Paul Holmgren's end-of-season exit interview [Transcript]

Paul Holmgren talked with reporters at length on Tuesday in Voorhees. He touched on a million topics. We won't get into all of it, but we've provided the transcript after the jump for you to do just that. Thanks to the Flyers PR staff for transcribing the entire talk.

Q: Can you give us the injury and surgery rundown for the summer?

"Right now we have five guys that need surgery.  Kris Versteeg needs a stomach muscle wall repaired, Michael Leighton's hip, Mike Richards's wrist, Blair Betts's finger, and Andrej Meszaros's wrist.  The guys that need to be evaluated for surgery, Hartnell and Carter, will both be evaluated for hip issues, and we'll probably know more on Friday where we need to go with that.  The last one is Chris Pronger.  We're still not sure where we're at with him, what's needed, what the root of the problem is.  It's probably safe to say it's a lower back, lower body issue.  He's had some diminished leg strength and will see a couple of doctors today who will try to get to the bottom of it.  I'll let you know as soon as I have an answer."

Q: Do you worry at all that he [Chris Pronger] won't be able to play at all next year?

"No I don't.  I think we'll get to the bottom of this eventually.  None of the information that I have so far gives me a cause for concern into next year."

Q: Do you know when Mike [Richards] was injured?  How much of an effect do you think it had on his performance?

"I think Mike's dealt with this little wrist injury really since training camp.  It hasn't kept him out of the lineup, but it has inhibited his play, certain aspects of his play.  I think it's affected his performance in the faceoff circle.  I think it's affected his shot to some degree."

Q: Can you identify what the problem is?

"He's got a ligament that is torn."

Q: Is it the right wrist?

"I'd be lying if I told you I knew for sure."

Q: Was it the result of an injury in camp? Did somebody slash him or something?

"I don't know, Tim.  It's one of those things that has been going on for... I don't know.  It's just one of those things, over time it's eroded.  I think we knew at some point late in the year that he needed surgery, and we waited until the end of the season to get it taken care of."

Q: Was there a thought during the year to have surgery?

"No thought.  I think the theory was, or the medical opinion was that he could continue to play through it without damaging it any further, and take care of it at the end of the season."

Q: Are you concerned with all of those injuries?  That seems like a lot.

"We seem to have a laundry list like this every year.  I think every team goes through it.  I asked Jim McCrossin the other day if we had a longer hip issue list than any other team, and he claimed no.  I don't have access to other team's injury lists, but I know there are a lot of guys in the league that have hip issues that need to be taken care of at some point."

Q: One of the guys that surprised me on that list was Versteeg.  How much did that injury affect his play, and since he came here in February, did you get out of him what you thought you would?

"I think Kris played very well.  Coming in to a team that had established players at certain positions, I think I was very happy with his play.  This is another thing, where over the course of his time here it got to the point where he's at now, but at no point was he in danger.  We felt all along, from about mid-March, that he would need to have something done at some point, but it wasn't a situation that inhibited his play at all."

Q: When you say abdominal frame, is that like a sports hernia?

"Yeah. It's sort of along those lines."

Q: How much do you think the injury affected Richards, in terms of disposition, demeanor, just overall approach to the game?  It seemed like he just didn't have that same aggressive approach that he had last year. 

"I think anytime you have a player dealing with an injury, that affects his play to some degree.  Mike's a competitive kid.  He wants to play in all situations.  He wants to play a certain style he's used to playing, and I'm sure the injury affected him."

Q: I'm sure you are aware people are talking about him and his captaincy, and people are also wondering why you guys didn't seem right at the start of the second round.

"First of all, I don't think that has anything to do with Mike Richards' injury.  I think Mike Richards is a good captain for our team.  I think he's a tremendous player in our league, and trust me, there are 29 other teams that would love to have Mike Richards. More to your question about being ready to play in the second round, I think I made a reference to it the other day after the last game in Boston.  The Boston Bruins were a very good team and very deserving of continuing to play.  They were, for whatever reason, they had the weight of the world lifted off their shoulders when they won a seven game series against Montreal.  I don't know what we were.  We beat Buffalo in seven games, and I didn't think we played well enough to win it earlier than that.  We got shut out in two games, had to work through goalie issues, and come back in a couple other games.  In my meeting yesterday the players all alluded to the same thing.  We weren't ready to play that one game, and then the Bruins came in and gave it to us pretty good."

