The WCHA held its annual pre-season media teleconference with the coaches today. Here’s a paraphrased summary of what Coach Hakstol had to say. If it’s not in quotation marks, it’s not a quote, so it would be a mistake to interpret it as such.
Hakstol Opening Remarks
We’re starting off with a tough game against Michigan State and a tough schedule in the first half. We’re different from the last couple years in that we’ll be able to lean on a senior in goal, have seniors and juniors on the blue line and up front. We have a nice base of leadership.
Q: Have you followed Jonathan Toews’ adventures in Chicago?
A: We’ve been in close contact, he had an unfortunate injury but was beginning to get comfortable in camp. As he gets over that injury, hopefully in the next couple days, we think he’s ready to transition to that level.
Q: You had a lot of other guys who could’ve left, but it sounds like a lot bonded together to come back. How do you create that on a team?
A: Some of that “pact” may have been fabricated to a certain extent. They’re a close-knit group of guys. A couple guys made the step, and we had about four who probably could’ve gone but decided to stay. They all had their own reasons. Certainly they talked amongst each other and had common interests. They’re excited for the season and are staying for the right reasons.
Q: College hockey has lost unusually high numbers in the last two years. With the way the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement has changed, do you see less raiding from the NHL in future years?
A: The NHL people are running their business as best they see fit. Every organization has a difference philosophy about developing their players. I don’t look at it as a raiding of players. Part of our job is to develop these guys so they’re ready to play in the National Hockey League. More often than not players are going to make the decision for the right reason and at the right time.
Q: You felt Jonathan was ready to make that step?
A: I think Jonathan had some questions at the end of the year. He went to the World Championships and played extremely well, which gave him an extra boost of confidence. I think a lot of people thought it was a given that he would leave after the season, but that wasn’t the case. He took a lot of time and I think he was ready mentally and physically to step up. He’s going to be able to contribute in the NHL immediately.
Q: With all your pre-season accolades, how are you dealing with those expectations?
A: Pre-season polls and predictions mean nothing. They’re not based on performance, they’re just predictions. Nobody has stepped on the ice or played a game. We talk about it openly, we have good leadership and our guys have their feet on the ground and know we’re going to be judged on our performance and wins and losses this year.
Q: What you have thought on how to replace Toews on that Duncan-Oshie line?
A: We’re going to call Chicago and ask for Johnny back. T.J. and Ryan will play together early on. We feel good about all of our freshman up front, we think Frattin could play there, maybe Brad Miller could step forward. There are different ways of thinking, VandeVelde was playing well at the end of last season, you could put him up the middle. We hope we can find some chemistry earlier than in previous years.
Q: When you had Parise and Bochenski there you could put a folding chair with them and have a good line. Is it like that this year?
A: We’re going to put a block of cheese out there with them. We need to find someone who’s comfortable there. It’ll be a challenge.