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THE DESERT DOG BLOG: AN IN-DEPTH CHAT WITH TIPPETT

Friday, 08.06.2010 / 9:00 AM / The Desert Dog Blog - by Dave Vest
By Dave Vest
GLENDALE -- I had a chance to speak with Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett over the telephone on Thursday afternoon a few minutes after he finished playing a round in a charity golf tournament in Minnesota. What I promised him would be a quick interview evolved into an 18-minute Q & A session on a variety of topics.

QUESTION: What have you been doing since we last saw you at the Prospect Development Camp?

Dave Tippett
TIPPETT: “Well, we’ve been at our house in Minnesota and we’ve had lots of company. My daughter and my son-in-law and my new grandson visited for a couple of weeks, so it’s been an exciting time for our family having a baby around again. Other than that, we sold our house in Dallas and I’ve been working to clear out everything from there, and we got our youngest daughter situated out in California because she’s transferred to USC. Basically we’ve been doing a lot of housekeeping things that we didn’t get to last summer.”

QUESTION: How are you enjoying being a grandfather?

TIPPETT: “It’s actually fun right now because when he cries I just hand him back to his mother (laughs). No, he’s a cute little guy and he just turned two months old today and everybody is doing very well. It’s been interesting to see the next generation at our lake house where our kids grew up.”

QUESTION: You were an accomplished soccer player as a young man and, I assume, a soccer enthusiast now. Did you watch the World Cup this summer and if so what did you think of it?

TIPPETT: “I did watch a little bit of it - probably not as much as I should have. But I was interested in it and watched a few games on TV, including the final between The Netherlands and Spain. It was pretty intriguing to watch but I think I was watching with more of a tactical eye than most fans because that’s the way I think about games now. Still, it was enjoyable to watch. The enthusiasm of the countries all over the world is something that has always intrigued me.”

Dave Tippett
QUESTION: At what point in the summer do you get the itch to get back to the hockey rink and get back to work?

TIPPETT: “I’ve got it right now. In fact, I just sent a letter out to every player on the team a couple days ago reminding them that we’re in the last month of the summer and to start gearing up, and I’ve been touching base with a lot of guys to make sure they are where they should be at this point and that everybody is thinking the right thoughts coming into camp.”

QUESTION: If you look at the roster and compare it to what it was for Game 7 against Detroit, it’s different now and there are some holes to fill. Matthew Lombardi, a center, is gone. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek has departed. And Dan Winnik, a reliable penalty killer, also is gone. Can you address the losses to the roster?

TIPPETT: “Well, we certainly didn’t want to lose Michalek. He was a guy who played a lot of minutes for us. That’s just the business of hockey and sometimes you have to deal with those things. But we feel we’ve got a couple positive things to look at on defense. First of all, we’ll be starting the season with Derek Morris on the blue line and we didn’t have him for most of last year. So, he’ll pick up some of those minutes and some of the slack. We also still have Keith Yandle, who I think will continue to grow as a player. I’m a big fan of Yandle’s. He’s a great young player and his role will continue to increase. Then, as it stands right now, we have some young players than I’m very enthused about in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Maxim Goncharov. Both guys will push for jobs in training camp. We’ve also got David Schlemko, and I really liked they way he played when he played with us last year, and we’ve got Sami Lepisto who is very versatile and an all-around defenseman who played very well for us last year. So we’ll see how the rest of the summer pans out and if anyone else becomes available, but on defense I think we’re headed in the right direction.

Wojtek Wolski
"At center ice, I’ve had a lot of conversations with Wojtek Wolski and we’re going to try to move him into the middle. Obviously, we didn’t want to lose Lombardi but again that’s the business of the game. With Ray Whitney coming in and getting Scottie Upshall back from injury, that gives us a little more depth on the wings. Wolksi is a guy who has a history of playing center in junior hockey, so he’s excited about the chance to play there. After that, we’ll see where it goes from there. We’re hoping Kyle Turris had a great summer of working out and that he can come in and push for a job. We’ll monitor that as we go along. We realize that center ice is a very important position, and we’ll feel it out as we go along.”

QUESTION: Kyle Turris did not play for the Coyotes in 2009-10, but he did play for Phoenix in 2008-09 when you were coaching at Dallas. What were your thoughts on him then and what does he need to do to stick in the NHL?

Kyle Turris
TIPPETT: “Well, it’s obvious Kyle has the skill set and smarts to play in the NHL. The one thing he looked like has was lacking a little bit was the physical maturity to play against grown men. Last summer he had a (back) injury that prevented him from working out as hard as he would have liked, and last year in the first half of the American (Hockey) League season I think he was getting his feet wet. In the second half of the season he was a very good player for San Antonio and if you add that to a great summer of working out this summer, I think he’s a guy who can come in and push very hard for a job here. I’m very enthused. He’s a great kid. I’ve spoken to him several times this summer and I like talking to him. He’s a very enthusiastic guy who wants to do very well and who has the talent to do well. We’ll see where he can get to in camp.”

QUESTION: What about Mikkel Boedker, Viktor Tikhonov, Alexandre Picard and Brett MacLean? Are these guys on your radar heading into camp?

