The Carolina Hurricanes held player exit interviews with local media Tuesday and the mood was understandably somber. Most players could not explain why the team was so inconsistent and none could or would say what they thought was specifically wrong with the team.
Those who were asked directly, supported the current coaching staff, although with this classy bunch it would have been a surprise if they did not say so. A couple of players did speak in veiled terms and did not seem pleased.
Drayson Bowman mentioned that he felt his ice time was reduced after the start of the season and it was hard for him to get going again. Cam Ward indicated that he would have liked to have gotten more work.
Players like Nathan Gerbe and John-Michael Liles, who performed very well under Kirk Muller's system, of course were happy with the system.
Gerbe put up near career best numbers this season, said he was happy to be in Carolina, and looks forward to hopefully returning next season. (Gerbe is an RFA). He was offered a chance to play in the World Championships, but turned down the opportunity so he could spend time with family. He will be training in Connecticut again this offseason.
Liles went from being a healthy scratch option in Toronto to playing big minutes with the Canes. When asked about his improvement, he said that it was not that uncommon for a player to do better when given another chance, and sometimes there is just a better fit in a new location.
Jeff Skinner also will not play in the World Championships because he is recovering from the removal of ingrown toenails. He liked his training routine from last summer and will repeat that again this offseason.
The Staal brothers of course were given a lot of attention and asked the most questions.
While answering one question, Jordan Staal said "If I return next season" to which a couple reporters asked him, "IF??" He replied that he was under evaluation, just like everyone else. Who knows what next season brings? Jordan has not yet been asked to play in the Worlds, so that is not an option at the moment.
When asked about the possibility of a trade this summer, Eric Staal responded that he had never dreamed about playing anywhere else but Carolina, but, he said that he was sick of not making the playoffs. Without him actually saying the words, it seemed like he might be open to the idea of a trade. He also admitted that while he needs to improve, so do others on the team. As reported earlier by Chip, he will skip the Worlds this year.
Elias Lindholm was asked if he would look to gain some weight and muscle mass this summer and he looked a bit surprised at the question. He seems happy with his current weight of 196. Apparently, he and Skinner joke around sometimes on the bench. "He's a funny guy," Lindholm said of his friend.
Jiri Tlusty looked pretty glum for his interview and said that he would skip Worlds because he doesn't have a contract yet and didn't want to chance anything. The winger, who is an RFA, said that he was putting too much pressure on himself early in the year, plus was dinged up a bit, but played better when he played more loosely later in the season.
Radek Dvorak was asked about possible retirement after this season, but he will make that decision later.
Andrei Loktionov has been invited to Team Russia's training camp for Worlds and will attend next week. He said he felt comfortable here and he played well. He hopes to return, (he's also an RFA).
Manny Malhotra had an upbeat interview and said that he felt that he proved to everyone he could still play in this league. He stated that he wanted to return here again next season, if possible.
Ron Hainsey also wants to return. "There are ups and downs every season," he said, but he felt he had a good year.
Brett Bellemore also felt he proved that he could be a regular defenseman in the league, and I doubt anyone will argue. He was asked to be physical at times and did not mind it at all. "Being a bigger guy, I have always been asked to be physical," he said.
Justin Peters is unsure of his future, but also would like to come back. He likes the team and the staff, but it was frustrating at times being the third goalie. "I got a lot of practice stopping Rod Brind'Amour's shots," he quipped. He thinks that he has proven himself to be NHL caliber as well.
To see all the interviews, check out CH.com.
In other news, the Hurricanes lost the NHL Draft Lottery on Tuesday night. Florida won it and jumped over the Sabres, who have had such a tough season they cannot even win when the odds are in their favor. The Canes will choose seventh, unless they decide to trade the pick.
Kirk Muller will be interviewed on Wednesday.