Admiral Vladivostok's new head coach, former Swedish international defenseman Fredrik Stillman, spoke to KHL.ru about his journey to Vladivostok, KHL experience, young players and defensive part of the play of Vladimir Tkachyov.

At the beginning of October, Admiral parted company with head coach Alexander Andriyevsky, and in the search for a successor turned to assistant coach Fredrik Stillman, an Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion as a player. Stillman had spent almost his entire hockey career at HV71 of Jonkoping, as player, assistant coach, and general manager, before joining the Vladivostok staff two years ago, and now, in his first few weeks in sole charge, he has enjoyed mixed fortunes on the ice – the team lies in a lowly 12th place in the Eastern Conference, but a few excellent performances have instilled hope that a revival is on the horizon.

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“We will give our all to reach the playoffs”

- In recent days you have signed some new players: Andrei Konev, Martin St. Pierre, Renat Mamashev... What do you expect from them?

- I expect from them the same thing I expect from all the players. Firstly, that they work hard for the team, that it is what it's all about. Of course, every player has different strengths, and they need to show them.

- The most high-profile trade was with Barys, when you acquired St. Pierre for James Wright. Some see this as a master-stroke on your part.

- We came to a point where we needed to make some changes, and bring in new energy. We really hope this trade turns out well. Martin is a fine player.

- What about Renat Mamashev? He could be a useful player in power play.

- Yes, we expect that from him. My plan is to use him with Jonathon Blum on the blue line.

- Your team is quite a few points away from the playoff places. How do you see the second part of the season?

- We will not give up. We have a plan to reach the playoffs, and we need to earn points. We have a good team spirit, and the performances have been excellent. The team is working hard, and played well against SKA, Jokerit and CSKA. We need to win some games to gain more confidence. It is a good sign to see a team working really hard. If we persevere, we can turn things around.

- During the season your team has often played well, but has not had much in the way of good fortune.

- In some games it is a mystery. For example, we played very well and took the lead in the game against Spartak in Moscow (a 6-7 overtime loss), but then we lost. It is tough mentally. We had a difficult start, played well, but were not rewarded with points. Of course it plays on your mind. Over the last ten games, we have performed well. We must remember that we are a good team. We played well against SKA, but lost 0-2, but that was fatigue. It was still a great effort from the guys. We have to understand that we are in a strong league in which we have to beat many strong teams.

- Was it a problem that last season's team reached the playoffs? Is it hard to motivate the players?

- I don’t think so. When we have our team meetings, I can see the fire in their eyes. The guys really want to be in the knockout stage this season. We will give it our all to reach the playoffs. After this road trip, we have 10 or 11 games at home, and this series could be crucial.

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“I never planned to become a head coach”

- Last season you had four goalies, and now there are three. Bobkov played more, but now Nalimov has more ice time.

- That is life in hockey. Sometimes we feel a goalie saved us, than we feel we need a change. It is good that we have them both. We have been traveling a lot, so we need more players.

- Will Nikita Serebryakov get a chance in the next few days?

- Not n the next few days, but maybe in the future. You never know. That’s the best answer I could give right now. At the moment, it’s all about Nalimov and Bobkov. Nikita is a great guy, he's doing a great job, he’s positive, and he's training hard.

- What changed for you when you became a head coach?

- There is more responsibility. It is also a challenge to make a team play well again, and win more games. The team has a lot of character and desire.

- It seemed that you were already mentally ready for the job.

- My plan was never to become a head coach; I came here as a defensive coach, but the club needed me to step up, and I also wanted to do it. I have never been in this position before, but hockey is my life, so there were no drastic changes.

- How did you react to the club's firing of Alexander Andrievsky?

- It’s sad. I like Alex, and I’m pretty sure the team liked to work with him, but it’s also part of hockey. When a team doesn’t perform well, it can happen. That’s the same for me now. Alex is a good guy.

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“Everyone is interested in improving”

- You work, of course, with one of the game's upcoming stars, Vladimir Tkachyov.

- I think he has a lot of potential. He still hasn’t fully realized that potential, yet, but he tries very hard to listen and learn, every day. It’s going to be very interesting following his progress, this year and after.

- He has attracted criticism over the defensive part of his game.

- He's made great improvements. He was prone to losing the puck on the blue line, but we don't see that anymore. He learns from his mistakes, so he keeps getting better.

- Could you name the best players with whom you have worked?

- No. I really don’t want to say that this guy is better than that guy. Hockey is something we do together, as a team. Everybody has his role in the team. It would be wrong to name any individual player as my favorite.

- You won the Olympics in 1994. Now there is a possibility that the KHL won’t allow its players to take part.

- I hope the Russians play at the Olympics, but the KHL is a strong organization, and they decide what is best for them, and we have to respect their decision.

- Do people ask you about your exploits at the Olympics?

- Not really. They mention it sometimes, but I don't really like to talk about it, it is in the past.

- Is it easy to work with a young team?

- Definitely. Everyone is interested in improving. They all listen, and want to grow as players. The problem with traveling a lot is that we don’t have enough time to practice, and when we come back, we are tired. I wish we had more time for practice.

- There are not so many foreign coaches at Russian clubs this season – just Erkka Westerlund at Salavat Yulaev, and you

- It’s an honor to be a head coach in the KHL. It’s a big, strong league.

- What do you gain from it?

- I learn more every day. We have our own culture in Sweden, whereas it's different here, so it's a challenge to find the right balance.

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“It was a little bit scary to see where Vladivostok is”

- How did it come about that you joined this team? It is hard to find any connection with Russia in your biography.

- David Nemirovsky played at HV 71. He called me three years ago, and asked if I wanted to come. I had no job at the time, so I said yes. Why not? We have had a few Russian players in Jonkoping, like Oleg Belov, Alexei Salomatin...

- Three years on the other side of the world...

- It’s obviously tough, spending a long time without seeing your friends and family. On the other hand, I had worked in Sweden for so many years and I needed to do something new, whether in Vladivostok or in Moscow. It’s a long trip for friends and family, so I don’t have so many visits. But my family will be here for Christmas.

- Any plans to bring them here permanently?

- It wouldn’t work. My wife runs her own company, and my children are growing up and old enough to do whatever they want.

- Were they surprised by your decision?

- Yes, everybody was, including myself. When I said yes to David, I wasn’t even sure where Vladivostok was. I was in the car when he called me, I returned home, Googled “Vladivostok,” and it was a little bit scary to see where it is. I remember being on my first journey here, changing planes in Moscow, and seeing that I had another nine hours of flying time. I said to myself “Where am I going?”

- Do you like Vladivostok?

- It’s a really beautiful city, and they have everything. There are a lot of nice restaurants. I like Asian food, and seafood, and Russian borsch...

- Are you not tired of all this flying?

- Yes, I’m tired (laughs). We talk about this sometimes, but we musn’t make any excuses, it is life, and we try not to dwell on it. We are just trying to do our best on the ice.

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