Mike Knuble has never been one to shy away from giving his opinions and in a wide-ranging interview with CSNwashington.com, the candid 39-year-old veteran offers his thoughts on his three seasons with the Capitals, their search for a new coach and his feelings about Alex Ovechkin:
CSNWashington.com: Weve talked about this before, but when did you get the call from George McPhee that you would not be coming back and what was it like?
Mike Knuble: It was last week and it was not an unexpected phone call. I think when youre an older guy a GM levels with you a little bit more so everybody can move on with their lives. Theres no sense keeping someone in limbo. I thought with the timing, they were very fair. Its not like we lost and they told me I was gone. They gave me a couple weeks to relax and then broke it to me. The timing of it was perfect.
CSN: How did it make you feel?
Knuble: You dont get that call very often. I hung up the phone and I dont know what I felt. It wasnt unexpected. I was doing some projects around the house and happened to have my phone in my pocket. I had never gotten that call before. I think in my 16 years pro I might have been unemployed for a half a day total. Ive always been signed on the first day of free agency. Its sort of scary, sort of exciting, sort of uneasy. Its all rolled into one.
CSN: Youve said you would like to play. Is that still the case and are there a handful of teams youre interested in playing for?
Knuble: I definitely want to play. Ive been pretty adamant about that the last little bit. The biggest thing is how you feel physically and I feel great. Mentally, I can definitely go through another season. I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the focus of it. As for the team, I guess you kind of have to wait and see what happens. The money wont be significant, relatively speaking, nor will the term. So you can decide what will be best for you and your family going forward.
CSN: You have a home in East Grand Rapids. Would the Detroit Red Wings be a possibility?
Knuble: We are going back that way and we are going to live in Michigan, probably the rest of our lives, or at least until the kids go to school and are out of college. Detroit would be a neat story since I was drafted there. Ill make no secret about that. That would be a nice way to come back around. You dont have that luxury, but maybe a team has a hole and I can fill fit for a year until a prospect develops.
CSN: Can you describe your three seasons in Washington?
Knuble: I thought it was great. Leaving Philadelphia in 2009 I wanted to go someplace where the game mattered and the team had a good chance to win most nights. I thought we had that here. I felt two of my three years were extremely productive. I felt there were key moments this year where if I could get the puck to go in a few times in February it would have really helped my season and maybe spring-boarded me a little bit to a strong second half. But the players I played with here and the friends we made outside the game made it fun. My kids and my wife were very happy here. We loved it here. It was a great stop and Ill always think highly of Washington. I just hope I left a positive impression on my teammates and on the organization.
CSN: How important is that to you, to leave a positive impression?
Knuble: You realize when you get older and you have kids what that means. When youre a young guy you kind of stay in your little cocoon and your teammates are your only friends. But when youre older and your kids are involved more in your community you cant help but be out there, whether youre attending school events or watching a game, people are always talking to you and judging you. Weve all heard horror stories about what professional athletes are like and my job is to dispel a lot of rumors and what people may think of us to show them Im just a normal guy. A normal dad watching his kids play sports or a school event. The game gave us a chance to meet a ton of people and play in great cities Detroit, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington and well always be thankful for that.
CSN: Youre known for being a good role model. Is that something every professional athlete needs to be aware of?
Knuble: We all are. Even on your worst day theres always a kid who wants an autograph or that moment in time to shake your hand. You cant ever forget that. Even on your worst day you still want to make sure youre extremely nice to that kid because hell remember that. You hope they remember you in a good way.
CSN: In your opinion, how close do you think the Capitals are to winning a Stanley Cup and what needs to happen to get there?
Knuble: The way we played with Bruce Boudreau and the way we played with Dale Hunter were different styles and I wish theyd find some sort of hybrid. With the offensive guys we have, let them go. Maybe you play real aggressive and real offensive in the first half of the game and when you get a lead maybe switch to your defensive game. Id love for the Capitals to be an exciting team again and fun to watch. There are great players and I think it was one of those years for everybody where things changed.
CSN: Do you think Dale Hunters system stifled some of that offensive explosiveness?
Knuble: Im not going to criticize Dales coaching. He got us probably further than we would have thought when he came in. I just think we can get more offensive and I dont think Im going out on a limb saying that. I think we can play really aggressive and then keep them down with strong, defensive play that everybody knows how to play now.
CSN: You spent three seasons with Alex Ovechkin. What are your thoughts on the season he had and where hes headed?
Knuble: Its a strange year and hopefully in a couple years this was just a blip on the radar screen. Do I think his game has diminished? No. Do I think he might have to adapt to teams keying on him? Of course. Theres no doubting his skill. Youd love to see him get back to the amount of goals he used to score. He had 30-plus this year and the team had great success. If you combine him having a bigger season statistically and throw in some great team success youre going to have a tough time holding this team back. I think he learned a lot this season. Hopefully, its part of maturing and there are great things to come in the next couple years.
CSN: Do you think he can win a Stanley Cup in Washington?
Knuble: Yeah, I hope so. I think he can. I like Alex. I like him as a player; I like him as an individual person. Im a big Alex fan and I wish the best for him. He got knocked a lot this year not only locally but nationally and internationally. People were on him about things and every time he turned a corner somebody was talking about how bad things were. Hopefully, that lights a fire in his belly this summer and next season he shows everybody who was criticizing him this year that he is who he has been in the past. Theres no doubting he plays hard. Not one guy in our room doubts that he plays hard.
CSN: With your future uncertain, is this an anxious time for you, not knowing what lies ahead?
Knuble: A little bit. In this career you always have to plan a year or two ahead and I think weve done that. Weve tried to prepare our lives for when this time in Washington ended. Were prepared to roll with anything. It could be in the game or out. It could be playing or not playing. Our CBA is expiring and who knows what will happen? Its scary but its exciting at the same time. There are a lot of positives about going back to Michigan. Ill be doing something good next year. It could be something different, it could be something the same.
CSN: If you are not playing, would you consider coaching?
Knuble: Right now at this point my family just wants to get back to Michigan. I dont see myself chasing a coaching dream immediately. Id have to see how things go. Ive learned never to say never. I wouldnt want to close any doors because you never know what situations may pop up.
CSN: You know the Capitals as well as anyone. Is there a coach out there thats a perfect fit for this team?
Knuble: Thats really hard to say. George is taking his time. Its interesting that other guys who coached in the league are cycling back in with Michel Therrien and Bob Hartley. It will be interesting to see if George goes with somebody who has been around the block or somebody who is new blood coming from the American League.
CSN: Which would be best for the Capitals?
Knuble: A mix of Bruce and Dale and somebody whos going to be not coddling. Dale was very blunt and short. He didnt have much to say and let things play out. Maybe they need to find somebody who can communicate well with the players yet not coddle them. Maybe a style between Bruce and Dale.
CSN: Will you watch tonights game between the Devils and Kings?
Knuble: Yeah, Ill watch. I thought with a couple breaks we could be in the Final. L.A. is a lot to handle right now. I dont know if anybody could top them right now, but I could have seen us in the Stanley Cup Final, quite honestly. But if you take any of the 15 teams in the East I dont know who would match up well with them right now.