or maybe they’re being a healthy scratch. I’ve been through that and I know what they’re thinking and I try to build them up and I think it’s important as coaches to know that everyone has a role on this team and it’s important that they know their role is important. That there’s value in what they bring every night. Brock McGinn is a guy that’s going to go out and block shots and do whatever he can to help the team win and he may not show up on the stat sheet every night but as coaches, you appreciate that and they’ve got to know there’s a value to it. To see where Lorentz has come from two to three years ago. People weren’t really talking about him. For a guy that pushes himself every day to be better and works and is never satisfied, those guys I can relate to because it was never easy for myself. I had to come to camp every year with the mindset that I have to make the team. Nothing was going to be given to me. So I can relate to those guys and obviously I have a little bit of a special place for those guys because that’s the player I was.
On the kind of perspective Jeff Daniels gives: He’s very humble and more kind of a laid back coach. You can tell he obviously knows his stuff. He’s great at working one on one with all the forwards after practice. Especially the young guys. At the end of practice, he’ll sit there and give us passes and if he notices something he points it out and he gives us little tips and pointers that really go a long way. You can tell when you go out and have good shifts and have shifts with good energy and rumbling down low, he appreciates that. I never got to watch him play, but I can maybe guess the kind of style he played with. That kind of bulldog mentality back then. It’s great learning from a guy like that who has obviously clawed and scratched and faced some adversity over the years. But to play as many games in the league as he did and just stick with it right to the end just shows so much of who he is as a person and his character. It’s great to learn from a coach like that.
On his impressions of NHL playoff hockey: I don’t know if anything has surprised me. It was kind of as expected with the intensity ramping up, the physicality ramping up. I’ve seen that in Charlotte when we made the playoffs, but probably one of the coolest things in my life and maybe just over this season I guess was just coming out to a packed house — at least as packed as it can be — running out to “Rock You Like a Hurricane” and seeing the fans waving their towels. It was just so loud. It was probably one of the coolest things. Skating out of the tunnel there I probably could have skated right through the boards on the other side and I wouldn’t have felt it. It was just an awesome experience having that energy back in the building and seeing the Caniacs come out to support us. It was incredible even driving up to the rink and seeing everybody tailgating. It was just so special and I had never really been a part of something like that. It was like one big family. It was so cool. Obviously when the puck dropped, it was game on and that’s when the intensity started. Everybody’s finishing checks and you really are wanting to make sure you’re wearing down the opponent. That’s why the playoffs are so gut-wrenching and long. You make those extra little efforts and finish your checks and it just wears the body down more but it’s all worth it in the end if you can come away with the Stanley Cup.
On a welcome to the playoffs moment: I think standing out during the national anthem. I was able to start Game 1 and looking around and just seeing people everywhere. Then when Adam, the singer, said “And the rockets red glare,” and everybody screamed it was like, “Wow! Okay, this is what it’s like.” And when he finished and we stepped off the blueline and started skating around, put our helmets back on and you could see people going absolutely nuts. I was like, okay I don’t really have to worry about anything here. Emotions are just going to take over and the intensity is just going to be there. Just the first five minutes of that, from running out of the tunnel to the first shift and I guess getting my first point too, it was just so special. Those are moments that I just won’t ever really forget.
On sticking with their game while answering the physical challenge: That’s to be expected. It’s playoff hockey. We have to come in and not just match their intensity, but outplay the way that they play too. Every team’s bottom six and everyone throughout the lineup has to come in and finish their checks and do the little things to wear the other team down. I think you can feed off the energy in the building, like we do at PNC, and we have to be aware of that going into Bridgestone. Their fans are going to be cheering loud and trying to get the energy and life back into this Nashville team. Energy is energy and we’ve got to feed off of it. Whether they are booing us or cheering for the other team, there’s going to be some life in the building and we have to keep our emotions in check and make sure we aren’t crossing the line with letting our emotions get out of control. I think we are in a good position right now. Right where we want to be and we just need to stick to our game and continue what made us successful all year. Try to take it one game at a time.