Q: Do you think, maybe not an excuse but an explanation, everybody was a little mentally exhausted by the goaltending?

"That was a fair comment before I heard the goaltending part.  I don't think that's an excuse.  I said this after the last game too; goaltending is a part of your team.  I don't think you can point to the Boston series and say we got beat because our goaltending was bad.  I think we were bad in a lot of areas, and Boston was very good in all areas.  That's just the way it is."

Q: I guess my point though is that most people thought you should have won the first round in five, but because of the goaltending...

"Ryan Miller shut us out 1-0 in two of the games, too.  I think we could have conceivably won that series in six games, maybe five if we'd scored in some of those games, but we didn't.  You can look back now, but I refuse to use goaltending as an excuse."

Q: Do you think Laviolette and Mike Richards need to have a better relationship, or are you happy with it?

"I think you guys make it or somebody makes it.  I don't know where this [stuff] is coming from.  I don't know where it's coming from.  You guys all know Mike.  He's a quiet kid; he's a reserved kid.  I think we all in our own way, I don't want to say have communication issues, but he's a hard guy to talk to sometimes for anyone, probably even his closest friends.  He's just a quiet guy, but there is no issue in terms of Mike's relationship with Peter, or Mike's relationship with any of his teammates.  That's all a bunch of crap.  I don't know why it keeps coming up, but it's ridiculous."

Q: Did Peter not allude to it yesterday?

"I don't know.  To me? He didn't to me."

Q: It seems to me he did allude to it yesterday.  He indicated it's an on-going thing, it's not fully developed.

"If you asked him about his relationship with any of the other players, I think he would say the same thing."

Q: He said Kris Versteeg was another one he didn't know.  Versteeg's been here a little bit.

"I think you can say the same thing about Blair Betts if you want.  That's the way it is, working with a group of 22 or 23 players.  It's ongoing.  Some days you come in and it's good because the team won a game and maybe you're playing good.  Then there's days when it's not so good.  That's the nature of our sport, the nature of the business."

Q: This may not be directly directed towards Mike, but does the mental makeup of this team concern you at all, with the fact that they almost needed to wait until their backs were up against the wall in order to play well?

"That doesn't concern me. I think it's a maturation process.  It doesn't concern me at all."

Q: When you look at the Boston series, and leading up to that, do you look at this team when you re-evaluate as if they need a major overhaul or do you say we had a lot of injuries, one who is the captain and Pronger who wasn't able to play much, and we did have a championship caliber team? How do you re-evaluate things?

"I think we are a good team.  I think we played another good team that outplayed us in a lot of areas.  Do we need major changes?  I would say no, but over the course of the summertime, the salary cap has an effect on all teams, and we will see how this plays out.  I can't sit here and tell you that we will have the same team next year, whether I like it or not.  Change comes with the salary cap.  That is just the way it is.  We have had to deal with it every year, since the work stoppage year, so that's probably not going to change, but I still like our team.  We got beat by a better team in a seven-game series in four games.  That is how I view it.  There are lots of reasons that we would love to have Chris Pronger playing.  Would it have made a difference? Absolutely it would have made a difference, would we have beaten them the way they were playing? There were other areas that needed to be better, but we scored seven goals all series. 

Q: Do you have a number one priority looking forward? Is it getting a guy that can score more?  Is it getting a top notch goaltender?

"I haven't gone through that laundry list of what we need to do.  There is plenty of time.  I spent yesterday meeting with the players, and a little on the weekend meeting with the coaches about certain things.  We will continue to process this over the next couple of weeks here.  There's nothing we can do right now, but reflect and look at things, and come up with a game plan. 

Q: Do you think that Bobrovsky can be a number one goalie next year?

"I like Sergei a lot.  I think he is a good kid, and a tremendously young goaltender in our league.  How that plays out down the road, in terms of when he will be the number 1 goalie? Which I do believe he will, I don't know.  Could it be next year?  There was a time this year, so I think we just have to see how things play out over the summer, but I am very excited about Sergei as a goaltender, and being a part of our organization. 

