As introductory press conferences go, Wednesday’s unveiling of Travis Green as the 19th head coach in the history of the Vancouver Canucks was unremarkable.
Along with the requisite photo opportunities with President of Hockey Operations Trevor Linden and General Manager Jim Benning, Green skillfully stickhandled his way through close to 40 minutes of questions laying out his plans to take the 29th place team he has inherited and make the Canucks competitive again. A hockey lifer with time spent in large media markets like Toronto and Boston, the 46-year-old Castlegar native looked comfortable in front of a throng of cameras as he discussed his journey from player to coach and how he plans to use his years of experience behind the bench in the Western Hockey League and American Hockey League to his advantage as he makes the leap to his first coaching job in the National Hockey League.
What follows are five quotes from Travis Green’s press conference at Rogers Arena that stood out for various reasons:
- When it was pointed out that he was inheriting a team that finished 29th in the overall NHL standings as well as 29th in both overall offence and power play efficiency, Green did not try to duck the issue or take the discussion in a different direction. He knows he has his work cut out for him particularly when it comes to generating more offence and producing on the power play.
“You’re talking about numbers that you can’t hide from. I know we have to create more offence. Our special teams have to get better. I think there is a way you can create offence nowadays with the way the game is played, but that’s definitely an area that we’re going to have to improve. We’re going to have to find a way to score more goals. Finding goal scorers is different than creating offence for me. We have some young guys coming up that I think can put the puck in the net, but we’re going to have to find a way to create more offence.”
- When Green was asked how he plans to continue the integration of youth into the line-up and if he had a philosophy for dealing with young players at the NHL level.
“We need to get younger. It’s no secret. We need to infuse some young players into the line-up. There is a long list of young guys that are going to try to make spots on the team. And that’s really what you want. You want young players to be on your team, but you want those young players to be the players they should be though at the end of the day when it time to win championships. And I think how you develop them and create those players is vital. And it’s not the same for every player. You can’t say Player A is treated the same as Player B with two young players. Some guys are ready for it, some guys need to go up and down. Some guys need to stay down. It’s not a question and it’s not a simple answer. It’s different for every player.”
- Green was asked if he had sought advice from other coaches or if he could learn anything from the struggles of Dallas Eakins and Scott Arniel who both made the jump from the AHL to the NHL with very little success.
“I’m a big believer in preparation and being prepared for an opportunity. I’m not going to come into this and not do my homework. I’m a big believer in communication. I’ll talk to people, probably reach out to coaches I know and find out things they would have done differently and things they thought they did that they probably would have changed. But I also have my own thoughts and ideas about how I want to do things, but I’m not too stubborn to know that I might have to make some changes. I know the NHL player well and I know that it’s different than the AHL. I understand that. I’ll be prepared and I am now.”
- Green spoke at length about his personal growth as a player from being a high second round pick (23rd overall in 1989) to adapting to various roles on different teams throughout his career. He felt strongly that working with different coaches over his career and being asked to make different contributions to the teams he played for helps him understand both star players and those who occupy roster spots lower on the depth chart.
“I can relate to how some of the young guys are thinking or feeling. And that’s how you build relationships. You try to relate to them. I look back at my playing days and there are things I’m proud of and things I’m wasn’t as a player. I think that’s helped me in developing players and getting to understand them. Also understanding when a player is ready and when he’s not. There are so many little nuances in the game that unless you are really there and studying and you understand what it takes to win and the little battles and body position and stuff like that, it takes some players longer to grasp that. You have to let learn on the fly some of them. You have to give them rope. You want them to swim, you don’t want them to sink. You want them to go through adversity as well. I think it’s good for young players to go through adversity. If you’re playing for a Stanley Cup there is going to be adversity. And you want your players battle-tested and you want them to understand how hard it can be. I think young players have usually had things pretty easy because they’re really good players. And the NHL is a tough league. It’s a good league. And I think I have a good understanding of the young players mind and how they have to play.”
- Green addressed the idea that he is at the same time tough on players and yet seen as a players coach. He knows it’s a delicate balancing act, but detailed how he approaches the coach-player relationship to maximize what he is able to get from those who suit up for him.
“I talk to players, I communicate with them, I’m honest with them. I’d like to think they always know where they stand with me. I don’t like a lot of gray areas. I don’t like players to wonder where they stand unless it’s on purpose. I think you have to have a relationship. Your players have to trust you and that you want the best out of them. Accountability is a big word. I want my players to be accountable in what they do, how they prepare, how they practice. I think if you build relationships and you communicate with players they appreciate it – especially today’s player. I don’t play a lot of mind games. They always know where they stand. At the end of the day, when I was a player, you always wanted to know where you stood. Good or bad you wanted to know if you needed to be pushed. Players need to be pushed. You have days – everyone does – when you’re lagging a little bit, but when the boss comes in they seem to perk up a little bit. It’s no different when you’re coaching. Some days you have to push your team and you have to find ways. It’s not the same every day and it’s not the same every game. Good coaches find ways to push their players past or to the potential they can play.”