Breakup Day 2014
Devils President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello addressed the media for a Q&A on breakup day:
When you look back on this season, what stands out as what went wrong?
Lamoriello: Well, I guess I like to look at the glass half full and dwell on things that were right, and then take a step back and see where things weren’t the way they should be or what the reasons were. I think the worst thing you can do is, as soon as it’s over, reflect on that. I told you a couple of days ago, when we were out of the playoffs, we were focusing on the games to play and trying to keep that (focus). I think right now what we have to do now that the season’s over is take a step back and just review it and not make any rash judgements.
Did Jaromir Jagr have the kind of season that would make you want to keep him?
Lamoriello: I don’t think there’s any question that the season he’s had is most impressive. What’s just as impressive is his commitment and his work ethic and the way he wants to continue to play. So we certainly would like to have him back. I don’t think there’s any reason not (to). The only reason someone would think that is if they put his age number in front of what he really accomplished, because he had an exceptional year in every way.
Do you see a problem with getting him back?
Lamoriello: You’d have to talk to him. I know he wants to come back; I think he’s told every one of you that.
Was yesterday an emotional day for you watching Martin Brodeur and the fans chanting and him coming back out onto the ice?
Lamoriello: Yes, I don’t think you could be human if you weren’t emotional. He’s a very special human being and he’s a very special player. You’re not going to have a player (like that) come along with what he’s done, and he’s not done yet until he makes that decision. He’s remarkable and I thought the fans were just fantastic. Our fans have been great.
Marty said yesterday it’s not the best situation to have two guys as number ones on the team. Can he still be on this team next year or do you have to move forward?
Lamoriello: I think that right now you just take a step back. It’s a very difficult situation on both goaltenders, very difficult certainly on the coaching staff. But when you have an opportunity that we did at that given time and knowing what the future is, that’s a decision I made, I take responsibility for that. I certainly would do it over, knowing what the potential was. But right now that’s not something that I’m thinking of. I’m thinking of a lot of things right now, so we’ll have to just sit down with Marty and have a discussion.
Do you feel it’s necessary to find a top scorer? The players, at times this year, have said that’s needed.
Lamoriello: Let me put it this way: I’d love to have that player who said that to you, tell me. You should never worry about what you don’t have. You should make the most of what you have, and that to me is not something I really like to hear, that a player would be worrying about what we don’t have. Their job is to perform within the abilities that we have. It’s what you make out of what you have, not what you don’t have.
Do you feel that’s something that you guys need?
Lamoriello: I think we need to score more goals, there’s no question, or give up less. It’s the goal differential that counts with me, not how many goals are scored, and when you give them up and when you don’t. We’ve had that here since I’ve been here. We’ve won without a scorer in the top 30, so if we’re able to get one, believe me, we will do that. But we would do that in any situation.
Do you see your young defensemen having even more of an impact on this team next season?
Lamoriello: I don’t think there’s a question of that. I think this team will always be built from the goaltender out as long as I’m here. Yes, our scouting staff did a tremendous job with the drafts that we’ve had as far as defensemen, and there’s no question that – they’re a year older, a year more mature – the impact they will have.
Lamoriello: I can’t answer any of those questions. You still have to have your veterans. Decisions will be made at the appropriate time.
If you guys win half of your shootouts, you’re in the playoffs. Is that, in your mind, a total fluke that you lose them all (0-13) or would you like to see the team practice them more?
Lamoriello: Let me just say this: I don’t know what statistics or analytics could ever predict the number of shootouts that we lost both ways. You need the goaltender and you need the scorer. The other day, I was sitting in Ottawa, and they flash (on the scoreboard) that, up to the beginning of this year, the two teams with the highest shooting percentage of shootouts since the inception of the shootout, who are they? Number one is the Devils and number two is Pittsburgh. A lot of those people who were in those percentages are still on this team. I didn’t know it until that day.
Unfortunately, one of those guys is Ilya Kovalchuk.
Lamoriello: But did you look at his stats before he came here? The first year (here) he had a difficult time. It was the second year (that he had success on shootouts). That’s just to show you what can happen. I thought we were going to come out of it in Ottawa. I’m saying, ‘Let's get this over with.’
You mentioned the fans. Do you see the ones that are upset, their concern about three missed playoff seasons out of four? Do you understand their hurt?
Lamoriello: Absolutely. We all feel that and they have every right to feel that. My grandkids are upset; my kids are upset. I feel for the workers in the building, whose season is over; they don’t have more games. I understand that. I also agree with them. It’s not something you like.
The fans have been tremendous and they have every right to question anything they want, in any way they want.
There are people sitting there going, two years in a row out of the playoffs, blow it up and start it over. Where is this team?Lamoriello: This team, to me, is very close. How close, I’m not a believer in what that line is. There’s such a fine line between winning and losing. You’re going to see in these playoffs, the matchups right now, there’s going to be some outstanding teams get knocked out in the first round. We’re in the playoffs if this, if that. But it didn’t happen.
I can think of Stanley Cups that we’ve won and maybe there was a great save or a big play. I can think of a Stanley Cup that if we had (video replay) that probably would’ve been our first Stanley Cup. It is what it is today. We have not made the playoffs the last two years and that has to be addressed.
But you feel that you’re not that terribly far away.
Lamoriello: No, I certainly do not. We’d know that pretty quickly.
Do you have a plan on how long you want to go?
