There’s plenty of positives to take away from this season, but now the focus turns to what will be an interesting offseason. Rod Brind’Amour spoke to the media following Tuesday night’s loss, here’s a full breakdown of everything he had to say:
On if he’s more disappointed in the outcome or proud of the process: Good question. Both, probably. I’m always proud of these guys. That’s the thing that’s great. You come to work and you have a group of people that just leave it out there. That’s what they did tonight. Everybody was just going so hard. But we’re obviously disappointed. This is not what we started out to have. We wanted to win it all. It’s tough. I think everyone’s disappointed right now, but I’m always proud of the group. When we started this three years ago, it was to get relevant and expect to win, and we do now. And then to be proud of what we’re doing. I think we’ve done that. There’s that next step we’ve got to find. That’s what’s left.
On the number one takeaway from this series: Right now the number one takeaway is that we’ve got to get a little bit better. Our talent is close, but clearly we got beat in the talent area. The big areas, the power plays, the penalty kills, that’s the area we’ve got to get better. So my biggest takeaway is ‘How do we get better?’ We were good all year, but when you get up against the best, that’s the great comparison. To see, ‘OK, wow, that’s how it’s done.’ That’s my biggest takeaway right now. But again, they’re a great team for a reason. There’s no weaknesses. They’ve got the best goalie in the world, probably the best couple players in the world. They’re stacked everywhere. They have great coaching. They’ve got it all.
On what needs to change personnel wise: We’ve got to get better, your depth. There’s always a weakest link that you can’t have. We’ve got to figure out what that is and get better at it. We definitely have some great pieces here both talent wise and character wise. We’ve got to make sure we keep those in tact and if there’s areas we’ve got to get better, which obviously we do, we’ve got to figure out a way to do that. So that’s what we’ve got to do moving forward.
On what the players learned from this year: You always learn from losing. You just do. You better. This one feels a little different than the other ones because we have been around a little more. But what do you learn? Like I said earlier, you learn that we have to be that much better. And you need 20 guys. You really need to have everybody at the top of their game to beat the best team. That’s why it’s so hard to beat the best team, and that’s why it’s the greatest trophy. So much has to go into it, and everyone’s got to get a little bit better.
On what he said to Andrei Vasilevskiy: I’ve been around a long time. That’s kind of what I said. I’ve seen a lot of goalies that were good, but he’s as good as anyone that I’ve ever seen. I go back to Dominik Hasek and how he affects the team the way they can play. He makes it look easy. Dominik Hasek made it look hard. We had a lot of great looks tonight, and they looked like nothing because he was in the right place or whatever. That’s what I told him.
On Alex Nedeljkovic: We’ve talked about him a lot. He was really solid again today. He’d probably like to have the last one back, maybe. But he kept us in the game. He really did. You’re proud of that kid, because he’s been with us a long time, paid his dues and put in the time. It’s nice to see that that paid off for him. Hopefully he’ll be a big part of us moving forward.
On Aho saying this season isn’t a step forward because of the loss: I’m glad he would say that. You certainly don’t want to be satisfied because that’s not it. We were here to try to win. I love that that’s what he said, because we fell short of that. I think in looking just at him, he took a big step this year. He went toe to toe with one of the best players in the game this series, and I thought was right there with him. That’s where he took a step forward. I love that he’s all in to just win. That’s what we need around here, for sure.
On what he’s most proud of: All of that, really. This was just a tough year for everybody, but it felt like there was something that wasn’t going our way. And in the playoffs double it. It was just really weird how in the short playoff series, it felt like every game was like ‘Man, we didn’t get a break. That didn’t work our way.’ And yet these guys kept putting their head down and fighting. I guess that’s a long answer to your question, but just coming to work every day and saying ‘I’m going to do my job.’ And I appreciate that.
On playoff scar tissue helping teams grow: That’s for sure. You learn a lot from these lessons. What I love about [Aho] is that he wants to win. It’s all about winning the Stanley Cup. That’s it. I think every time you take one on the chin, I think it molds you for the next time. It toughens you up, and it’s part of the process. You don’t want to have it, I went through a ton of times. You’ve got to just keep sticking with it. I know he will.
On taking pride in making the playoffs a third straight year: We want to have a chance every year. That’s what we wanted to do. I think obviously we’ve done that. I think right from the top down, that was the goal. Right from the beginning, day one, we never talked about making the playoffs. That’s not it. It’s trying to be the best team and we try to do everything that way with that in mind. So I don’t know if I’m proud of making the playoffs three years in a row, but I’m proud of how we’ve done it.
On getting better and if the current group has more to give: I’m happy with how everyone performed, prepared to perform and work. Do we have to get better? Everyone’s got to get better. From our top guys all the way down, everyone has to get better constantly. Even if we had won the whole thing, I’d say that, because if you’re not getting better you’re getting worse. Do we have some areas that we want to clean up and get better personnel wise? For sure. Hopefully we can keep the bulk of these guys here, but it’s a business and we get it. But never one time did I doubt the group, and certainly not how they prepare and play.
On how much he’s looking forward to entering a normal season next season: This whole playoffs has felt normal. We were lucky that this conference, Nashville had people in, we’ve had great fans here from the get go. But let’s hope that we all can return back to that way starting next year. This team was a great team all year, and people didn’t get to watch us until the end. This would have been an unbelievable year, we were one of the best teams in the league the whole year and nobody could come see us play. So they missed out on that. Hopefully we can replicate that and create that excitement, and people have a lot of fun around here. Because that’s what I’m hoping that we can provide.
On if there were any injuries coming out of this series to rehab over the summer: Everybody’s banged up. If you’re asking about surgeries and stuff like that, I don’t know about that. They’re getting their medicals tomorrow, so we’ll maybe have more updates at a later time on that. This year was tough on the players for that because of the schedule and the way you played every other day and grinded it out. So I can’t answer that right now, but hopefully not.