Afternoon from Xcel Energy Center, the final time I’ll be in this press-room cubicle for quite some time.
The Wild held its season wrap-up this morning, starting with a GM Chuck Fletcher and coach Bruce Boudreau joint news conference in which Fletcher did his best to laud the regular season and make clear there will not be any wholesale changes. I’ll put all that toward the bottom of the blog.
The locker room then opened up to players.
There’s no easy way to present to you what’s bound to be a monstrosity of a blog, so I’m just going to do my best to create subheads for you to peruse at your leisure. In here will be stuff on expansion, free agency, potential trades, player injuries and specific players like Jason Pominville, Martin Hanzal and Darcy Kuemper and restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter.
There will be quotes from Fletcher, Boudreau and players throughout. Also, please give my main article a read later on the main wild page on this site or in Wednesday’s paper, Rachel Blount’s large notebook of odds and ends and my Eric Staal sidebar.
First, the news:
Granlund played with a broken right hand in the playoffs after blocking a shot. He didn’t use it as a crutch for his zero-goal playoff – one in which the Blues challenged him physically and he was completely turned into a non-factor, but obviously, it debilitated him. Fletcher also said there are three or four other players that will need procedures in the coming days, and that will be announced soon. He said Granlund was the most serious, one that won’t require surgery but will require a four- to six-week recovery.
Granlund said, “It's that time of the year where I just thought I'd play through it. … I could play with that. I had no problems with that. Just a little sore. Everybody has something going on. It's just a part of playing.”
He said it didn’t limit him: “I don't want to make any excuses about that.”
Joel Eriksson Ek and Jonas Brodin will play for Sweden in the world championships.
GREENWAY AN OLYMPIAN?
Jordan Greenway, prepping to represent the U.S. at the world championships, has officially informed the Wild he plans to return to Boston University for his junior year. I believe Greenway has been promised a spot on next year’s U.S. Olympic team. If that’s the reason he’s not signing, that’s fairly shady by USA Hockey because you know if he’s allowed by the NHL, Fletcher would have let Greenway play in the Olympics if he was in Iowa next winter. Same with Luke Kunin, etc., who after captaining the U.S. to world junior gold has not been approached by the U.S. to take part in the world championships, according to sources. Weird, eh?
By the way, the NHL hasn’t offered any instruction yet how non-NHL participation in next year’s Winter Games affects NHL contracts in the minors yet, like potentially Kunin and Joel Eriksson Ek.
For a guy with two years left on his contract, Jason Pominville’s future is a bit uncertain.
Fletcher has not decided if he’ll ask Pominville to waive his no-move clause for the ability to protect an extra forward for Vegas. The reason is because Fletcher may not need to ask Pominville in the first place if he makes trades with other teams beforehand involving a forward or if has other arrangements cemented with Vegas (for instance, maybe he’ll know they’re taking a specific defenseman, so he won’t have to worry if a specific forward is left exposed).
Regardless, with a $5.6 million cap hit next season and only 24 goals the past two seasons, it’s very likely the Wild will at least try to trade Pominville, who is owed $2.5 million of next season’s $5 million salary Oct. 1, this summer. Pominville’s 20-team no-trade list decreases to 10 July 1, so Fletcher would theoretically have double the teams to work with.
GRANLUND AND NIEDERREITER
Both are restricted free agents. The Wild, assuming neither is traded, will have to decide whether it commits to them long-term, signs them short-term or maybe let an arbitrator figure out a one- or two-year award.
I asked Fletcher if their zero goals in the playoffs after one each in last year’s playoffs scares him off from a long-term commitment despite their career-best seasons (Granlund 26 goals and 69 points, Niederreiter 25 goals).
In other words, can you win in the playoffs with Granlund particularly if he’s so easily nullified by playing him as physically as the Blues did?
