Sept. 9, 2019
Q: What did you think of the guys throughout this tournament? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)
A: Well it was impressive how much compete there was and the will to win was there right off the bat, even today with a bit of a rough start. They fought their way back into this one. I thought that the leadership, players that had been here before, was strong, and the new, younger rookie players, the true rookie players, were well-guided through this process. We got to see some new players, and I personally got to know them a lot better in these last few days. Overall, we’d have to say it was a good weekend.
Q: How about a guy like [Arttu] Ruotsalainen. He’s a European free agent, just getting his feet wet in the NHL. What did you see out of him? (Paul Hamilton – WGR 550)
A: I think it’s important that we assess him at main camp. Players that have played on the bigger ice surface maybe to prepare for this week, there’s an adjustment there that I’m aware of. You could see a lot of skill in the group, and he’s one of them that we’re looking forward to looking at at main camp.
Q: You mention main camp. What are you looking forward to this week once it gets going? (John Vogl – The Athletic)
A: Just to get on the ice. I actually went for a little skate this morning. It’s good none of you were there. It wasn’t pretty, there’s no threat to any players from my skating. I just look forward to getting on the ice with the players. We have 30 players that practiced this morning, captain’s practice, and you can feel the energy is really upbeat. Everybody is happy to be back and ready to go. I look forward to getting to know this group. I look forward to feeding the competition we have now with the deeper roster and seeing how everybody reacts. And of course, I look forward to bringing in the culture that we want to see on the ice and the principles and the concepts as quickly as possible.
Q: How do you go about establishing that culture? You get the chance to make your first impression, so what are you focusing on this week? (John Wawrow – Associated Press)
A: Well I think first impressions are over off the ice, which we all know. There’s been a lot of contact there. On the ice, I don’t feel we need to rebuild and reinvent everything within a week. I think patience is important here, first 10 days, four games. It’s about assessing the players and letting them also slide back into the competitive mode. I don’t feel a big heat there in getting everything across. I think that the second half of the training camp, when you’re getting into the final two games and you’re getting back into the battle of the league at the beginning of October, that’s going to be a lot more detailed and a lot more intense. That’s the time when you really have to solidify how we’re going to play. The first phase is more about general concepts, and let the players play and see what they naturally do so we can then start making adjustments to really bring everybody together for the season.
Q: What are your emotions going into the week? You’ve never had a chance to run a real NHL camp before because of what happened in the lockout year. You didn’t get the chance you’re going to have this week. (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
A: Well I’m actually feeling a lot like, you all know I have a big national team background where camps are just part of your life. You’re just permanently doing camps. I don’t feel anything other than an excitement and a positive energy for the opportunity to have this responsibility in Buffalo. This, specifically, is something that I’m looking forward to. But as far as, let’s say, it being odd that it’s an NHL camp, that’s not really coming up at all. We’ve worked hard in preparation here the last month with the coaches to be clear on our language to get ourselves on the same page as far as how we’re going to teach the different processes. Now it’s up to me to lead that. I enjoy doing that. I look forward to the responsibility and the pleasure of working together with these players.
Q: Seeing the way these guys play these three games, is it a bit of a taste of what you kind of expect or want to do with the NHL team? (Joe Yerdon – The Athletic)
A: I think it’s difficult. There was so little preparation here; it was a one-day practice. The players are also not in physical shape yet to actually implement all the things that we want to see. We definitely in Rochester and Buffalo want to connect the way we play. We’d like to feel Sabres hockey all the way through, to [the Cincinnati Cyclones], even. I think that this is still far from the end product. We expect a much clearer identity as we go through these next few weeks.
Q: Assuming he’s here Friday morning, how much do you have to sit down [Rasmus] Ristolainen and take his temperature and see where he’s at? (Mike Harrington – The Buffalo News)
A: We’ve been communicating, even these last few days. He’s going to be sliding in here in the next few hours. By tomorrow he’ll be here with the guys. I know that it’s going to be fun to work with a player with that skill and ability. I have nothing but excitement for working with him. I know there’s a lot of potential there that’s still untapped, and it’s up to me and the coaches to find out what that is.
Q: When you were in Edmonton, you leaned on veterans a lot when you were trying to establish a culture. What is that process like in the early days of camp to kind of work with those guys to see how you can kind of guide things moving forward? (Lance Lysowski – The Buffalo News)
A: Well I think it’s important you try to see what’s here naturally and what’s already present, and I’m feeling there’s a lot. The responsibility of everybody to be a part of leadership. It’s not just one individual, or three or seven, it’s the whole team at certain times that has to take that. I think that we have a lot of opportunity there to build a culture that will strengthen us for also the times of adversity and keep us moving in the right direction when we do good things. I think that that’s all part of what I like to do. Getting the communication going in the beginning will be the most important thing.
Q: As you mentioned, there’ll be increase competition for a roster spot. How much does past experience come into it and how much is open eyes, open competition? (John Vogl – The Athletic)
A: It’s quite clear that competition is what you want. You want players to come in a little uncomfortable about where the ice time is going to be and how they’re going to get there. I think that the processes will be laid out clearly. It will be a very open communication of what it’s going to take, and then it’s up to the players to answer those questions. I am convinced that the players will decide that on the ice and it will be easy for us at the end.