Former NHL player, coach discusses a variety of league topics
By Pat Payton
Sports reporter Pat Payton interviews Terry Crisp every summer when he and his wife Sheila come back to town to spend the summer months.
Crisp, on a short list of just 14 men who have played on a Stanley Cup winner (Philadelphia Flyers) and also coached one (Calgary Flames), has now spent two decades as Nashville Predators’ game colour analyst for Fox TV.
The former St. Marys Lincolns’ centre and league scoring champ recently discussed a variety of NHL topics with the Independent. This is Part 1 of that interview.
The Predators, what do they need to get them over the top?
Nashville Predators were Stanley Cup finalists two years ago, and finished first overall in the regular-season standings (117 points) this past season. The Preds reached the second round of playoffs before being eliminated in seven games by Winnipeg Jets.
In the team’s’ early years, Crisp said Predators signed young, fast players who “could fly up and down the ice.” However, they soon discovered they needed size and toughness as well, and added players like physical forward Austin Watson.
“Teams have been bulking up with big, strong players who are also fast. Winnipeg is a perfect example of that, and Las Vegas is another. They did their homework.
“Another team is Colorado. We played them in the first round this year. When you play these teams, they grind you . . . not only with the body, but with their speed.”
As a result, Crisp says Nashville needs toughness at both ends of the ice in order to compete with teams such as Winnipeg, Las Vegas and Colorado.
“We need a big, strong defenceman who you can’t wear down so nobody stands in front of our goalie. But he has to be quick because the game is certainly fast and quick.”
Crisp says the Preds also need forwards who can “establish territory” in front of the other team’s net and capitalize on loose pucks, rebounds and tip-ins.
The first-year success of the Las Vegas Golden Knights
The expansion Golden Knights won 51 games and earned 109 points in the 2017-18 regular season, and then knocked off Los Angeles, San Jose and Winnipeg before finally losing in five games to Washington in the Stanley Cup final.
Crisp says the Knights’ success was “no fluke”, and he credits head coach Gerard Gallant, GM George McPhee and his management and scouting staff for building a great team with cast-offs that other teams thought were expendable.
“But I was surprised that they got to the Cup final, I would have never bet money on that,” Crisp said. “In all their series, they fought hard and I expected that. They had pride.”
“James Neal dubbed them the ‘Golden Misfits.’ In their dressing room, they probably said ‘let’s show them that they made a mistake for letting us go.’”
The Knights were successful because they were a relentless “attacking” team, Crisp says.
“Gallant had them coming. Las Vegas and Winnipeg played very similar styles of hockey. Gallant turned them loose on you. They sent guys into the corners and to the front of the net, and defencemen joined in the rush. They were an all-out attack team, and they came back just as hard on defence. That’s what made them so dangerous.”
“I liked the way Gallant coaches them and his attitude towards his players. And they also have one of the best goaltenders in the league in Marc-Andre Fleury. He won three Stanley Cups and he was let go? He almost got them through.”
Crisp again tipped his hat to McPhee for the job he did constructing the Vegas team and to the Knights’ scouting staff, led by former Lincolns’ goalie Scott Luce. “They did their homework.”
Coach Trotz leaves Capitals and joins Islanders
Just mere days after guiding Washington to its first Stanley Cup, coach Barry Trotz left the Capitals and signed with the New York Islanders. Trotz was apparently unhappy that he didn’t get the pay raise he was seeking. Sportsnet reports that Trotz will make $4 million a season with the Islanders, twice the salary he was making in Washington.
“The biggest thing was that you never heard from either side that they were in negotiations,” Crisp points out. “Were they trying to get Barry signed to another year or two? It was never brought up. All through the Stanley Cup playoffs, it was never mentioned. If they weren’t talking, there was a good chance they weren’t going to talk.”
“It’s sort of a double-edged sword. Barry got to the top of the mountain, well-deserved and well-earned. Maybe he saw the writing on the wall and decided this was his time and his chance to test the market like the players do.”
“It was a pretty good leap of faith, and (Islanders’ GM) Lou Lamoriello sure grabbed the Stanley Cup winning coach pretty quickly.”
(Next week in Part 2, Terry Crisp talks about the John Tavares free-agent signing in Toronto, the pressure on the Maple Leafs and coach Mike Babcock to win right away, and some up-and-coming NHL playoff contenders).