Thursday, February 19, 2015

Desjardins talks Flyers HOF induction and more

One thing I’m curious about, in your day you were literally in the correct position on every play.

“I’m sure you can find videos that I was in a bad position.”

What do you see as the difference today in the defensemen in the league compared to the way you played?

“The game is a lot faster. There is no doubt about it. When I played, it was that you had to make sure you were the first on the puck and make sure that you were the first one to retrieve the puck. Now, guys are coming so fast that I think the positioning is even more important. I think at times you can let the guy go first and then you look for the puck because they come at great speed and they’re big like [Primeau] and [Lindros] were and they had unbelievable speed so it’s a little bit different now to play in that position.

You said when you retired you were going to retire as a Flyer, can you talk about what it meant to you to put on a uniform and play here?

“I played for the Flyers for 11 years and I experienced so many great things here. There were so many good years. We had a chance to go in the playoffs every year. I had my kids here, so I think for me I wanted to keep playing, but in the league as a Flyer. I didn’t want to go anywhere else.”

What was your happiest moment as a Flyer and what was your unhappiest moment?

“It was probably when we went to the Finals, that was a great moment. It was a fun run that we had. The saddest moment was maybe when I retired.”

What are your memories of opening this building with the world cup of hockey with Team Canada?

“I knew I was going to play in this building on the right side. But when I played with team Canada it was different playing against the Americans in this building. It was good, we were all looking forward to moving into the building and we were wondering how it was going to be compared to the Spectrum. I think they did a really good job of the way they built it. We feel that the crowd is still really into it and close to the ice. It’s not the Spectrum, but we had some really loud nights here in the playoffs and the regular season that I played.”

You grew up in Montreal when they had those great teams, who was your idol on those teams and did you ever play forward or was it always defense?

“Always defense. I never really had an idol growing up, it was more when I got close to the NHL I started to look at players that I could compare myself to. Ray Bourque was a French Canadian so he was one guy that I really looked up to and I had a chance to play with him in the Olympics and the All-Star game so that was really nice.”

When you first came over here, how much of a help was it to come over here with John [LeClair] and Kevin Haller?

“It’s always tough to get traded. It makes it easier when you come with a guy that you know and guys that you have played with there’s no doubt about it. It was a big shock to come down here but it didn’t take long for us to feel at home.”

Do you feel like your game developed when you were here? 

“At the age I got here, my game could only get better as a defenseman. I was 25 when I got here and you get experience you start to get confidence too, you get stronger as an athlete physically. So I think it’s just as a defenseman it always takes longer to mature. When I got here, I got all the chances I could hope for with the coaches that I got and the management, they gave me every chance to succeed.”

Given the length of time you were here and the number of coaches, you always pick up something from coaches. Tell us what you picked up from Terry Murray, Hitch [Ken Hitchcock], Rogers [Roger Neilson]?

“You going to have me tell you my speech right now. I think all those coaches were well organized and really well structured and I think that for a defenseman that’s really important to have something like that. To have a plan and to know where you’re going. When I got here Terry really gave me confidence to step up and be a better player. Roger his nickname was Captain Video, so we learned a lot about the game watching tapes and things like that. Hitch, he can be tough at times but he pushed guys to be better.”

We’re seeing [Jakub] Voracek now, lift his game partially through his dedication to fitness. For guys in the early nineties, it wasn’t that big of a deal. But for players like Recchi [Mark Recchi] Brind’Amour [Rod Brind’Amour] and yourself stayed in pretty good shape, how much did that contribute to your success?

“I think if you want to have consistency in this league, you need to have a good work ethic and training in the summer. I think to come here especially now, everyone is in good shape and as soon as the training camp starts within two to three days after there’s a game.  So you have to come ready and if you want to play for a long time you need to keep yourself in good shape. When you hit 30 or 32 years old it goes down really fast after that, so if you’re not in good shape before that then it makes it tough to stay as competitive as you want to be.”

Did Brind’Amour rub off on you that way because he was really the first athlete out here like that?

“As soon as I got traded here, it was a big shock for me because when I left Montreal there were only two bikes in the training room with one bench press. When I got traded here, there were two floors of equipment for workouts.  That was a big shock for me. You could see that they had been used and it was not just on display. I think the whole team was really focused on being in good shape and when you see guys that have been here for a long time, Roddy was definitely a really good experience, we all knew how good of shape he was in.”

You won a Cup early in your career in Montreal and had some close calls with the Flyers. Does it still eat at you at all that one of the teams that you thought you should have won or where you thought you were the best team sometimes you may not appreciate the Cup as much when you win it young, because you think it’s going to come back and you’re going to get a bunch of them?

“The first shot I had at it was my first year in Montreal. We made it to the final and we were leading the series 2-1, and I thought we were going to win.  My first year winning the Cup, I thought it was easy. It took me six or seven years after that to make it to the Final. After that I never really had a chance. When you win it and you’re young you enjoy it, but when you have a chance to win it when you’re older I think you probably appreciate it a lot more.”

What was the best Flyer team that you played on?

“I’m bad with years, but the year that we made it to the finals. And the last time that we played Jersey in the semifinals, in 2000.  I thought that team wise we were really tough to beat. Big E had been hurt most of the year, but I think team wise we were really strong. “
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