Q&A with Paul Flache

By Holly Gunning

HF: You recently got back from Chicago, how did that go for you

Paul Flache is playing his second year of pro hockey,
currently with the ECHL Gwinnett Gladiators.
Originally selected by the Edmonton Oilers in
2000, he was redrafted by
Atlanta in 2002 in the fifth round. The 6’6” 225-pound blueliner
played his rookie season with Thrashers ECHL affiliate Greenville Grrrowl, though his season was hampered by a bad case of tonsilitis. He
played only 46 games in 2002-03.


In 50 games
this season with the Gladiators, Flache has 11 points
and 67 PIMs.
More importantly, he’s second among defensemen in plus/minus at +9,
trailing only his partner Jim Jackson. He was called up to the Chicago Wolves
earlier this month and played in one game.


spoke to Hockey’s Future following practice on Tuesday.


HF: You recently got back from
Chicago [AHL], how do you think that went for you?

PF: It went
really well for me I thought. It was my first game. It was short notice so I got there like
4:30 and went straight to the rink. I didn’t really have much time to think about
it, just went out and keep my game simple and play as physical as I could. The coaching staff thought I played really
good, and that’s what matters, so hopefully I left a positive impression with
them and who knows what will happen down the road.


HF: You said it was short notice,
what time did you find out you were going?

PF: We had
just finished skating pretty hard, it was an optional skate. At
12:30 Jeff came and told me I was on a 2:30 flight, so I grabbed my stuff, ran
home quickly and grabbed my suit and hopped on the plane.


HF: How do you think your season is
going overall?

PF: I think
it’s going pretty good. I started off a
little slow, sometimes I tend to do that.
I don’t know why, but even since junior.
Once playoff fever starts hitting like around January, I start getting
real excited for the playoffs and that’s my favorite time of year. Other than
that it’s going pretty good, I’ve learned a lot defensively, which is really
what I wanted to work on. I’m starting to play better with my gaps, I’m able to
stand up guys a little more, so from a defensive point I’m happy and I’m
started to play a little more offensive now that my D is coming along.


HF: [Coach] Jeff [Pyle] said you’re
getting more ice time this year and that’s making a difference. Would you agree with that?

PF: Well,
last year you know I was sick and when you’re sick you have a setback, I lost a
lot of weight so I didn’t have my strength.
Then I got hurt again. Last year
was a tough year. I finished off strong
and I wanted to start off strong this year.
I thought I had a pretty good camp in
Atlanta and in Chicago, and they were happy, but again I’m
just trying to work on my defense and the ice time here definitely helps. I’m being put in all kinds of different
situations, it’s great.


HF: Did Atlanta tell you anything in
particular at camp to work on?

PF: Well,
it’s the same with every big guy. Bob
Hartley wanted me to play with a little more of an edge, be a little nastier,
but smart. There’s a fine line, but down
here it’s a little bit different in the ECHL, you can give a guy a cross check
and sometimes the ref doesn’t even see it and you’re in trouble. When I went to
Chicago I used my stick more, I was able to
crosscheck guys more in front of the net and get away with it. The ref just says good battle there guys, you
get away with a lot more. So, that’s
what [Hartley] said, try to stand up guys more, and be a little meaner.


HF: How has Coach Pyle asked you to

PF: I’m a big guy so he wants me to play
tough, open up some room for our guys.
The systems are a little different, not the same as I played last year
or in junior. It’s helped me, I’m
allowed to stand guys up more I have more hits this year, almost like in junior
because when I see a guy coming towards me I’m allowed to go. He wants us to jump that guy, even if you get
beat. When you’re given that
opportunity, and you know when you screw up someone is going to cover for you,
that really helps.


HF: How would you say you’ve changed
as a player from junior up to now?

PF: I’ve
changed quite a bit. I used to press a
little bit more, was more offensive in junior and played a little more power
play, I haven’t played much this year. I
liked to push a little more back then. I didn’t know much about my systems
defensively, and my first two years I’ve really learned a lot about defense,
where to be and what my job is. I’ve
taken a D-first attitude and it’s really helped my game.


HF: You still seem like you like to
carry the puck more than most guys your size.

PF: Yeah, I
do. I thought I was better at it in
junior and sometimes I got away from it last year because I was sick and trying
to play defensive. You don’t have the
same legs or the same confidence. That
kind of hurt me. Sometimes I push a little
too much and have gotten caught, and Jeff’s told me to lay back, but he doesn’t
mind me jumping up. And John Anderson
doesn’t mind it, he liked that too, he just wanted to teach me when to and when
not to. I’m in the learning process,
it’s a good opportunity.