“Look, there’s no question we had a couple guys that weren’t scoring at the same rate in the playoffs as they did earlier during the year, but I think if you go to every playoff team and look at the numbers there’s a lot of players that don’t score at the same rate. Again, let’s give St. Louis some credit here. Jake Allen, shooting percentage 5-on-5 was 2.5 percent, and we shot 9 percent all season. I’m not going to throw a bunch of stats at you, but clearly we need to execute better. Clearly we had opportunities to put the puck in the net. Clearly we could get more bodies to the net from time to time. Clearly our defensemen could put the puck to the net better and find shooting lanes, but that guy made a lot of saves. He was certainly the best player in the series, you know? So it’s difficult to score out there. He’ll never make an excuse. Granlund’s playing with a broken hand. It’s four to six weeks. Never complained when he’s playing with it. I think it’ll be a great learning experience for him. He’s a guy that, as we spoke this time last year, had questions about whether he was even going to become a top-line NHL player. He became a top-line NHL player, and when you’re a top-line NHL player you get top-line defensive coverage, and I think this was a great growing experience for him. He didn’t have any time and space. They defended him hard. They put guys on him. They put their best defensive players out against him. They hit him every time they could. You know, he played a lot of minutes this year, starting in World Cup. But he competed right to the end. I think he’ll take some things out of this. He’ll have to learn ways to create more time and space for himself. I just think he’s such a competitive and such a smart player, he’ll learn.
“And Nino, goal scorers are goal scorers. He’s been streaky before. He’ll be streaky again. He gets hot. He gets cold. I don’t know that he’s that much different than a lot of goal scorers. He certainly made a lot of big plays in Game 5 there and arguably put a puck in the net that maybe could’ve counted and certainly made a play on Koivu’s power play goal. Again, you look at five games, you’ve got to be a little bit careful. You’ve got to make sure you read enough into it to know what you didn’t do right, but five games are five games. You’ve got to be a little bit careful. Sometimes guys can get hot. Sometimes guys can get cold.”
Granlund said of his season, “Right now the biggest thing is the disappointment. Obviously it's not easy to look at the big picture. I think we did a lot of good things especially in the regular season and obviously we're disappointed with what happened in the playoffs. Hopefully we'll get even better and it's going to be our time next year.
“I felt good throughout the whole season. It was fun to play with us winning a lot. It was a good season. I think we took a step in the right direction so let's get ready for the next season and try to get even better.”
On his Lady Byng nomination (which comes with a free trip to Vegas): “I guess it's awesome. When you find that our when you're done with the playoffs you want something else but at the same time it's kind of cool.”
On the ending, Granlund said, “I truly believed we were going to go far. I don't think we played bad hockey by any means. We have a lot of respect for St. Louis because they beat us. But we feel like we outplayed them in a lot of games. It's not fun to stop the season right now when we know we had a chance to do something great.”
Asked if he regrets the Hanzal trade, Fletcher said, “Oh, gosh no. No, not at all. It was a first- and a second-round pick for two players (the Wild gave up a fourth in 2019 but got a fourth in 2017), and I don’t regret it at all. Hanzal played well. Whitey, we actually stayed remarkably healthy down the stretch and I figured there might be a few injuries where he’d have a chance to get more regular ice time, but I think he had a pretty good impact in the playoffs and is the type of player on that fourth line that can excel in the playoffs. But, no. You’ve got to give your team a shot. We had a very good regular season, and we were a couple pieces short, and I’m still not sure that it was a prohibitive price at all.”
Can the Wild afford to keep Hanzal?
My guess: Probably not when Granlund and Niederreiter have to be re-signed and the Wild doesn’t want to block the development of Eriksson Ek and Kunin.
Hanzal said, “I was really happy here so if there’s a chance for me to stay here, I would love to. But that would have to be both sides agreeing on that. I enjoyed it. I loved it here. … I’ve never been a free agent. It’s going to be a new experience. I have no idea right now to be honest which teams or whatever. I have to wait for the offers and see what happens.”
Hanzal said, when asked if he wants a long-term deal, “I think so.”
If that’s the case – and he has every right for that to be the case particularly because he’s arguably the best free-agent center available, it likely can’t work out here.
