Lou Lamoriello addressed the media to kick off training camp, discussing Joffrey Lupul’s status, the play of Nikita Zaitsev and Auston Matthews at the World Cup, Mitch Marner’s chances of making the big club, and more.
Is the World Cup of Hockey the fastest type of hockey that you’ve seen in all of your years?
Lou Lamoriello: It’s certainly very exciting. Certainly the young fellas. I think it’s great for the game. I think it’s an indication of where the game is at and the prospects that we have for future stars.
Can you address the Joffrey Lupul situation?
Lamoriello: As you know, Joffrey, in the middle of February, had surgery and missed the rest of the season and has been in rehab all summer. Once we had thought there was a chance of getting back on the ice, he did so. He got on the ice and he had the same discomfort. We brought him back and he saw our doctors and he went through the physical. We both felt that he wouldn’t be able to play. He’s very disappointed. He worked very hard at it this summer. I know a lot of you have tried to reach out to him because he and I have been in communication. Steve [Keogh] will have a statement from him later today of what he has to say about it. He’s disappointed. He’s going to continue to work at it. He wants to play. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Can you give us the timeline of when he had the physical and all of that?
Lamoriello: He had his physical this past week.
How about Freddie Andersen? I understand he’s still hurt. What’s his status?
Lamoriello: He’s progressing. We’re certainly not going to rush anything. Until he’s ready we are not going to have any comment. But he is progressing. He has had no setbacks, so hopefully we’ll be on the time frame that we originally thought.
Given all of Mitch Marner’s accomplished the last couple of years, is the next step the NHL, or in a perfect world would ideally a middle step like the AHL be a great place for him if he was able to do so?
Lamoriello: First of all, we hope the next step is there for him. He’s going to be given every opportunity. We all know the type of career that he’s had in junior. We all know what he has done. Speaking of the American league – that isn’t an alternative, so it’s not something to even think about. Right now, we’ll just focus in on the camp he has and the decision will be made from camp. He will be given every opportunity and he has as good a reason as anyone to be here.
You have a lot of players in the World Cup. Some of them might be eliminated today. Will those guys be in Halifax, or will they get a couple of days off?
Lamoriello: First of all, there is no set rule on when they can return. There is no mandatory time off. We will give them this weekend off, and having a game Monday, they certainly wouldn’t be playing in that. We’ll see them when we get back. They will have the weekend off.
Despite the results last year, there was a lot of optimism. What kind of advances are you expecting from this young team this season?
Lamoriello: There were a lot of advances last year, I think. First of all with the new coaching staff and trying to establish a culture both on and off the ice. More important, what was done on the ice as far as what is expected of the players, the systems that Mike has put in. There is a comfortability with it. We have maybe four new players going into that lineup, one being a goalie, so the transition shouldn’t be long. From that end of it, the foundation is there. Now, we will see where the improvement is for the young players who did get experience. We’ll take it a day at a time, but we won’t get off our focus as far as what the plan is, as far as progression.
Mike Babcock mentioned at the end of last year that competition for jobs at the start of training camp wasn’t the same as the end of the year. Is that something we can expect to see again?
Lamoriello: No question. I think it’s going to be a very competitive camp. We do have depth in just about every position at different levels. There is always an unexpected. You always hope the unexpected is in a positive light rather than a negative. We’re all looking forward to it, just simply to see where the unknown is.
No Mike Babcock for the first week or so. Is that a disadvantage for you?
Lamoriello: Naturally, you’d like to have him there because of the continuity. I don’t think we’ll miss a beat. Jim Hiller and DJ Smith know the system as well as anybody. It will be a different voice for a week, but not different language. I think things will run extremely smooth. Mike has been involved continuously. I don’t think anyone would doubt that he [would]. We’re very comfortable.
This is certainly the quietest opening to training camp I’ve been a part of. Has the World Cup sort of taken the spotlight and the heat? Do you think this is an advantage for your guys to start under the radar almost?
Lamoriello: I like it [laughs]. Last year we had the Blue Jays, now we have the World Cup. It’s all positive. I think the effort and what I’ve seen of the physical results so far of our players – they’ve all had outstanding summers as far as working at what we’ve asked them to work at. Now we’re all anxious to get them on the ice.
What’s your assessment of Nikita Zaitsev’s World Cup?
Lamoriello: I’ve been impressed. I’ve been impressed, certainly, with his skating. Probably most impressed with his poise and how he he’s handled playing against the top players on each team that he’s faced, and being put in key situations. We know what the coaching staff thinks of him. You find him first one out there in all situations – shorthanded, powerplay, five on five. We look forward to getting him in camp and really finding out more about him.
Have there been any discussions about maybe naming a team captain?
Lamoriello: I don’t think there’s any timetable for it. We could, we could not. Brendan and I will both certainly discuss that, but at this point we do not have a captain and have not decided on one, one way or the other. It’s not something that is at the forefront at this point.
Auston Matthews has had a lot of eyes on him at the World Cup. What’s been your impression of him?
Lamoriello: Seeing him going out there in all situations, and especially with the two players that he’s playing with as far as how they interact… there is no question he has a bright future. It’s just exciting to see him play. I think the most exciting thing is to know he’s ours.