A different perspective

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Edmonton Oilers assistant coach Craig Simpson is once again working in front of the cameras as an NHL analyst. Simpson went into broadcasting after a back injury cut his NHL career short. In 2003 Simpson left the studio to work with the Oilers as an assistant coach.

With the Oilers failing to make the playoffs this season, Simpson was hired by CBC to work alongside Ron MacLean and Kelly Hrudey as an analyst for the first two rounds of the 2007 NHL playoffs.

SUN MEDIA: How did you get into broadcasting?

SIMPSON: "I had to retire so young. I was 28 when I was forced, with my back, to call it quits. Originally I would have liked to get into coaching right away, but I felt that I was too young and was really struggling physically. I probably couldn't have been a coach my first three or four years after retiring because my back was so bad that I wouldn't of been able to handle the grind of it. "I got an opportunity to do some work with Don Metz for Aquila Productions in Edmonton and did The Hockey Show for TSN. Then I got an opportunity to do colour for a couple of games and I felt pretty comfortable in that role. "I've never been shy to talk on camera. Then I got an opportunity to work for Fox SportsNet in the 'States."

SUN MEDIA: How tough was it watching Game 1 of the Stars-Canucks series that went into quadruple overtime in Vancouver, especially since you guys were in Toronto?

SIMPSON: "It was my first night in the studio so it was quite the baptism by fire. I think it was 3:50 a.m. by the time we left. All three of us were happy that Henrik Sedin scored with a minute and-a-half to go in the fourth overtime otherwise we would have had to do another 13 minute (intermission) segment."

SUN MEDIA: What do you think of the talk that came up about changing the tie-breaking procedures following that game?

SIMPSON: "I think it's nonsense. Both Kelly and I were saying that once you get past that certain point of exhaustion, the play might suffer a bit, but it's not about the fans at that point. It's about the players will and wanting to win for each other."

SUN MEDIA: You've had to play in long overtimes, what's that like?

SIMPSON: "My best experience is Game 1 of 1990 final against Boston. At least for Dallas and Vancouver it was Game 1 of the playoffs. For us it was Game 18 or 19 over a month and-a-half span. Your mind does some strange things when it's lacking oxygen and when it's so fatigued. I remember winning a battle in the corner and throwing a pass out to Mark Messier in the slot and getting knocked over. Then Ray Bourque and I are lying there, we're so tired and can barely get up, and I'm praying that Mess puts it in. That's what you see the players going through is that short burst of energy and that almost pure exhaustion after it if it doesn't go your way."

SUN MEDIA: How has coaching helped you as a analyst?

SIMPSON: "It's way more comfortable after working as a coach. I was mentioning to a few of my friends that it was such an easier fit watching those teams that I've literally watched video on the entire year. My role as a coach is to break down our opponents the entire year and really understand the structure and the things that go on. I just felt so comfortable watching now having a much greater knowledge of the teams in my head then I've ever had before as an analyst."

SUN MEDIA: Do you try and scout players as well as analyze when you're watching games?

SIMPSON: Absolutely. To sit and analyze and be focused on that also allows you to see players at the most critical times and pressure-filled times in the playoffs."

SUN MEDIA: What was your biggest surprise in the first round?

SIMPSON: "I was surprised how physical the Nashville, San Jose series was so early.That was a series that got dirty at times. The fact that Nashville was never able to get on track offensively to stay in that series also surprised me. The most disappointing was the Atlanta series. I went to two of those games in New York and they were undisciplined and never really got on track. They also took a lot of penalties and there was probably a lot greater expectation of them than that."

SUN MEDIA: What's the biggest difference in the Detroit Red Wings this year as opposed to last year when the Oilers upset them in the first round?

SIMPSON: "I think first and foremost is goaltending. That was a big factor for us last year. We had the edge in that department and I think their players sagged a little bit because our goaltender was extremely tough to beat and we scored some goals that we shouldn't have. Collectively they also looked like a much more aggressive team than they were a year before. They didn't take anything for granted and they played harder and grittier than they did in our series. I think when you are shocked one year, the next time around you are much more focused. That was evident to me right off the bat against Calgary."

SUN MEDIA: What's the biggest difference to watching games as a broadcaster as opposed to a coach?

SIMPSON: "One of the things I missed being in the broadcasting business is that I missed the intensity that goes with competing. Now the emotion is taken out of everything. As an analyst I can sit back and go 'that was a fantastic game, let's break it down', instead of focusing on what we have to do to try and get our players to perform against an opponent. There is a huge swing emotionally between those two worlds and that's one of the reasons I left broadcasting to get into coaching because it's something that I really enjoy. Sometimes coaching is not a lot of fun, but at times like last year, it can be."


Videos

Photos