Lamoriello: I don’t look beyond right now. That’s for other people to decide. You’re as young as you feel and you’re as young as you take care of yourself. I’ve always said age is a number. But if somebody felt, if you feel I’m too old for this job…
Does it ever get to you? Do you still enjoy it as much as you did 20 years ago?
Lamoriello: I enjoy every day. If this became a day that I had to go to work, I wouldn’t be doing it. I don’t have to, and what drives you is winning. What drives you is seeing the success that the team and the players have.
You take care of yourself. When you get older, you have to make changes. Players have to make changes. You have to get more rest, you have to make sacrifices. That’s the decision you make.
Are your grandkids giving you advice, too?
Lamoriello: My grandkids, if I trade the wrong player or something happens, they might not talk to me for weeks, months. Trust me, I can tell you that. Your best critics are the ones who take the freedom to tell you to your face.
How much long-term concern do you have for Ryane Clowe?
Lamoriello: We’ll see. He certainly could have come back skating and everything, but we held everything off. We just have to make sure that this is one hundred percent right. He’s not the first player to go through this. There’s a couple of great players playing in this League, one in Boston and one in Pittsburgh, that have gone through the same situations. His health will be the most important thing and, where we’ve been assured by the doctors that he’s fine, I can’t answer that question.
Bryce Salvador (hip) said he didn’t think he’d need surgery. Are you confident?
Lamoriello: We’ve had second opinions and that’s what we’re told.
Anybody else that might need any procedure?
Lamoriello: Well, we just have to see where Mark Fayne (pulled groin) is at after last night. We don’t know where he’s at. Other than that, just the normal things. (Stephen) Gionta’s ankle, that’s been on and off, but he just needs rest. The MRIs and X-rays don’t say anything other than what a sprain is. You make it worse, sometimes, it’ll break.
You’ve been a believer of this team when it’s been healthy. Because of that, do you think this team, with few changes, can be very good next year?
Lamoriello: I don’t have any question that this team can be very good. There’s certain things that we have to do and, it’s like everything else, certain players have to improve in every area. One of the things we set out to do this year is get a better power play and we did [19.5%, tied for ninth overall, in 2013-14 from 15.9%, tied for 20th overall, in 2012-13].
I think we have to get our goal differential more on the positive side. When I say goal differential, I don’t look at scoring. This is a 3-2 League right now, that’s the nature of the beast, or 4-3 or 2-1. You have to get used to playing that (way). Sometimes it’s 7-2 or 6-3, I don’t worry about that. Sure it’d be nice to sit there and enjoy it, but you won’t see the playoffs that way. That’s the way it is. It’s goal differential that counts with me.
When you’re assessing your summer and what you might want to bring in, would you look at a guy who was good at the shootout?
Lamoriello: Because of what happened this year, when you’re looking at things, unconsciously you’re going to say, I wonder what he was doing in shootouts. It’s just a normal reaction. But will that be a priority over (something else)? No.
Is there anything you can tell us about Peter DeBoer’s contract, whether that was an extension or was part of his old contract?
Lamoriello: No contract talk will ever come from me on players or any personnel. Never has and never will. I believe that’s private to that person and it’s really not anybody’s business.
Regarding the job he did this season…
Lamoriello: Hey, none of us did a good job. We’re not in the playoffs. But is it Pete’s fault? No. But we’re not in the playoffs, so we all have to take responsibility.
Why was it the right decision to bring him back?
Lamoriello: First of all, he’s under contract. Secondly, I didn’t think there was a reason to make a change. For me to get into my reasons, why and why not, it’s very unfair. There’s certain things you keep between your own ears.
Are there decisions still to be made on the assistant coaches or are they all coming back?
Lamoriello: I have every intention of having the staff (return) intact.
Do you think something can be done quickly with Jagr?
Lamoriello: We’ll see.
Lamoriello: I’m not going to get into any thoughts on unrestricted free agents. It wouldn’t be fair to them; it wouldn’t be fair to anybody else. They’ve certainly played extremely well and we have to make overall decisions in a lot of areas.
Do you have to change over some of this team?
Lamoriello: I think whatever changes you make have to be for the better. Whenever you can get better, you make changes. If we can make the right changes to get better, we certainly will. As far as 'have to,’ you’d like to do a lot of things, but you might not be able to. So we’ll do the best we can to make us better.
Is Keith Kinkaid ready to play in this League next year?
Lamoriello: You never know with goaltenders. Kinkaid and (Scott) Wedgewood are having the same year. They’re both having outstanding years. That’s a difficult question to answer for somebody who’s never played in the League, whether they can or they can’t. You never know until they get in there.
Can you tell at this point if Adam Larsson can develop into a star? People probably put that tag on him because of where he was drafted.
Lamoriello: There’s no question in my mind that Larsson will be an NHL defenseman. As far as, to what level he’ll be an NHL defenseman, does he have the potential and abilities? Yes. But we’ll have to wait and see as to how he is. But there’s no question, he has certain abilities you can’t teach. Time will tell.
In a season like this, do you watch the postseason or do you not even want it on TV?
Lamoriello: No, I watch. Even though I’d like to say I don’t want to look, I watch.
Who’s your prediction for the Cup?
Lamoriello: Oh gosh, I don’t know what I’m going to eat tomorrow morning. There’s going to be some good teams out in the first round, that’s for sure, with the matchups.
You can’t do anything until July 1, but where is Cory Schneider’s contract fall on your priorities for this offseason?
Lamoriello: Right on the top of the list. Like you had to ask that question, right?