What do you feel you accomplished?
I don’t know. I don’t know if you ever look and say you’ve accomplished everything because you always have a lot of visions. But I think we accomplished part of what we wanted to. We’ve got work to do. We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and the next two or three years, and we know it. There’s nothing wrong with that. Essentially the work never ends because even when you build a top team or you get near the top, you still want to stay there and you want to win. So it’s go-go-go. But I like the moves that we made. I think we’re in a good spot. I think we left our team in a spot where we can continue to battle for the playoffs. We could have depleted the troops here, and we didn’t choose to do that. We want to give them a fair shot. In saying that, I told you guys before we weren’t going to trade picks or young players to try to get into the playoffs, but also we’re not going to trade away pieces that take us right out of there. So we’re happy with where we’re at right now.
Was that a tough balancing act knowing what the market was like?
We had no intention of packing it in. If something made sense for today and the future, we’re going to look at it. But we’re not just going to throw away today for a small piece or a secondary piece. We were kind of focused on wanted to do, and we did some of those things.
Did you come close to anything else?
I don’t know, because you look at the other side. I don’t think so. I think this is pretty much the two that were hot, and they both happened. There were a couple smaller things we could have done, but we didn’t want to do it.
Did you come close to moving any other defensemen?
I don’t want to get into specifics, but there were calls on both forward and D. everybody looks at the teams that are out of the playoffs right now and they’re kind of trying to figure out what they’re doing. So you get a lot of feel-out calls about what are you looking to do, are you looking to trade a forward or a D, and you get calls right at the end to see if you’ll move a piece. But there’s nothing that made sense.
What about Vinny?
I don’t want to get into specifics on who was called about… I don’t think it’s fair. These guys have families and houses and lives. I don’t want to go there.
At what point would this core group not represent being young players anymore? Is there a window?
It depends. You’re always going to have what you call older guys on your team, particularly when you get to be a top team. Sometimes your younger guys, as your older guys get older, your younger guys come up and take a little bigger piece of the pie so those older guys don’t have to be quite as productive. It’s kind of a balancing act. Guys are going to age. That’s reality. But I think if you look at a lot of our group, they’re younger guys with at least upside or they’re going to be able to sustain where they’re at right now for the distant future here. We don’t have any older players that you feel like we’ve got to move on from here because they’re going to hurt us. There’s contracts that are going to expire in the next couple of years, and that’s kind of the process you continually go through.
What was attractive about Gudas?
He’s very highly competitive, and I felt like the one thing we wanted to do was get a little bit more competitive. When I say competitive… we’ve got a lot of competitive guys, but there’s guys that compete quietly and guys that compete loudly. I would say Radko competes loudly. I think everybody knows it. He brings energy to a game, he brings enthusiasm, and he brings a win-at-all-costs type of attitude.
If you go deep in the playoffs, could he play this year?
I don’t believe so. Someone said he made a comment like that, but I believe the timeline is six months. It was early January when he had the surgery… I think it was January 7 but don’t hold me to it. I think that would be a real stretch. We’re not going to put him at risk. If you do the timeline, I don’t believe it. We’ve been through the reports with all the doctors and everything, but I didn’t get specific with OK, is he going to be ready second round, third… I don’t have the answer to that, but I know it’s six months and we’re about two months, so I don’t believe so.
Did you want to get more picks because this draft is supposed to be so deep?
We did. I think most teams recognize that this year’s a high-end draft, but it’s also deep. We didn’t have a second, I don’t think last summer we had a third… we wanted to fill the holes in, and that’s what we did.
On the core group
I think the biggest mistake a manager can make is being too impatient with young kids. It takes time, and it takes some of them a little bit longer than others. I think history shows that certain teams, you get a little anxious for a player to become really, really dominant and all of a sudden you trade him and he becomes the player you thought he could be. So you’ve got to be really careful with young kids. Prime, what is it, 25 or 26 maybe to start… so if you look at some young players who have been around three or four years and you start thinking we need more, we need more… yeah, you want more, but you’ve got to be really careful there. You could be giving something up with [someone] you think might not get there, and you forget how young he is.
Do you go by age more than experience when making that decision?
It’s always been a combination for me. You get some kids coming out of junior at 18, 19 or 20, and you get four years [in], and all of a sudden you’re like why isn’t so and so doing better, and you think geez, he just turned 21 or 22 years old. This same kid could just coming out of college or a one-year pro. You’ve got to be careful. When a college kid comes out at 21 or 22, it takes time to become a pro, to understand playing 82 games and the commitment it takes… the workload in the summertime to get yourself ready… there’s a lot of little things you’ve got to learn. We’ve got our development staff now … they jump on these guys at 18 years old. We draft them, they see them after the draft, they see them at development camp, they go out and see them the following year at junior or college or whatever, trying to expedite the process of being a pro. It takes time. When you think about us all when we were 18, 19 years old… we look at these kids, they’re 22 years old. You think why isn’t so-and-so better… well where were we at that point? They’re young kids.
On difference between youth based on when they came out and where they came from
No. you’ve got to balance the age. You could get a 20-year-old kid coming out of junior vs. a 24 or a 23-year-old kid coming out of college. It’s a big difference. But the one thing you do, you sit and look at your kids in the minors, he’s two year pro, he’s 22 years old, and then you get this college kid come in here at 23 or 24 and you’re really happy with him… he’s two years older than the other kid. You’ve got to be really careful, and like I said, you’ve got to be patient.