This the the fourth and final part of the chat I had with Davis…he talks about about “keeping on top” of things when he not behind the bench…challenges of being the new guy with the defending Stanley Cup Champions…assistant coaching responsibilities and working on the power-play coaching…what get’s him “juiced’ about coaching?
JF: More from the “hockey on the ice” standpoint, when you were not directly involved as a coach in the NHL the last year or so, how did you stay on top of things?
DP: Well, you get let go, it’s a blow to you and as a first time in the NHL and as quickly as it happened last year, I needed to take some time, which I did, but then felt it was important to get back in the buildings, get back watching hockey, get back in front of people and say “hey, I’m still here, this is me shaking the dust off and getting back up on the horse”. So I did some pro scouting, I did some work for St. Louis in pro scouting and then did some advance work for the playoffs. I also was doing some TSN work. I did the World Junior tournament up in Toronto. I also did some of their highlight shows, worked with Steve Kouleas, who is just a blast to work with. So I got on the other side of the camera and worked the media side and it was good, it was an interesting part, it was all learning, getting a picture of what everyone deals with and how the media has to get their job done and how all the behind the scenes work of a pro scout. What that truly left me with was a clear impression of where the game is and where the game is going, because I’d go to a game with zero emotional attachment and we know as coaches you don’t enter the game without that and you don’t leave the game without that, so it was very easy for me to tell why teams were having success and the clarity that that brought was, you know, you don’t want to go through that but it proved to be a positive experience for me.
JF: Any specific challenges that come to mind, knowing that you will now be coaching a defending championship team?
DP: I don’t think so. I’m obviously going to be a new voice. It’s going to be an opportunity for me to get to know these guys whenever we get going. It’s going to have to happen quickly. I think there is a proving stage there between them, and myself as a tight knit group, the same group that accomplished the ultimate goal. So I’m going to have to be on my game and that’s exciting. They’re going to, kind of, be impressing me with their abilities and what they are capable of doing. I have met a few of them, enough of them to know that this is a great group that wants to get better and I think ultimately just an understanding that last year was last year and we’ve got a better team in this room and to keep marching towards that “better team”, I think is something that this group wants to fulfill and that is really exciting to get going with this group. As the new guy, I just wish we’d drop a puck or two.
JF: Taking over as an assistant coach, sometimes that entails specific duties and roles, the power-play will probably be one of those duties. Can you take us through the process of where you are going to get started with a new group and the things you feel you have to get from the players and the things you have to offer, when you are starting that process of joining a new team and then specifically, working with the power-play?
DP: I think there’s always a start of getting the guys to a foundation point and so when we get started we are going to anticipate things will go very quickly and we will not have a great deal of time to implement the finer complications that eventually will happen but it will be important for us to establish a baseline of movement, motion and pressure and how we accomplish that and how we accomplish that “in sync” is something that has to be done through a lot of repetition and I think there is going to be a point where I am going to have to ask them for some trust and I’m going to have to demonstrate why I am asking for that trust and as we see some of that unfolding within the play, I think you’ll see the abilities these guys have and really kind of take off and blossom and their skills will come from that foundation that we establish, of how we want to attack, how consistently we want to attack and in what areas and I think that is crucial, especially with what will be a very short training camp, it’s build a quick foundation and lets get going and there will be a lot of correction, trial and error, but I’m going to give these guys some rope and some trust to be the players that they are supposed to be and yet at the same time, always bring them back to that foundation because it’s what you’re going to rely on, it’s what you will go to, it’s what happens when a power-play gets called late in a game, in game six of a playoff series and that could be the one that determines it. It’s kind of your go-to play, you know, Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers, everybody knew he was going to be running right or running left, you just had to stop it, so that becomes a mentality of a power-play. It’s a great place to start.
JF: And finally, to just kind of fundamentally put it down, there are a lot of things that surround coaching, but what gets you “juiced” about coaching?
DP: The day-to-day progress. It’s having a chance to direct a player, a group of players or a team towards a common goal. That goal is getting better, whether individually, or that’s getting better as a unit, defense pair, forward line, power-play unit, whatever that is and then ultimately as a team understanding what that ultimate buy-in feels like and what it can accomplish and when you know there’s work involved and that’s great, but when you are able to just grind out progress, day-by-day, that’s the reward, that’s the reward when you see guys achieve their goals and just help them get there in some small way and then they are able to achieve team success and then you just get a chance to step back and enjoy their enjoyment. That to me is the special part of coaching!