Grönborg doesn't feel like he's a European coach

Rikard Grönborg joined Howard Simon and Jeremy White on Friday morning

Paul Hamilton
May 03, 2019 - 12:21 pm

(WGR 550) - It’s no secret that Swedish National Team head coach Rikard Grönborg wants to coach in the NHL. He’s been up for NHL jobs and is very interested in the opening with the Buffalo Sabres. On Friday, Grönborg joined Howard and Jeremy and said everybody knows he wants to be in the NHL, "I think I've been pretty open that I'm looking for a coaching opportunity. There's been some openings in the NHL, and of course there is going to be a lot of speculations. I'd be very interested in moving into a position with a NHL team, for sure."

Of course he was asked about if he’s spoken to Jason Botterill about the Sabres job, and it’s understandable that he wouldn’t go there, “There’s a lot of speculation out there and I think it’s awesome, it’s great. I’m not so heavily involved right now in the sense that I’m going to concentrate on the World Championships and I have agents that are working that.

"Who I’m talking to is not out there and it’s going to remain that way out of courtesy for everyone.”

Last year, Grönborg was in the running for the New York Rangers' job that Boston University coach David Quinn got. Grönborg said, “I had talks with different NHL teams with the Rangers being one of the teams I was talking to and had a great conversation with the Rangers people. I think it was really interesting with the choice they made, a college coach. Two college coaches were hired last year, which I thought was a little outside the box and I appreciate that.

“I think there are going to be more and more college guys getting opportunities. I think there’s going to be more non-traditional coaches coming into the league, and obviously would be interested in someone like myself as well.”

Grönborg will have no trouble working with NHL players. He’s won two straight World Championships with Team Sweden and they have mostly pro players, “Obviously I'm used to working with NHL players, that's more or less my whole team here. That crosses off that box, and I have been very fortunate enough to have worked with some great players growing up in the Sweden program and being involved with the national team for 12 years. I feel comfortable in saying that I'd be very interested. I think I'd be a good fit with some organizations that are maybe looking outside the box a little bit."

Phil Housley wasn’t very good at coaching a system that fit his players. Grönborg has a much different approach, “You need to assess what kind of team you have and look at the strengths of your team before you really do anything. Your job as a coach is to assess the team and make sure you have a game plan that plays into your strengths.”

When you watch Team Sweden, you see a team where everybody is a forward and everybody is a defenseman. Grönborg said that’s by design, “I’ve been very fortunate here with the Swedish program to have great skating defensemen, and you guys have one, if not two in Buffalo there. We involve our defensemen in the rush, very offensive minded defensemen. We have a free-flowing game, we like to change positions, we involve everyone in offense as well as defense.”

Grönborg is also not going to say it's this way or no way. He said he's different in that sense, “I think I'm more of a situational guy than telling a player 100 times over you have to do this because there's different situations on the ice. Obviously it's a very fast game. I believe you set up a structure where the players understand the structure, but at the same time you're making quick decisions on the ice, and I think you can capitalize on the creativity, as well as have something to lean on."

Grönborg has dual citizenship and coached and played here in the United States. That’s why he feels you shouldn’t put labels on him, "I don't really see myself as being a European coach. When I came over from being in North America and being in the U.S. for 20 years and being a U.S. citizen, when the federation recruited me because they wanted to have someone outside of the box, there was some resistance from some Swedish coaches and Swedish media, among other things. You're recruiting a North American into a Swedish system, but obviously it really paid off. I see myself as more of a hybrid guy. I come from a Swedish background, but most of my career as a coach, I have been over in North America.

“If he’s born in Buffalo or he’s born in Stockholm, it doesn’t really matter. You’re looking at the person and what he bring top the table.”

Grönborg saw quite a few of Rasmus Dahlin’s games with the Sabres. He said, "I saw the strides he was making. What I really appreciate about Rasmus is the way he's moving the puck and everything else at a higher level. At the same time, I also saw him making some improvements in his defensive game, and he does play with a chip on his shoulder. He's a tremendous defensemen, he's a tremendous hockey player and he's just going to get better. I really enjoyed working with him during the Olympics because he really seeks you out, and he's really easy to coach."

Grönborg has coached most of the Swedish players in Buffalo and Rochester. He talked a little about each one:

Lawrence Pilut:

"I think Pilut is a great player. Pilut made some huge steps in his game last year, he really contended for a spot on our team last year, and he had a great year in the [Swedish Hockey League]. I think it was great [for him] to get some [NHL] games in this year. he's a puck moving guy, and he's really determined to be a player. He just has to keep making strides."

Victor Olofsson:

"For me, he's a sniper. He can really put the puck in the net. He's intense. He has a way of moving around the net, and I think he's got quite a bit of top-end skill that we can definitely see in a power play situation."

Alex Nylander:

"I had him in the World Junior Championships, and even though he was underage and two years younger, he was the leading scorer on that team. You can really tell that he's also a gifted goal scorer, and I think he's great around the net. He's got a natural ability to be in the right place at the right time."

Rasmus Asplund:

"I think he's a responsible two-way centerman. You can use him [in the defensive zone], and he does have enough offensive upside, but I think he's a very responsible, reliable center."

Any coach is going to be asked about analytics and how he uses them. Grönborg thinks they have a place, “What I like about statistics is the have cold value. That means it actually happened, it’s black and white, it’s right there. I think it’s information that’s very valuable, but it’s how you interpret that information. How to interpret it into your style of playing, how you interpret it into the way you coach a team, so there’s different variables that need to be read into the analytics.”

You can listen to the entire interview below:

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