It’s confirmed: there will be a camera at the Islanders Draft Party to beam a reaction shot on the TSN/VERSUS broadcast.
Folks, the John Tavares Twitter page is a fake. The real kid wouldn’t have 700 fewer Followers than Point Blank. Please stop.
On this potentially historic day, who better to speak with than the man many regard as the greatest coach in the history of professional sports?
One of my last great memories of the old job was inviting Scotty Bowman to the Al Arbour game and being his tour guide for the weekend. Scott was good enough to take a few minutes out of his Blackhawks meetings and share his insights.
Matt Duchene is being compared with Steve Yzerman and Bryan Trottier. Victor Hedman with Nicklas Lidstrom. John Tavares with many of the league’s great goal scorers. As someone who has coached so many of the greats of the game, or coached countless times against them, what do you think of these comparisons?
To a certain extent, the comparisons are very silly. You rarely know what you are going to get with 18-year old draft picks, even the top prospects. If you look at the top 3, the only thing that seems pretty certain is that John Tavares is going to be a big goal scorer – maybe even lead the league. The rest of the draft has plenty of talented kids, but it all comes down to maturity, development and coaching.
You cringe a little for these young men when you hear them called “the next Stevie Yzerman” or “the next Trottier” or the next Lidstrom. But in the end, it’s not really a big deal. I think it doesn’t help the player for the first half of his rookie year, and then it goes away. Look what Steven Stamkos went through last year. But if you look at his play in the second half, you know he’s going to be a terrific player in our league for a long time.
You’re known for your passion for defense. Did your philosophy on D effect how you view the draft?
In most cases, you just want to take the best player available. There are some exceptions for teams further along in their rebuilding, but you want the best player. The only thing I’d say about the draft is that, if your scouts are divided right down the middle on two players – if they feel they are completely equal – then I would choose the defenseman.
Why is that?
Hockey is a complicated game in some areas, but sometimes it’s simple. You play 12 forwards and only 6 defensemen. In the playoffs, in big spots a coach may go down to 9 and 4. The best forwards play around 20 minutes. The best defensemen will play 30 minutes when you need them. It kind of goes without saying that, man to man, a great defenseman is more valuable.
Is this how you feel about the John Tavares-Victor Hedman debate?
I’ve seen both players, but it’s really up to how the Islanders view them. If they rate them equally, then the defenseman is probably the way to go. But I don’t know how the Islanders rank them. They’re both excellent prospects, so the Islanders are in an excellent position.
I know most of the games you scouted of Tavares and Hedman were at the World Junior Championships. What did you think of Hedman?
He is where he is in this draft because of his size, skating ability and offense. To me, he looks like a defenseman who is really going to want to join the play as he gets NHL experience. His experience in the Swedish League should help him in the NHL next year, although playing our long season could take its toll.
From what our people tell me, Hedman was injured and only played to about 80% of his capacity at the World Juniors. He did not have the greatest tournament, but you could see that he has the ability to be a special player.
What about Tavares?
A nose for the net. Star qualities. Looks like he can carry a team with his offensive ability. To anyone who doesn’t scout juniors regularly, Tavares had a breakthrough tournament. The kid knew everyone was watching and he delivered. He was the best player. Just a tremendously gifted young man. I don’t think there’s any doubt he’ll be a great goal scorer at the NHL level.
Have you seen enough of Matt Duchene to understand why most scouts have him in the top 3?
That’s a tough call. I saw a few of his games with Brampton, and you could tell he is a talented and very, very smart player. The downside is he was playing behind Cody Hodgson, but that was a good experience for him too because I’m sure he learned a lot. If he goes back to Brampton next season instead of the NHL, it will be his team. Duchene is a tough call compared to Tavares and Hedman. He’s going to be very good, but he we know what his ultimate upside is going to be? This is why you have to put your faith in your scouts.