TIPPETT: “Very much so. They are all young players who I expect are going to push hard for jobs. The competition for jobs is going to be intense, especially at the forward position. You’ve got guys like you just mentioned with a little bit of NHL experience who went to the minors to get a little more maturity. I think they’re all closer to becoming NHL players now and I suspect they are ready to push really hard for jobs. I think our camp will be very competitive. We’ll have a good mix of players - some with speed, some with size, some with grit. It will be interesting to see how everything plays out.”

QUESTION: Have you decided which player will take Michalek’s spot as an alternate captain?

TIPPETT: “I’ve got some ideas but I want to have some meetings with the coaches and the management staff before the season starts and talk about it. I have a pretty good idea what direction we’re going to go on that but I want to make sure everybody is on the same page before we jump into it. That’s a role that I think is very important for our group so we’ll make sure we have the right guy in that place.”

QUESTION: The Coyotes will start the regular season with two games in Prague. Do you view that as a good thing or a bad thing?

TIPPETT: “Probably a little bit of both. I like the fact that going on such a long trip will build the camaraderie within our group right from the start. The other part of it is traveling so far is tough. Being a team in the Western Conference, our traveling is tough enough as it is. We spend a lot of days on the road and a lot of days in hotels. Whether that extra time (on the road) will come back to haunt us later in the season, we shall see. But we’ve done a lot of talking to other people with other teams who have gone through this about the best ways to be successful over there and to overcome the fatigue that will come with it. Hopefully we’ll be on top of everything and we will turn it into a big positive.”

Ray Whitney
QUESTION: You mentioned Ray Whitney earlier. Can you talk about him joining the team and what you are expecting from him at this point in his career?

TIPPETT: “He’s a dynamic skill guy. He’s a guy who’s very good with the puck and has very good anticipation of the puck and is a very good power-play guy. He’s also a guy who makes players around him better because his skill is so high. Hopefully he can get a guy like Shane Doan a few extra goals or Scottie Upshall a few extra goals, and if he can get our power play clicking at a higher percentage he will be a huge asset for us.”

QUESTION: Speaking of Upshall, do you have any concerns about him coming back from his season-ending knee injury?

Scottie Upshall
TIPPETT: “Normally there would be concern, but with Scottie, I’ve talked to him a few times this summer and he is so upbeat and so anxious to get going again that I think his enthusiasm will outweigh any setbacks for him. He’s been training very hard, and he was so enthused about the season he was having before he got hurt. I know he’s anxious to come back. I look for him to jump back in with both feet.”

QUESTION: Shane Doan’s offensive stats were lower than usual last season. Are you expecting a 'comeback year' from him in 2010-11?

TIPPETT: “I don’t think Shane needs to have a ‘comeback year’ at all. He was a huge part of the success of our team last year with his leadership and his demeanor and the way he handled the adversity (surrounding the team). There are very few people I think should get credit for that and he is certainly one of them. The leadership he shows in that dressing room goes way farther than goals scored or points. He makes sure his teammates are committed and that makes my job and Don Maloney’s job so much easier… Regarding his stats, we’d love to see him get 30 or 40 goals this season, but if he gets 20 and we’re a winning a team, I think we’re all fine with that, including Shane.”

Ilya Bryzgalov
QUESTION: Ilya Bryzgalov had a career year last season and was the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy. Are you confident he can play that well again?

TIPPETT: “Very much so. There’s no question he can. If we continue to play a strong game in front of him, his fundamentals are so sound I predict he’ll have another season similar to last season. He’s just so sound in everything he does.”

QUESTION: Mike Modano, a player you coached for many years in Dallas, recently signed with the Detroit Red Wings. What is your reaction to that and did you ever reach out to him about possibly playing for you with the Coyotes?

TIPPETT: “There are always conversations about the center-ice position, but for where Mike is in his life right now I think he was looking for a team where he would be surrounded by a lot of high-end players. Not that we don’t have high-end players, but I think going back to his hometown (Livonia, Mich.) had some allure to him. It will be interesting to see what happens. When I talked to Mike at the end of the season he was really torn as to whether he was going to keep playing or not. But I knew it would have to be a unique situation if he did play and I think he found that unique situation.”

QUESTION: Your friend Joel Quenneville’s team, the Chicago Blackhawks, has changed a lot since they won the Stanley Cup in June. Do you see them as the team to beat in the Western Conference this season?

Dave Tippett (with the Jack Adams Award)
TIPPETT: “I don’t think you can rule Chicago out because they have some good depth and some young players waiting in the wings. Other teams have improved. A team like Vancouver has added a lot of depth to their blue line and still have strong goaltending. Plus they’ve added another centerman in Manny Malhotra and they still have the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler there. They will be a solid team. And then there’s Detroit. We saw what kind of team they have when they are healthy. They’ll have Jiri Hudler back and they’ve added Modano. If he can fit into their scheme, I think they’ll be even better.

“It will be very competitive again. There are some teams who will rise and surprise some people and the perennial playoff teams will still be good teams. Every year has some surprises. We just have to make sure we’ll be ready to go from the start of the year and be focused, and continue to play a style that our players and our staff think we can win with. If we do that we’ll see what happens.”

Reach Dave Vest at thedesertdogblog@phoenixcoyotes.com
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