Captain Jordan Staal figures to be a big part of that process, and it’s one he’s gone through before with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Here’s a full breakdown of everything Staal had to say in his exit Zoom call with media Thursday morning:
On leadership and Justin Williams: I think it’s well-known around the league what Willy’s all about. The guy has taken control of rooms. He understands what it takes to win. He’s done it plenty of times. He knows how to bring guys to their best and bring the best out of every player. He’s a huge part of that room. I watched the day-to-day stuff and the way he carried himself. The things he says and how he gets guys going, that gets him going as well. It’s obviously a group effort, and he did a great job of building that atmosphere of we’re in this together. I learned a lot from him just watching him, understanding what he does. I’m trying my best to do a lot of the same things he did for our team.
On if there would have been a discussion on sitting out for social justice: I know the feeling walking into the arena going into a big game and what the focus is on. There’d be no question, I’m sure it’d be some guys talking about it. It’s a hard situation, obviously. It’d be very hard. I don’t really know what I would feel if I was in that situation, what those players went through or if they talked about it a ton, left it alone or what the scenario was. My focus is on the game when I’m walking into that room. That’s No. 1, so who knows what happened, but it’s obviously a very hard situation.
On the goal of winning the Stanley Cup: There’s definitely that feeling in the room. Every team starting the season wants to make the playoffs and do all those things. We’re not trying to creep into the playoffs, we’re trying to be the team to beat. It’s a good feeling to have. I know that feeling in Pittsburgh. We have a group that can do it, it’s just a matter of finding the right pieces, getting a little lucky at the same time, getting a good run and getting hot. That’s all it takes. It’s a good feeling to have. We have a great group of guys that are starting to really understand how to win games and grind out teams. It’s an exciting time in Carolina, and the young core we have is very special and very driven. I love those guys. They work so hard, so it’s going to be a bright future in Carolina.
On similarities to his first playoff runs in Pittsburgh: I think so and I really hope so. I know my first year when we made the playoffs, I didn’t know what to expect. We stepped into that game and our whole team was just in shock. There’s another level there that players get to, especially that first round when you have all the juices flowing and the energy. It’s something that I think if you watch our first series, I think the team already knew that and we brought it that first round, first five-game series.
We played well with Boston, we’re going to learn from that. There’s a learning curve of finding ways to win games, getting uncomfortable and being OK with that. The young guys, I think, have learned a lot the last couple years in understanding how to just keep grinding through stuff that comes up throughout a game, not get too rattled, not push too hard and just finding ways to win games, sticking around and hanging around. I like the way our guys have responded over the last couple years. They’re only going to get more mature and get better.
On applying lessons learned to the offseason: The offseason is about getting your body right, maybe getting away from the hockey grind a bit. But at the same time, kind of unraveling the season you had, learning from it and learning how to best win games. I think, like I said, our group is moving towards that. We’ve got a lot of guys that are eager to bring the cup home to Carolina. It’s about putting it all together.
Some years it just doesn’t work, and some years it clicks. We had a taste of it two years ago, and it felt good. Our fans are going crazy. That feeling is what you need, just to kind of keep pushing towards that same feeling, the more you do that, the more opportunities you have to finish it off, so we have to be that consistent team and bring that every season. It’s not easy to get in the playoffs, so we’ve got to make sure you’re bringing that every night throughout the year and riding it into the playoffs.