Q: Peter said yesterday that he would like to have a goaltender that he didn't have to guess his way through.  To his credit, he did a lot of that in the playoffs trying to figure out which goaltender would work.  As a team, do you need to solidify that?  I am saying that because Bobrovsky next year will be only 22 or 23 years old.  Is that something as an organization that you need to address so there isn't that constant question? 

"Obviously, it is something that needs to be discussed.  As I said, I am extremely excited about Sergei and confident that he is a goaltender in the future.  I think Peter's response to you probably had Sergei in the equation too, so I think we are all extremely high on him.  They will continue to look.  We are always looking try to make ourselves better, at every position, so that is what we will continue to do.  The idea here is to win a Stanley Cup.  We fell short this year and last year.  We felt a little better about ourselves this year.  We got slapped around, and that was a little harder to take.  I think we have to take a look at some things and see where we are going.

Q: If you did decide to make a move for a marquee player, how tough would it be, cap wise, to free up enough space? Would it be difficult?

"I haven't looked that far into that.  Obviously we have commitments right now, and have a lot of our good players tied up, which I think is a good thing.  We will take a look at any number of things over the course of the next few weeks, and come up with a plan of attack."

Q: How many more realistic shots does Pronger have at playing at a high level?

"How many does Mark Recchi have? He is 42.  I don't know.  You are talking about an elite player that takes care of himself.  This is the first year in quite a long time that Chris has dealt with some injuries.  I don't know how you protect yourself from a broken hand or a broken foot.  This latest thing is a little bit different, but he has never had an issue in his career with his back, prior to this.  Does that mean it is going to reoccur? I don't know.  It could I guess, but it could just as easily be a one time thing from the information that I get from our doctors.  I think Chris can play the game for a long time at a high level.  I think he is a special player, and I think that there are other special players in the league doing the same thing because they take care of themselves and are exceptional athletes."

Q: Has he given you any indication as to when this latest injury occurred?

"I don't know if was Game 6 against Buffalo, the game where he didn't play much or in Game 7, he obviously played more in that game, but I know he was struggling in Game 7 at the end.  The first game in the Boston series it was noticeable, to me, that he was struggling with it.  The rest of that series he struggled and had a hard time walking around."

Q: Do you think it is better to have Bobrovsky as your go-to goalie as soon as next season, or do you think it is feasible to have him work behind a veteran that would be considered as a consistent starting goalie?

"That is a good question.  I don't have an answer for that.  I think if you ask Sergei, he would want to play everyday.  He wants the ball and he wants to play.  He works hard and is a good kid.  His work ethic is unbelievable in practice with the way he never gives up on things.  I don't want to say he is a work in progress because he is a young kid that came into the league and won 28 games, but that is obviously one of the things that we will be discussing over the course of the summer."

Q: With that in mind, were you surprised that Peter went away from him so quickly in the playoffs?

"Well, I think Peter relies heavily on Jeff Reese in situations like that.  I think at that point Sergei was frustrated, and they made a decision at the time to go away from him.  Those are the guys in the room and I trust their judgment.  I think it was the best that he worked his way back into things and seemed to settle down.  I thought he played good in the end, when he played."

Q: Do you look at this thing and say we have a limited window here to win with our older players before it closes? You talk about Bobrovsky and waiting for him to develop into a number one.  Do you feel you have to win this before he has to come first?

"I don't look at it that way with the time of the window.  What does that mean?  We still have a core group of young players that have a lot of years left.  The older guys that you are talking about are Chris Pronger, and probably Kimmo.  I think they are both elite players at their position, and they both take care of themselves.  I know they both still want to play a lot of minutes.  They both are under contract for a few more years, so I don't see that as an issue, and then having said that, you have emerging young players, like Giroux and van Riemsdyk that look like they are going to demand more and more ice time.  I think that is better for the team moving forward.  I don't know what the window is, to be honest with you.  We are going to try to put a team together heading into training camp next year that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup, just like we did last year.  The league is a tough league and it is going to continue to get tough because of the salary cap, but we will be in the fight."

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