On Monday, the Hurricanes held end of season exit interviews for most of the players, with the local media. Rather than go through the details of each interview, I'm going to share my thoughts, impressions, and highlights for each player I had the chance to see.
If you would like to watch each of the interviews in their entirety, check out this link.
First up was Cory Stillman:
Stillman (UFA) seemed genuine about wanting to return next season. Of course, this will be up to Jim Rutherford and how the GM feels about the "rebuild", as well as the dollars involved.
Cole has a pit in the stomach about Saturday night and will not want to watch playoffs on TV for a bit. He's going to rest up for the next month. Cole is a UFA but considers this area home and wants to stay in the future because it's a good group. He was initially disappointed about not getting a letter at the beginning of the year, but took some advice from a friend who told him, "You can still be a leader without a letter." (What great advice!) So he did his best to help out the younger players.
Another great quote from Cole, "a good leader gets people to believe in him, a great leader gets people to believe in themselves."
I would be surprised if Cole is not back next season.
When asked about ice time, Corvo said that the more ice time he gets, the better he feels. He was second on the team with average ice time per game and tied his career best 40 points. He was impressed by Ward's ability to always stay steady. Here's a good quote when asked about his goalie. "That's why he makes the big bucks."
Corvo is so honest in an interview it's refreshing. When asked what he thought of Skinner out of camp, he said that he originally thought it was Chris Terry.
I asked Ward if he felt starting 74 games, a career high, might have been too much. He replied that he felt good, he felt healthy, and if the team had made the playoffs, he would have felt fresh and ready to go. He also said that he has grown and matured as a goalie. Ward said he enjoyed being an All Star, but would trade the whole weekend, all of it, to be in the playoffs right now.
The rookie felt that he learned a lot and that the loss to Tampa Bay was a positive, learning experience for him. He thinks he's an NHL caliber player and can contribute to the Canes. Overall, he felt happy with his game this season, except the point production, but feels that will come.
Bowman will return to Charlotte to participate in the playoffs with the Checkers.
Pitkanen (UFA) politely said that he liked the city and the fans and it's been a good three years, but did not know if he would return next season. He said, "we'll see" at least a couple of times when asked. Could it be that his interview with team management did not go as well as he might have liked?
Ruutu indicated that he really enjoyed his teammates and felt "comfortable" with the group. He said the team had great chemistry and he felt like they could have gone on a good run if they made the postseason.
I asked him about playing center and he said he liked that because he could skate into the neutral zone with more speed. He recognizes that he needs to work on more things at that position though, like faceoffs. Bottom line, he doesn't seem to care if he plays center or winger.
Ruutu finished second in the league with 309 hits, but stayed relatively healthy. He said that there will be no surgery this offseason.
Jokinen (UFA) said that he has had the best years of his career here and has enjoyed his time here. An important, memorable moment for his career as well as his life, was when he had the opportunity to play in front of family and friends in Finland.
Would love to return here again next season.
Apparently the fans sang his name in the "National Anthem" in Dallas as well, but not as loudly as here.
Felt sick, getting so close but not making it to the playoffs. No excuses about playing hurt. "I was on the ice competing." Was not going to just sit by and watch his team fight like dogs to make the playoffs.
Said he felt coach Mo did a "phenomenal job" and that he has a "great mind for the game."
I asked him what needed to be done to push the Canes over the top and into the playoffs and he answered, a little bit more in all areas. Then after some hesitation, he responded, "we can be better defensively, the whole team not just the defensemen."
This All Star game is something that he'll never forget.
Apparently, he had not been in contact with his brother Marc since Saturday night. Is the following a subtle hint to Jim Rutherford?
"Maybe at some point, we will be on the same team and fight together, but we'll see what happens."
Gleason thought the team took a lot of good strides this year. He was happy with his season and felt he still brought some physicality, even though he was asked by the coaching staff not to fight. He did wish he could have done better on the powerplay when he had his chances.
Was asked about how tough it was to stay away from fighting and he responded, "I'm Irish."
Said that Cam Ward "played his you know what off" every night. But the best thing about Ward is that "he cares, he really cares."
He also mentioned that all 23 players finally "bought into the system" in the last 15 games or so, (not that they didn't before) but they finally did as a complete unit. Was he hinting that one or two of the 23 did not buy into it before?
Has never been in this situation before, when he lost a game like that. Sutter is an RFA and needs a new contract, but he emphasized, "this is where I want to be."
Was easy to wear the letter with the group he had to work with, but did feel like he failed because of the ending of the season.
Harrison (UFA) is a very good, candid speaker. He loves it here and also wants to come back. Feels like something special is happening here and wants to be a part of it. Said that the team played with commitment and passion, but ran out of gas at the end. (sounds familiar).
A couple of other good quotes: "Having Cam Ward is like having a get out of jail free card." "There is something about Raleigh, North Carolina that is perfect for hockey players."
LaRose is also a UFA this offseason but would like to stay. He felt he had a good season, but since his personal goal was to make it to the playoffs, the season would have to be considered a failure.
McBain leanred a lot this season. He said he never finished up a season this soon before, he always had classes or something to do.
He sounded like he was at a bit of a loss of what to do next, but he might participate in the World Championships.
The rookie is almost as impressive off the ice, as he is on it.
First of all, he plans on training with Gary Roberts again over the offseason, with emphasis on getting stronger. He is considering playing in the World Championships and it sounds like Canes management will have the final word on that.
Skinner said that he was grateful to the Hurricanes for "taking a chance" on him when they drafted him, and for putting him in a position to succeed over the season.
But one of the things that impressed me the most was that this kid wants to be a difference maker, he wants to be a great player and seems to know what it takes to be one. When I asked him how he coped with all the extra physicality that teams have thrown at him and how he could keep his temper, he said that it came with the territory.
"If you want to be a difference maker and be a great player, it comes with it."
He also said he looked at it as a challenge and tried to feed off of his temper, if he can.
The 18-year-old has already learned where he has to go on the ice to be successful and that the space doesn't come easy or for free. There is a price to pay, and he's obviously willing to pay it.
There were some light moments as the rookie explained how he figured out when to joke with teammates and when not to. He was told that "if they pick on you, that means they like you." He also said that he would crack back on some guys, but some would take longer than others. Finally, he mentioned that when Tim Gleason gave him the look, it was scary.
Jeff Skinner is a special player, no doubt about that.
Derek Joslin (RFA) spoke briefly after the cameras were taken away. He likes it here and is hoping to return for several more years.