HF: A guy like you carrying the puck
like you do is going to catch people by surprise.

PF: Yeah,
exactly [laughs]. I’m 6’6” and I’m skating
the puck up the ice. I did it in junior
and caught guys by surprise then too. I
think it’s because I used to be a forward my whole life. I used to get the puck and be able to handle
it. Sometimes back there you don’t feel
like you’re contributing enough, you’re just standing there on the point
waiting for a puck and when you don’t get it, sometimes you push. There’s a right time and a wrong time, so I’m
trying to work on that.


HF: How did it happen that you were
moved to defense when you were you young?

PF: I’m
trying to think back now. In bantam I
was always a forward and then I got tried on defense, played for about a month
and then hurt my shoulder. I went back
and played forward and next year played provincial junior back home as a
defenseman. I ended up getting drafted
as a defenseman so I stayed there. I
really only had one year of defense before the OHL, so I was pretty raw at the
position. I’m still kind of raw now,
still learning a lot of things. It’s a
different game. Once I get going I’m
better at stopping, starting, so I’m working on that part of my game, foot
speed. But I’m really enjoying the game
and learning a lot more, so it’s great.


HF: Scotty Bowman has said you have
to be a lot smarter person to play defense.

PF: I think
forward is harder condition-wise because you’re always moving. For a defenseman it’s harder positionally because you’ve always got guys picking you,
especially in
Chicago and camp in Atlanta.
It was a big eye-opener my first camp in Edmonton when I was drafted by
them, Doug Weight setting picks, everyone setting picks all over the
place. You really have to know who
you’re taking, where to go, where to be, it was tough, especially when you’re
young. That’s why it takes longer for
defensemen to develop.


HF: Do you have a defensive mantra,
something you tell yourself over and over in your head to keep yourself on the
right track?

PF: During
games and before games I try to visualize myself making a good first pass. I
keep telling myself to keep my feet moving, because if I’m not, I’m not going
to be a factor at all. Especially the
one game I played in
Chicago, that was a real eye-opener with
the speed and I was able to keep my feet moving. I kept telling myself that over and over
again. And just take the body. I find that if I’m playing physical, I’ll
have a good game. Everything seems to
fall around that, so that’s what I try and tell myself.


HF: You’ve been paired with Jim
Jackson most of the year. Can you talk
about how you two work together?

PF: Well,
it’s pretty easy, Jimmy’s a great skater and a really good player. We’ve been getting the top lines, so we take
pride in trying to shut down the top lines.
We have a great relationship even off the ice. We don’t see each other all the time, but we
get along really well which helps. The
whole team is really close. With his
skating, he likes to jump up, and a lot of times I stay back. We talk a lot, and that’s about it.


HF: Do you miss playing with your
[twin] brother [Peter]?

PF: Yeah,
it’s different, I played with him my whole life up until junior. We actually played forward together. We have like that sixth sense type thing,
where we can see each other on the ice. It was harder when you’re a forward and
defenseman last year, but I thought my game picked up when he was around. I miss playing against him too, we played him
twice this year and we had some good battles.
But he’s doing really well [in
Toledo] so it’s good for him.


HF: What is the most satisfying part
of playing hockey for you?

PF: Playing
the game that I love for my living right now, I feel blessed. It’s really exciting and I couldn’t ask for
anything more. It’s my favorite thing to
do and I’m doing it as a living, which is great. As far as games, I’m the type of guy that as
long as we win, I’m happy. I look at my plus/minus quite a bit now because I
want to help the team that way. If I’m
-2 or -3 in a game, I’ll have a tough time at night. Except if we win, then I’ll be happy. But as long as I’m physical, have a couple
good hits or something, stay plus and find a way to help the team win, then I’m
happy. Make a big shot block to save the
game or something like that. Usually I’m
happy anyway, I’m fortunate to be where I am and how our team’s doing so I
can’t complain.


HF: What are your personal goals for
this season and next?

PF: For
this season, the beginning of the year was just to pick my game up. To play the way Atlanta wants me to, and make
sure they’re happy with what I’m doing.
Stop looking at points like I did in junior because I thought that was
important. I just wanted to play solid
defense and help out wherever I could.
Better my game and get my game ready to hopefully step up next
year. I wanted one game, just to say
that I’d played one and to get ready so I know what to expect, and I’ve played
the one game and who knows what will happen, with injuries you never know. Basically just get ready for the next year,
because next year I want to start off playing in Chicago and hopefully work my
way up and be a factor on the team.
Whatever happens after that, happens.