Feb. 5, 2013
• Watch Eaves News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin men's hockey head coach Mike Eaves spoke Monday after the team skated to a tie and loss on the road against then-No. 7/8 North Dakota. Their WCHA unbeaten streak ended at 11 games (7-0-4), the Badgers return home to the Kohl Center for a series with Bemidji State, continuing their late-season push for playoff positioning and home ice.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above and a complete transcript of Eaves' remarks can be found below.
Question: Mike, could you provide a health status on Jake (McCabe) and Derek (Lee) going into this weekend. How would you classify their status for playing against Bemidji?
Eaves: At this point, it's still pretty sketchy. Jake will be getting another X-ray done today. Until we get that back, hard to say with him. Derek Lee is somewhat better. We're trying to decide if it's the neck muscles that are causing his lingering headaches or if it's the brain. He's able to go to school and do all his cognitive stuff, which would lend us to think it's just neck. We'll see with that. Hopefully, we'll get him on the bike today and see where he's at. That will be the next step for him.
Question: Mike, with how well your team has been playing and played on Friday night against North Dakota, was that a surprising outcome or game for your club on Saturday in your mind?
Eaves: It was -- I think our standards have been so high, yesterday was tough to watch that game. The video we're showing the kids today is called too much of this and too little of that and just a little bit of both. We were doing things poorly, and we had too little of the good things we needed to do. I found it interesting to find myself being so distraught yesterday watching video. I watched two periods. I went for a long walk and just had to get outside. It was a nice day outside. The fact is we've been a pretty good team for a long time on the road. The little blip on the radar is the fact we've been playing so well, we expect that from our kids. We're not going to get all bent out of shape. We have some things to do to adjust a lit bit, and we'll get back to work today and do those things. I think our expectations were blown, which is a good thing, and we just need to get back to work.
Question: Just kind of sticking with that same theme. When you see that your captain just didn't come to play, does that frustrate you? Does it anger you? Does it baffle you?
Eaves: I was surprised because we have been so good for so long on the road and really competed. Actually, looking at the film, we didn't give up a lot, again, in terms of scoring chances, but we were -- it wasn't like us not to block shots. The first goal was that thing, we didn't get in the shooting lane to block the shot. The second goal was a power-play goal that we gave up that went through three of our people at the back door, which I had to watch three times and maybe see it. Maybe it was just a great pass, and maybe it was a pass that was meant to be, but to go under (Frankie) Simonelli's skate, under (Joe) Faust's skate, and then by (Jefferson) Dahl's stick just kind of was unbelievable. It almost was a miracle pass. And the other side of the coin was the power play didn't connect for us. I think they're trying too hard. I think they're at the point where they're talking about it, we're talking about it as coaches, so it's at the forefront of their mind, and actually, the second group which had been very successful, we used them as an example to the other group, this is what you need to do, and they went right off the page of what they were doing. I think that group -- the whole power play people are pressing. We need to step back and relax and just play a little bit.
Question: You fell right into the very next question. With your power play, do you think you have all the right ingredients for a really good power play, and it's just a matter of still trying to find the right pieces, or have you determined there's just something not there that you're going to have to manufacture somehow?
Eaves: That would be answered based on who's healthy. If Mr. Lee is in there and Mr. McCabe's in there, then, yes, I think we have the right pieces.
Question: Did you get a sense from your players that they were upset with the way things transpired on Saturday?
Eaves: No question. I think Matty referred to talking to the guys and having that kind of result and effort was a shock to them. When you get used to playing a certain way and having success, that becomes the norm. Not to have that there, I think they were upset and disappointed, embarrassed to some degree. All those things work in the run, and now as human beings, we have that free will choice this week to figure out what we're going to do about it. Are we going to wallow in self-pity? Are we going to deny that happened? Or are we going to take advantage of the opportunity to learn the lessons that we had in that game and move forward and become a better team?
Question: You, Matt, and Gary all played on different National Championship teams here. I'm assuming you sat down and exchanged war stories about what those teams were like.
Eaves: To some degree, yes.
Question: What stories has Matt passed along? You're talking about the '83 team this weekend, and it was certainly a unique team, the last one to play three straight National Championship games. What things has he shared with you that maybe stuck out at you or maybe what history have you looked at that would lead you to believe that was a really unique team?
Eaves: It's interesting, first of all, you all talk about which team was better -- the '77, the '90, the '83 team. I think the answer in that question lies the last team to win it was probably the best because the game has evolved -- the pace, the strength, everything has evolved. But you still like to say that your team was the best. I really don't know too much about that team. Matty, we haven't gone into great detail about it. The fact that Chris Chelios was a part of that team, who was probably one of the best defensemen to play the game at the National Hockey League, and he was a leader of that group. He was a unique character. He could play hard, and he could play skilled, and any way you want to get it done. I'm hearing more as we go along, and I'm sure we'll hear a lot more stories this week.
Question: I know you said last week with regards to Matt that you're going to wait until after the season to sit down and talk about that whole circumstance with him as your interim assistant, but can you imagine -- could you have asked for a better scenario from him up to this point? Could you have gotten everything you could have hoped out of this particular circumstance?
Eaves: It's hard to measure it's the best case, but it's a really good case because, first of all, in the interview process and sitting down and talking with him, it became evident right away that here was a guy that understood how to play the position. There was no gap between what his verbiage and my verbiage was in terms of what you're trying to get young defensemen to do and how to do that. I think the thing that's been really a good match is his personality to the situation. He's not come in with any bravado or cockiness. He's kind of been under the radar and slowly built a rapport with these young men and built kind of a esprit de corps with them. This is part of the defensive corps. They're proud of what they do, and they take great pride in that, and part of that is because Matt has built that up. So it's been a perfect match for where he is in his career as a coach and as a personality coming into this situation.
Question: Wondering if you had a chance to talk to Ron Leshinski, who is your honorary captain on Saturday. Have you met him yet? Can you share some interesting tidbits about him.
Eaves: Ron and I have only talked on the phone. You can help me out. What years was he here? Thank you. We chatted two or three times on the phone, left messages most of the times, but sounds like an unbelievably nice gentleman and so honored to have this opportunity to represent that era. He's probably our oldest guy that's going to drop the puck. I look forward to meeting him in person and actually sitting down and having a cup of coffee and talking about those days. I've had that opportunity to meet those men, and I look forward to doing that.