On Rod Brind’Amour: I think everybody at this point knows how intense Roddy is and how much he cares about the team and just Carolina in general. This is his home and he’s won a Stanley Cup here, done so much for the community and the team. But what he brings to the rink and the arena every single day is that he’s never really satisfied. He’s always preaching to the guys that they can always get better and you can’t really let your foot off the gas. He’s not satisfied with just being an okay team and just showing up to the rink and putting in enough. He preaches that it’s not easy. If it was easy, then every team would come in and do it. He’s trying to hit home that every single day is an opportunity to prove to ourselves and everybody in the league and whoever else maybe doubts us or maybe doesn’t really believe in us that we are a legitimate team and we’re here. That’s our motto. We have a T-shirt for the playoffs that just says ‘Prove It’ on the front. Whether that’s each individual proving it to people back home or proving it to fans around the NHL or other teams, we’ve got it written right across our T-shirts and that’s pretty much what Roddy’s been preaching to us. That you have to come in each and every day ready to work and prove to whoever that we are the real deal.
On if Brind’Amour maybe takes the job more personally: Yeah, maybe. I think everybody gets motivated in different ways and I think maybe there’s been times where we didn’t get the recognition or we had been slighted a little bit based on who knows what. Whether it’s because we’re not a traditional hockey market or we don’t get as much exposure. At the end of the day, we’re here and we’re a legit NHL club and guys come here knowing that. Every single team that comes here we want to leave knowing that they just played a heck of a hockey club. Every time a team’s coming to play our club, our team identity is that we’re just going to outwork them. A lot of teams leave our building night in and night out knowing that it’s going to be a battle and leave going, “Yeah that was expected having to go in and play the Hurricanes.” We want to have that impression on the rest of the league and hopefully people take notice of that. Its only a matter of time before you get the respect that you deserve. If it’s a chip on Roddy’s shoulder or whatever it is, he’s relayed it to the team and that’s why us guys go to war for him night in and night out because we know how bad he wants it and we want it just as bad. We’re all heading in that right direction, pulling on that same rope and hopefully that leads us to success. Nothing’s given and nothing’s guaranteed but we can do what we can control to come out on top and that’s what we’re trying to do one game at a time.
On remembering the first playoff series he got really into: Growing up in Toronto, there were a few years when I was a lot younger when I could recall them making the playoffs, but they went through a tough stretch there. But I remember a playoff series against Ottawa. I’m not sure how old I would have been at the time, but I just remember staying up and watching those games with my dad on the couch on those Saturday nights especially, but I guess any playoff game we’d be watching just glued to the TV. I remember the Leafs just knocking off the Senators and it was guys like Joe Nieuwendyk and Curtis Joseph and Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker. Guys who I idolized growing up and who I’ve been fortunate enough to have had my path cross with some of those guys that were my heroes. I think just from the word go, growing up in a hockey-crazed community like southwest Ontario, cheering for the Leafs was just kind of in your blood and naturally when you start moving up to higher levels you start to form your own rivalries and stuff like that. I mean I’m just so happy to be here and in a sort of rivalry ourselves with Nashville but playoff hockey is playoff hockey and it doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. You don’t like the other team. That’s why I just love this time of year. It just brings out the best in everybody.
On if there is any difference in Alex Nedeljkovic: The thing is, I don’t think anything has changed about Ned. Ned has just always been Ned. He’s kind of been a dark horse and he’s like the best kept secret around because I remember playing junior in the OHL and he led the Plymouth Whalers to the OHL Finals as a 16 year old and then he got drafted to Carolina. He stayed in the system and again was a guy who wasn’t a top pick and didn’t jump in right away. He just took his time developing and he just had success at every level he was at. He never was called up to play in a bunch of games and had to steal the show, but every single place he went he succeed at. In Charlotte he was a rock for us in the playoffs and now nobody in this organization is surprised to see the success that he’s had just because it’s Ned. He’s so calm and cool in the net and everybody is just so confident in his abilities. He just goes back there and stops the puck and plays pucks and he just plays his game. It even took a month or two to even realize like, “Oh Ned is having such a great year,” when its like, “Yeah. Everywhere he goes he has a great year.” It took a little while for him to get that respect he deserved but everyone is taking notice now that he is the real deal.