This is the seventh straight post-season media scrum the Carolina Hurricanes have been a part of with no playoff hockey to talk about. While the players were certainly not happy about that, there was a new found optimism in the room.
This group was actually in the playoff conversation until late in the season and they took pride in that. They also feel that they are very close to reaching post-season play.
I do not have time to transcribe each interview right now but in order to get something out quickly, will try to give a brief recap of many of the interviews I was a part of.
The first interview was with Jordan Staal, who drew a large crowd. Staal indicated he was disappointed that his brother Eric had been traded and things were not quite the same for him. "It is what it is", he said. In my opinion, these words were not an indication that he was so unhappy that he might ask for a trade moving forward but some in the crowd interpreted it that way.
Both Staal and Cam Ward did not have their exit interviews yet with team management. It was requested that they wait and have theirs later. Everyone else met with appropriate team officials on Monday.
Ward emphasized more than once that he wanted to stay in Carolina. He is happy with the group that is here and would like to be a part of it moving forward. Apparently, he has talked a lot with Eric Staal and was told it was a completely different situation on a different team. Ward also said he was very "comfortable" here but that is not always a good term to use when improvement is needed.
Noah Hanifin confirmed that he will be representing Team USA at the Worlds this summer. After that, he will be working out with the same group he worked out with last offseason in the Boston area. Charlie Coyle and Jack Eichel are a part of that group. I asked him about "hitting the wall" and if that affected him this season. He responded that it did affect him, there were some games he just could not get his legs moving. He had never played so many games before and with so little rest between them. But he did the best he could, tried to put mistakes behind him, and move on to the next shift and next game.
Elias Lindholm feels that he is a better hockey player today than he was last year, even if he did score about the same number of points. He will have minor toe surgery soon which will require two or three weeks of rehab. I asked him if he had a preference between playing wing or center and he said he didn't. But after some thought, he added that the center position is more active with the puck and he feels that he is a better hockey player with the puck on his stick. Perhaps he does have a preference after all?
Jaccob Slavin said that he and his wife discussed things and he decided to skip worlds this season. While he started the season hoping/expecting to make the Canes, he did admit that he was a bit surprised he played as well as he did. He intends to work hard during the offseason as does Brett Pesce. Neither of these players seem to be taking anything for granted regarding next season and it is good that they do not, considering that players like James Wisniewski and Haydn Fleury will be looking to take spots. Bill Peters mentioned that Fleury was doing very well in juniors and had worked on and improved upon areas they asked him to. Peters said that Fleury will "fit right in here".
Wisniewski said that he was presently healthy and ready to start his normal offseason training. He tried to offer tips to the young defensemen, especially in the positive mental aspect of the game. He quipped that when he was that age and he made a mistake, he was put on the bench. These guys have had a great opportunity to learn and grow as players. Ron Francis mentioned the same thing in his interview, that the young defensemen were not benched after a mistake. They played a lot of minutes and in all situations.
Eddie Lack told me that he was disappointed in his performance this season and would be working hard to improve. When asked about consistency, he admitted that consistency had been an issue for him and mentioned that he had a few tricks he was going to try over the summer but that he would keep them to himself for now.
When Ron Hainsey was asked about the slow start in October, he refused to acknowledge that a slow start was an issue. Hainsey mentioned a few games early in which they "completely outplayed the opposition but still lost".
Francis also mentioned that when talking about the play of his goalies. He admitted that the goalies were statistically among the worst of the league in the beginning of the season and there might have been up to five games where the Canes were the better team but still lost. He did think that the goalies played well down the stretch though.
I will try to have more hopefully later tonight along with the highlights of the Peters/Francis presser.
By the way, Michal Jordan will be the only other player on the team confirmed to be playing in the World Championships this summer. He will represent the Czechs. Bill Peters said that some other players were asked but had other commitments.