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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hitch on NHL Network

I grabbed this off a post from HFBoards but wanted to share here as well to make sure it reached as many eyes as possible.

Hitch was interviewed during the 3rd period of the Jackets-Stars prospect game last night and here is a great summary by a poster named "Iron Mike":

Announcer: Welcome, Hitch, how are you?
Hitch: It's fun watching hockey again.
Ann: Recap your summer.
Hitch: Not so much golf anymore, part marketer, part coach.
Ann: How so
Hitch: Needed to talk with season ticket holders, explain our plan. Believe we have genuine support. Fans in Columbus are a lot like Canadian fans, they like to analyze and critique, very much are football thing. General feeling is that fans are excited for this year.
Ann: How do you deal with tough questions about making the playoffs?
Hitch: Fans want value for their dollar, be honest with them. We weren't deep enough. Needed to change players and change culture.

Ann: Voracek, top six?
Hitch: Hopefully, unsure about durability. Put on 25 lbs from September to September, lost 2% body fat in the same time.
Ideal situation is both Voracek and Brassard in the top six. Voracek has great talent, skill and patience. Looks and plays like a man.

Ann: Highly skilled team on the ice right now, can we except the same in Columbus?
Hitch: Weren't sure what we had here (Traverse City) since we left Filatov (didn't mention injury), mason and first year AHLers (mentioned Dorsett, Sestito and Brassard specifically). So far have been pleasantly surprised by John Hughes, Blair Yaworsky and Matt Calvert ( I have Calvert underlined in my notes and don't remember specifics but Hitch definitely singled him out as someone who has played well).

Ann: LW has been dominant in this game (references the fight that spoon mentioned, Devon Didiomete was ejected for removing his elbow pad before the fight was the given explanation, although he looked to not have had his jersey tied down either, and I didn't see him remove the elbow pad) any other thoughts on Voracek?
Hitch: Very efficient player, understands the nuances of the game.
Ann: He (Voracek) plays a very North-South game.
Hitch: Agreed, he understands speed through the neutral zone, carry the puck and play with speed through the neutral zone. Sets himself up well to pass across the ice or drive the net. Backs the defense off with his speed.

Ann: Thoughts on Dallas prospect James Neal?
Hitch: Not the first time seeing him, he played on a line with Sestito and Boll in juniors (Plymouth). He impressed at Traverse City last year. Dallas has a good future in Neal and Fabian Bruunstrom.

Ann: Spend time with prospects over the summer? (development camp) What direction do you given them?
Hitch: Howson asked the coaches to be on the ice during the development camp. Help them "play the way we want to play, high tempo, all out, whistle-to-whistle. When you play Detroit 8 times, you have a choice, if you don't at least play with the puck a little, you won't have success. We talk to them (prospects) about making plays through the neutral zone, can't always chip or dump the puck. When you play Detroit it's always a challenge and that's how you beat them."

*Voracek to Hughes for a goal*
Ann: Impressions of Voracek so far?
Hitch: Playing well, controlling tempo and the puck, not panicking. Voracek and Brassard give us scorers, something we haven't had, save for Nash, for the last couple years, especially with Modin being out last year. Couldn't come back in games, with Voracek and Brassard believe we have a fighting chance.
Ann: Comebacks are more commonplace these days, than say, 5-10 years ago.
Hitch: no hold-up rule has been effective. If you work, you can go get the puck and there is more play in either the offensive zone or defensive zone, the puck has been taken out of the middle of the ice.

Ann: Playoffs? How much more competitive will the division be compared to last year?
Hitch: Chicago has made big strides last year and in the off season. Nashville will always be competitive with their talented young defense. Detroit is in a class of its own.

Ann: How does the schedule affect your approach?
Hitch: Last year we couldn't beat Nashville, that kept us out of the playoffs, only took 2 points from them all year. only 6 games this year (down from 8 last year) takes some pressure off but division games are still very important. This is a key for this season, "we know we have to be better in our division."

Ann: Shootouts? Will coaches ever be comfortable going into a season, knowing they can score, or is it hit or miss (no one foresaw Edmonton last year).
Hitch: You have to know you have players who can score, we have that now with Nash, Voracek and Brassard. Shootout was not the problem last year, overtime was. Not good 4 on 4, lost too much in OT, must improve in this area.

Ann: What players are you counting on this year?
Hitch: Modin, getting him back is like getting a free player. Excited and curious to see the team with Tyutin, Umberger and Huselius firing on all cylinders. They bring a lot to the team, this is the first time the team is 4 lines deep.

Ann: Talking about first round picks, thoughts on Nash?
Hitch: "He has another gear and I believe he will find it." He's great now, with a chance to be unbelievable, had a great summer, got even bigger and stronger. Klesla is also impressive, found a role as a shut down defenseman who plays against the other teams top players and will only get better.
Ann: How do the new players fit in, Tyutin, Backman and Commodore?
Hitch: Needed Commodore as a player and a personality. Feel Tyutin has great offensive upside, didn't play much on NYR PP, they used Straka at the left point. He will play more in Columbus. Backman plays the right point as a left shot, never had someone to play there. That is one reason he was traded for, we always had to set up on one the left side because we didn't have someone to play the right point.

Ann: Thoughts on Mayorov?
Hitch: He's getting better and more confident, plays a very low lever of hockey last year, lower than Tier II juniors. Has been in Columbus for 5 weeks, benefited greatly, really improved last 2-3 weeks.
Ann: He's a force, fending off defenseman and driving to the net.
Hitch: Has good speed, one step on the defender and he can get to the net. European ice caused him to play outside a lot, but he is learning the North American game.

Ann: Thoughts on fatigue in Traverse City?
Hitch: Lots of special teams play, some players end up playing 25 minutes and some play 7. Tough playing back to backs the first weekend back, barely 24 hours between games.

Ann: Can Leclaire pick up where he left off?
Hitch: Think so, no question he is one of the top goalies in the league. Has the ability to steal games, something we need.

Hitch: We are the unknown team in the West, we have 4 lines who have never played together. Need to work out chemistry. Much depth added, players who played on the 2nd line last year will be on the 4th line this year.

Ann: Was there a point last year where you thought you had a chance to make the playoffs?
Hitch: Yes, (after beating Ottawa, Feb 21, and Montreal, Feb 23) we were three points out but then we traded Fedorov and Foote. Didn't foresee trading Foote, didn't want to trade Foote. Felt the team started to play its best hockey after the trades but weren't deep enough to beat better teams.

Ann: Final thoughts, describe the team in one word.
Hitch: Tempo. We are 4 lines deep with 3 quality defensive pairs. Want to wear teams out and earn wins.


I was able to catch the 1st period over at a buddy's house last night (b/c unfortunately I'm still without power) and will post some of my thoughts a little later today and hope to get some of yours as well.

-LTL

1 comment:

Matt said...

I really like that Hitch realizes (and likes) the way a lot of Columbus fans are approaching the team.

I have a good feeling about this.