On Monday, the Carolina Hurricanes held their annual media day as local pundits got their first official interviews with a few of the players and the team staff.
Many things were repeated which have been said in years past.
Everyone is in great shape. Everyone is looking forward to the season ahead and cannot wait to get started. Everyone has a positive attitude.
Obviously, any team has to have a positive attitude if they want to be successful, even if they have not made the playoffs in six consecutive years. What makes it even tougher for the Canes though is that they have made very few changes in personnel from last season and not many people around the league think they can be contenders.
When asked specifically if he could get more out of the same players from last season, Bill Peters said that he could.
"Some of the younger players will continue to improve and some of the other players who had off years will be looking to bounce back. We will make a few tweaks and will be trying to be a more dangerous team offensively. We need to get off to a better start and will emphasize that."
I asked if Eric Staal would be playing at wing or center this season and Peters responded that he would play both in the preseason.
"Eventually, I envision Eric playing wing on a line with Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm. I think that could be a very good line."
When asked who would start off on the first defensive pairing with Justin Faulk, the coach said it would be too early to put a younger player there. He would probably start out with a vet like Ron Hainsey and would see how that went.
Both Eric Staal and Cam Ward were asked about their respective contract negotiations and if they had no contract extension to start the season, would that be a distraction? Of course, both said that there would be no distraction and their primary focus was on the team and on winning.
As we all know, contract extensions come easier to players on winning teams than on losing ones. The pressure is on.
While players will say there is no distraction, it must be difficult to put such thoughts completely out of your mind. As I said earlier this offseason, I believe it could be very interesting to see Staal play with some extra hunger this season, knowing that he is playing for a contract.
I asked a few players if starting the season with low expectations by the experts around the league made things harder or easier? Did they think they might be able to sneak up on a few teams?
To a man, they said they did not worry about those things or what others might say. They were starting things on a clean slate and anything can happen.
Nathan Gerbe certainly had a great reply.
"I don't pay attention to any of that. I learned at a young age that if you went strictly by the preseason polls, it would be a different league. You would not need to play 82 games. I know we can surprise a lot of teams, I think we have that in us. But it's all about us going out and implementing our system for 82 games, about being competitive, about getting good starts and doing the things we need to do. Having guys who want to score goals and who get to those areas to score goals and win games. You could see in the playoffs that the successful teams played fast. We can play that way too. We know what we need to do to win. We had some spurts last year when we played well and won a lot of games. We need to do that more, play that way consistently. If we can do that I think we will be right there and people will be surprised. "
I had a long detailed interview with John-Michael Liles about team chemistry and the team's system. I will type that up later.
The bottom line is, everyone was very upbeat, perhaps even more so than in previous years. A lot of that attitude can be attributed to this head coach.
They feel they were in a lot of tight games last season which did not go their way. They had a great January and feel they can play that winning brand of hockey more often.
Soon, they will have the chance to prove their case.
After the interview session, the media broke into two teams and played a competitive floor hockey game. The highlights of that for me were when Ron Francis yelled to Mike Maniscalco, (who was wearing number 1 while playing goalie), "stay in the net Archie, stay in the net!!"
I jokingly asked Francis if he had to say the same to former teammate Arturs Irbe back in the day and he laughed and replied, "We had to literally tie him to the net".
The quote of the day? One media member left the action and complained, "I can't believe I missed an open net!"
Francis said with a smile, "sometimes those open nets aren't as easy as they look."