Sunday, January 7, 2001
Updated: January 8, 1:31 PM ET
Lemieux: 'I think I made the right decision'
Mario Lemieux recently sat down with ESPN hockey analyst Darren Pang and discussed everything from the status of his comeback to the Matthew Barnaby situation to playing in next month's All-Star Game. Following is the second part of the interview:
Pang: Do you like your club?
Lemieux: I think we have a great team, one of the most talented in the league. We have the best player in the league (Jaromir Jagr) and I feel we have a good chance to compete for the Stanley Cup and that was one of my reasons for coming back. I feel that we're very close. We just have to get the right chemistry together and have everybody working towards one goal, which is to win the Stanley Cup.
Pang: Is there anything on this team that's missing, something you remember from the Stanley Cup years?
Lemieux: Obviously we have the talented players but you also need some role players Phil Bourque, Bob Errey, Troy Loney and all these guys that kill penalties and play good defense. And that's something we have to get through to these (current) guys. Not everybody has to score goals. That there are two lines to score goals, the third line is going to chip in once in a while and the fourth line is there to do their job: play well defensively and give the other three lines a rest. If we can get through to all the players to understand what their roles are, I think we can be very dangerous.
Pang: In the last couple of games you've had a couple of players that haven't even had a chance to go out on the ice. You're a guy that sees the importance of a Matthew Barnaby or (Aleksey) Morozov.
Lemieux: That's very important. If you're going to dress 20 guys, everybody should at least play a couple of times. It's good for chemistry, it's good for the morale of the team and I certainly understand that. You've got to keep those guys interested in the game. If you dress and don't play, that's not good for anybody.
We just had a little meeting (Tuesday) with Ivan (Hlinka), we had five players in there just to talk about using everybody, try to get the chemistry right on this team and I think it will work.
Pang: Have you seen a change in the way the game is played now compared to when you left?
Lemieux: I think so. I think there's been a big change. The game has opened up quite a bit, in the last two years especially, and I think it's much better game to play in and a much better game to watch.
Pang: Was the style of play in '97 the reason you left the game?
Lemieux: That was certainly a big part of my decision to leave the game, but more because of my health and because of my back I was tired physically and mentally. I like the way the game is going right now, and I like the direction it's heading in and that's why I came back and would like to be a part of it.
Pang: The All-Star Game is not far away. You've mentioned that playing in the All-Star Game is something you would welcome.
Lemieux: Absolutely. I would love to play in the All-Star Game. To be able to play in the All-Star Game is very special for the two or three days you're there. If I'm asked to go, I'd love to play in it.
Pang: Do you get nervous before a game?
Lemieux: I do get nervous inside. I'm sure I don't show it too much on the ice, but I get nervous the first couple of shifts and then I get into the game and after that I feel comfortable.
Pang: Has coming back been what you thought it would be like?
Lemieux: I've been having a lot of fun playing the games and practicing and being around the team every day. I think I've made the right decision.