Tortorella on his enthusiasm for the upcoming season: “We have gone along slowly building our club not only with quality personnel, but also with a specific mind-set. After three full seasons, I can say that the players are more comfortable with what we- the coaches- want to do and the coaches understand the players.”
On last year’s team stepping up and succeeding (for the most part) even through injuries: “We surmounted all those problems and found a way to hang in there and win. Players who were moved away from their normal positions still managed to get the job done and I was proud of them.”
On Brad Richards’ impact both on the ice and in the locker room: “Richie not only is a skilled center, but now we have a veteran- a Cup-winnin- to mentor some of our kids. Brad is a winner.”
On Richards and Marion Gaborik: “We’re hoping that (chemistry) will happen but you never know. The thing is that the two of them will get the opportunity to show what they can do as a unit right away. It’s no secret that we were missing that Number One center; someone who can help Gabby.
“Not only that but Richie is one of the best power-play point men who understands all facets of the game. He respects the game- including its history- and will bring that intangible to our dressing room in a nice quiet way.”
On improving the power-play: “I want us to be more consistent there. Over the past few seasons, we have improved over the previous year in several areas. From the new season on, we want to continue improving.”
On playing through several big distractions this season: “Let’s not kid ourselves; we’ll be bouncing around Europe in the pre-season and opening regular season games before we return to The Garden. Then there’s the Winter Classic which will demand a lot of attention. With all those things going on, we’re going to have to keep our focus and improve each and every day.”
Well, it’s clear Richards is Tortorella’s golden boy, and rightfully so. When a player helps you win your only Stanley Cup, there’s sure to be some love there.
As for the optimism the coach is displaying, there’s plenty of reason to feel that way. This team has improved greatly without losing any major parts to the success they’ve had over the past several years. Adding a piece like Richards without giving up anything in the form of youth or draft picks is huge.
Lastly, I agree there are going to be plenty of distractions for this team right out of the gate. Playing two very talented teams in the Kings and Ducks in Europe, coming home for a long road-trip and not playing a game at home until nearly November will surely show what this team is made of early on. And, of course, the Winter Classic showcase with everything, including HBO’s 24-7 cameras following the tam around, will surely be an experience none of these players have experienced in their careers.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattCalamiaTHW