Coming into the Canes’ 2021 season, one of the biggest x factors for the team going from a good team to a great team was if Vincent Trochek could bounce back from a couple injury-riddled seasons in Florida to his previous top-six form.
He had a couple injuries during the year, including one during the second round of the playoffs, but stepped up in a big way all season, finishing third on the team with 17 goals an second in points with 43.
Brock McGinn was his usual dependable self, providing a physical presence and playing up and down the lineup as the team faced the injury bug. The big question with McGinn, however, is whether or not the Canes’ second-longest tenured player will be back next season; he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent in July.
Both players spoke to the media during the first round of exit interviews Thursday, here’s a full breakdown of everything they had to say:
On if he needs any treatment and if missing games in the playoffs was a disappointment: No surgery, I won’t need any surgery or anything. I’ll be fine. Just a couple weeks off and that’ll to the trick. But it’s definitely disappointing. It’s frustrating. Any time you have a chance to compete for a Stanley Cup, you want to be on the ice with your teammates and doing anything you can to help. Sitting in the stands watching is maybe even more nerve-wracking than it is playing. It’s tough to watch and you want to be out there with your teammates really bad, so I wanted to get back out there as quickly as I possibly could.
On how he decided to play game five: It was an elimination game. It’s just the feeling that if the season was going to end, I didn’t want it to be with me in the stands and me not at least giving an effort to help my team and keep going.
On balancing the regular season success with the postseason disappointment: The success of the regular season doesn’t really matter if you don’t succeed in the playoffs. I don’t think you can really look at it that way. I think for us, it’s just a matter of we know the second round isn’t where we want to finish our season, we want to take it all the way, we want to be knocking on the door every year, so this is a disappointment for us. I think going forward, we just need to take this loss, use it as experience, learn from it, get a little bit better this summer and then come back ready to go next year.
On what the team needs to do to take the next step: There’s a lot. I think you’ve got to get better in every aspect of the game, special teams, five on five, it’s just kind of tightening things. We have a really good team. We know we do. We do a lot of things extremely well. It’s just doing a little bit more, making sure that we’re not giving up 10-15 chances a game, it’s got to be three to six. Doing anything we can to just tighten it a little bit. Our power play, we were good in the regular season, then our postseason wasn’t so great. So tightening that down, making sure that we’re staying above 20-25 percent throughout the year. Penalty kill, same thing. Just tightening it down a little bit more.
On his injury: I had a sprained MCL. It’s nothing too serious.
On joining a close-knit group: It was really easy. Everyone here is already so close, it was already one big family. Whenever I came here, it seems like 10 years ago at this point they just welcomed me with open arms. It was a very seamless transition. Coaching staff, players, management, equipment staff, everybody was extremely welcoming, and it was just after that first half year, we took that break and a lot of guys stayed in Raleigh. I got to know everybody a lot better throughout that time that we had off. And then going into the bubble, obviously we weren’t allowed to go anywhere, it was just 20 of us guys basically locked up in a hotel room, so that period of time really got this group pretty close. After that it was kind of just smooth sailing.
On if he’ll watch the playoffs and pull for the Lightning: I’m a fan of hockey. I’ll watch the playoffs. In my opinion, it’s the best sport and the best time of year. I don’t know If I necessarily become a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning after they beat us, I’m just rooting for good hockey.
On his contract status: I want to be back here. I like it here. I like where this team is going. Over the last couple years, we made some big steps, it’s a good group, good core. But on the contract side, I know right we just got put out, so that’s not really on my mind right now. It’s kind of just see where things go.
On what he’s learned the most about himself this season: Just kind of maturing, trying to figure out your game and bring it every day. This year, playing every other day, it’s kind of taking care of your body and being smart off the ice and every single day, so I guess that.
On the Canes taking the next step: I think it’s just not veering away from our game. I think throughout the whole year, we tried to play a full 60-minute game where we’d play our style of hockey. I think when things go wrong, I think we start to veer away from our style and our game plan. I think that’s something that affects and if we really focus on staying with our system and being in it, I think we’re right there.
On where the Canes are now vs. where the expectations were when he started: I think the first couple years, I feel the expectation wasn’t really there. I think coming in these last few years, the expectation is to win. Even though we made the playoffs, I think everybody in this dressing room is disappointed with the outcome this year. Everybody’s expectation coming in is winning the Stanley Cup, and that’s the only expectation we have, so anything other than that, I feel like we didn’t do our job. I think everybody in this room is disappointed, but you’ve got to come back next year and work for it.
On how far the Canes are from winning the cup: I think we’re right there. I think everybody believes in this room and in this organization that we can do that. We’re close. I think we’ve just got to come back next year and just put the next foot forward.
On if the Canes need to add to the system: I don’t really think there’s too much we need to change. I think it’s just like I said, it’s when we veer away from our system that that’s when things go wrong. I think there’s the belief in this dressing room that our systems do work, and when we execute them how we should, I think the outcome is there. So I think it’s just making sure we bring that every single night.
On the schedule format this year: It’s definitely different. It’s like you’re in the playoffs the whole year. You’re playing the same teams, it’s like series. I didn’t mind it, it’s definitely taxing on the body, but all in all, I think there wasn’t too much change. I think it’s just going out there and playing. So all in all it was good.