Devils Coaching Connections & the Cup Final

This week, Ken Daneyko reacts to coaching news on two of his former teammates, controversy on an offsides call in the Stanley Cup Final and the Penguins’ 2-0 series lead over the Predators. Before we get into the Stanley Cup Final, let’s talk about some coaching news involving your former teammates. First, Scott Gomez was just named as an assistant coach for the Islanders earlier this week. How do you think he’ll do over there and did you think he’d be a good coach when he was playing?

Ken Daneyko: Well, I’m very happy for him and he’s one of my better friends as well as being a former teammate. Scotty is a character guy and he knows the offensive side of the game. He’s had a lot of experience playing the game and he’s only recently retired. Some of the Islander people, including Doug Weight, said that he can relate to some of the younger guys and I think there’s some validity to that.

Did I think this was the career path he wanted? I wasn’t sure and I’m in contact with him all the time. I know he did some media work, but at the end of the day, his passion was elsewhere.

I’ve talked to Scotty since he was hired and he’s very excited. He’s passionate about the game and he certainly had a great career. I definitely think he can help, just as long as it’s not against the Devils!

[Fischler: Gomez Begins Coaching Career With Isles] You also have other news involving another former teammate: Scott Stevens, who resigned as assistant coach of the Wild to be closer to his family. What was your take on it?

Ken Daneyko: Scotty is not an open book, but I do know that he’s a big family man. I thought he was happy in Minnesota and did a great job when I saw him during the season. He was responsible for the defense and the Wild’s defensemen played very well this season. Knowing Scotty the way I do, I know that family is everything to him. Let’s move on to things on the ice and the biggest talking point so far from the Stanley Cup Final – P.K. Subban’s overturned goal for offsides in Game 1 via a coach’s challenge. There was a lot of controversy around it and some say that it should have stood. What were your thoughts on the play and do you feel the NHL needs to address the rule?

Ken Daneyko: If I knew how to fix this, I’d be a genius! This is all very subjective. People get on the refs – including myself when I do the broadcasts – when they miss blatant calls. Even with the coach’s challenge, it’s so subjective when it’s that close. Fans of one team are going to say “it’s a terrible call” and fans of the other team are going to disagree. They’re emotional and they’re going to do that.

The reason why it’s so hard to officiate our game more than any other sport is that our sport is the fastest game in the world. Things happen so quickly and you’re going to miss things. The speed is too great to catch everything in real time, so you have to be willing to live with a margin of error. Some calls go for you and some go against you.

As far as the play goes, it’s as close as it gets. But that’s why they implemented this rule. That’s why the general managers wanted it. How do you fix it? They’ve got to discuss it if they’re not happy with the way it’s going. From my standpoint, maybe you do have to alter some elements of it. A skate up in the air shouldn’t matter as long as it’s not over the blue line. That might be a tweak they could make and make the rule more cut and dry.

The reality was – and this is just my opinion – Filip Forsberg’s skate was up in the air. It was ever so slightly, but it wasn’t on the ice. It’s frustrating, especially for the team that has the call go against you.

But the National Hockey League has some pretty smart people in the room when it comes to determining all this. The GMs and the NHLPA really go over this stuff with a fine tooth comb. They wanted to get this right because they felt there were too many offsides calls being missed before this new rule. But even when the officials look on the tablet, it’s so close and you’ll even get that wrong sometimes. Which leads us to the next question: should coach’s challenges for offsides and goalie interference be reviewed just like other goals from the NHL’s “Situation Room” in Toronto?

Ken Daneyko: I think the NHL doesn’t want to take everything out of the refs’ hands because they’re right there on the ice. They do get some feedback from Toronto if it’s that close. Ultimately, it’s up to the officials and I don’t know if there’s a perfect solution out there. Our sport gets scrutinized more because we are the fastest game in the world and that’s what we love about it. Getting into the series itself, the Predators have dominated the shot clock, but the Penguins have managed to win both games so far. How have they done it?

Ken Daneyko: The Penguins have been doing this throughout the playoffs. They’ve been outshot and out-chanced at times, but they don’t need too many quality chances to score. I’ve said this before, experience comes in handy in times like this. There’s a reason they’re champions and they’re led by two of the greatest players in the world in Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.

Obviously, other teams don’t have two players like this and certainly don’t have the winning pedigree Malkin and Crosby have. They can raise the level of the players around them. Being around guys who play like they play and practice the way do they do just has to make you a better player.

[According to Carp: How Does Crosby Compare to All-Time Greats?]

Some nights, you shake your head thinking how did the Penguins win that game. Nashville has done a lot of good things in this series, there’s no question about it. The Predators have worked hard, but they haven’t capitalized on their chances. They’ve shown some inexperience, whether it be taking an undisciplined penalty or getting caught in an outnumbered situation. They’ve gotten impatient because they have dominated, but they haven’t stayed the course.

It doesn’t help them that Matt Murray was remarkable in Game 2. Nashville should have probably been up 3-0 in the first period. He’s young, but he’s been that good. On the other side, it hasn’t been all on Pekka Rinne, but he has to be better and he knows it. He’s a great character guy and no one wants to be successful more than him.

[Boyle: Steady Play From Murray and Hot Shooting Have Pens in the Driver’s Seat]

Both games were won and lost in short spans: a four-minute span in Game 1 in the first period and a three-minute span in Game 2. That’s what makes the Penguins special and the talent level to be able to do that is remarkable. Along with Malkin and Crosby, the Penguins have gotten a huge contribution from Jake Guentzel, a guy that Devils general manager Ray Shero drafted in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft. He’s been an understated hero for Pittsburgh in the playoffs. Do you have memories of teammates who were like Guentzel, coming through in the clutch despite not being a recognized star?

Ken Daneyko: I talk about Crosby and Malkin a lot because Pittsburgh simply isn’t going to win without those two guys. But you don’t win championships without depth. They’re sitting out Carl Hagelin right now and he’s a pretty darn good hockey player. That shows the depth of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

You can’t win unless you have those playoff heroes whether they’re first-year guys like Guentzel. He didn’t even play a full season when he came up from the minors and was lighting the lamp with regularity. He’s shown that he’s a very skilled player.

A lot of these skilled young players have been drafted by Ray Shero and that should give Devils fans hope. This is a third-round pick and he’s a Conn Smythe candidate. No question that Ray has had a lot to do with rebuilding the depth and he was responsible for obtaining a lot of those difference makers. He’s got a keen eye and is building it the right way in Jersey.

[Daneyko: Why Penguins Success Bodes Well for Devils in the Future]

As for the guys in my era who were unlikely heroes, a guy like Randy McKay comes to mind. He was physical, tough as nails and would fight anybody, but he scored eight goals during the 1995 playoffs as a fourth liner. There were other guys like Sergei Brylin, Jimmy Dowd, youngsters at the time that came in and out of the lineup, but scored big goals. Mike Rupp in 2003 had a big Game 7 [in the Cup Final] and scored the game-winning goal. You also have to put Patrik Elias on that list, he came on the scene right around ’98-99 and he scored all those big goals, along with setting up Jason Arnott for the Cup-Winning Goal in 2000.

[Ocal: 14 Memorable Cup-Winning Calls]

You got to have those guys that become playoff heroes overnight and Guentzel has become that and then some.