The Thrashers did not have an on-ice workout Monday. In the team’s first day back after Saturday’s 8-2 loss to the Sabres, I spoke coach Craig Ramsay about the game and what’s next. Here is a complete transcript from the interview.
Q. Did the day off Sunday change your take on what happened on Saturday?
A. I think I have a little better perspective on it. It’s still very difficult to understand. To give up a goal in (24) seconds happens. It certainly isn’t right. It’s not a way to start a big game, but we got it back. Here we have a chance. After that, we took silly penalties. We didn’t compete at the top of our game which was really a shock. We have 10 games left to compete at the top of our game each and every night. That’s what we are trying to get through here today. To make sure they understand whatever has happened is gone. It’s over. Our job is to compete like a team, look like a team, act like a team for the last 10 games.
Q. Are you speaking to the team individually?
A. Yes sir.
Q. How to you not let such a loss fester? With the NHL schedule you normally have a day or two between games. After this particularly bad loss you have five days before you play the Islanders Thursday.
A. That can make it much more difficult. As a coach you want to perhaps go out and skate them until perhaps they fall down. Or show video that is truly embarrassing. What I’ve tried to do is give them a good hard off-ice workout so I wasn’t involved. We are having an individual meeting that is short. I want them to understand that their accountability is to themselves and to their teammates. Not just to me as a coach or the coaching staff. They have to hold themselves to a higher standard. That has to come from them. You can point them in the right direction but at the end of the day it has to be a standard, a very high standard, that’s within the dressing room.
Q. You were very candid after that loss with some pretty harsh words, were you trying to deliver a message or are you just speaking from the heart afterward? What do you hope is the impact of those words?
A. You have to be very careful after a game and you say things you don’t mean so I try not to. Certainly for me to go into Buffalo at this time of year with a score like that is pretty disheartening. But, it’s also something that you can build on. It’s something that you can use. It’s something that can be part of the growth of you as a person and you as a team. That you can take something that is a big negative and use it and understand it and grow with it. You can turn it into a positive.
Q. Do you get a sense that the players are angry?
A. I think they are embarrassed. In the short meetings we’ve had I think they understand what happened and understand that you can’t allow that to happen. But it’s vital for them to realize that it has to be eliminated inside the dressing room. It has to be eliminated by individuals. You can’t think that’s OK. We as a team must go out and attack and be the best team each and every night that we possibly can. That is only accomplished when you are the best player that you can be. Every player has an off night but you can’t have most of your players have an off night. That’s where you look for leadership in the dressing room. This guy is a leader, that guy is a leader, but we are the followers. On any given night it should be a different person stepping up to the plate. Some step up more often and have more ability but everybody can do it on a given night. Everybody who plays in the National Hockey League can be a leader, can be the best player on a given night. Then it’s up to the rest to tag along and go. When they scored the early go and we tied it, we should have said ‘OK, let’s go.’ We just allowed things to slip. We did things that we know better.
Q. It was 1-1 and you take that penalty which looked like a lack of compete penalty and it went down hill from there. The way you played the game and the way you look at the game how to you address that?
A. We are trying to address that particular issue today, my way, to reinforce to them that we didn’t lose because our X’s and O’s weren’t correct. We lost because we decided that it was OK. It’s not OK. We have to be stronger mentally. We have to be more committed mentally. And we have to be physically willing to put our bodies on the line. They had a couple of long-shot goals that went in because we didn’t block them. They weren’t overpowering shots. We weren’t willing to step in front of them and make that big block. We allowed some people to outwork us down around the net. These are the kinds of things that shouldn’t be acceptable here. It has to be not just unacceptable from my level but unacceptable in their room. That’s part of the growth that we are trying to accomplish here.
Q. Is that an issue with your captain and/or your alternates?
A. With everyone. Everyone is involved in leadership. Leadership has to come from everybody. It isn’t just from one single person. You don’t look at a game and say ‘This guy did this’ or ‘This guy cost us the game.’ Everybody was involved. Everybody has to take charge of it. It’s up to each player who plays to be the best player he can be.