For the record, Fletcher said, “We haven't gotten there yet. There's still some concern and some uncertainty with where we have the salary cap lined up. Clearly we're going to have to make some move. We have been up front about that. We will take a look. We certainly have challenges this summer in terms of managing the cap and looking at our players. I also think there's opportunity and by that I mean last year we looked at the trade market awhile and we found Eric Staal. I think this year teams are being forced to look at their rosters differently so I do think there's opportunities here to at least pursue some different things. In that sense it's going to be a really exciting summer. We will see about Hanzal and White. It's so early to say. I thought Martin did a good job for us and brought exactly what we thought he would in terms of faceoffs and size and playing hard through the middle. He contributed at the level he has throughout most of his career without even getting most of the power play time he's been used to getting. He was impactful and certainly made us deeper through the middle. He was a good pick up for us.”
Asked if he thought it was a good fit, Hanzal said, “Maybe. I don’t know. I wish I was a good fit that we were still playing. I felt like we could do more. We had a great team and I think we just didn’t play well enough in that first series to succeed. I felt good. I was satisfied with everything – the ice time, the players. I felt good here.”
DEVAN DUBNYK, DARCY KUEMPER AND ALEX STALOCK
Fletcher was asked a lot about Dubnyk’s play in the playoffs, down the stretch and the fact maybe he was worn down because the Wild had no confidence in Kuemper in February and March. Fletcher said it’s “critical” the Wild has a backup next season that can play games and win games. Stalock has a chance to be that guy, but the Wild will also acquire another goalie to compete with Stalock for that gig or play in Iowa.
Stalock signed a two-year deal. The first year is one-way, meaning that he’d be paid his NHL salary in the minors. So that gives him a good shot to be the backup.
Here’s a ton of quotes:
On Dubnyk and whether he could lead this team to a Cup, Fletcher said, “We saw it a couple years ago against St. Louis, he was outstanding in that series. I thought he played very well in this series. Again, maybe there’s a goal or two there that he’d love to have back. But he gave up 10 in five games. I think his goals against was 1.88. Goaltending wasn’t a factor. If you told me going in that the series would go five games and we gave up 10, I would’ve taken our chances the way we produced offensively this year. The bottom line was Allen played great, they defended hard, and we had point-blank chances that we simply didn’t put in the net. The four games we lost, we gave up the first goal, which is always a problem. And they scored first. They got momentum. All four of those games we tied it up, which is a credit to us. I thought we showed great resiliency in battling back. And then all four games, we had opportunities to win and then we didn’t. They made the big play, and we didn’t. All four of those games were one-bounce games. They got the bounce. They made the play, and we didn’t. You tip your hat to them. Again, we made those plays all year, and we didn’t make them in this series.”
On Dubnyk’s sub-par play down the stretch, Fletcher said, “Again, there were some games where I don’t think we defended quite as well down the stretch. I don’t think we scored quite as well down the stretch for about a three-week stretch. For about the last seven or eight games, I thought Dubnyk played pretty well. Bruce can speak to that probably better than I can, but I thought he played really well in the playoffs. He made a lot of big saves. I thought we defended pretty well. We didn’t give them much of anything. They scored 10 goals, and we didn’t give them a ton of chances, and Dubnyk did make a lot of big saves. They had a couple big pushes. I thought in Game 4, the game we won, he made some huge saves to keep that game 1-0 at the time. But I have all the confidence in the world that he can be the guy. Down the stretch here, 25 games in 35 days, did that impact him? I don’t know. He played a lot of hockey. Everybody in the league played a lot of hockey. Did that impact him? I don’t know. But I thought he played well in the playoffs.”
On the need of a better backup, Fletcher said, “It’s critical. That’s a great point. That’s a fair point. The margin between success and failure is so small now. You need your backup goalie to win games and to play games. Maybe if your No. 1 guy is a little tired or having a tough stretch maybe to be able to sit him for a week and have your backup guy go in for a few games, that stuff is critical. I thought Alex had a tremendous year. It was really interesting when we signed Alex last summer, I think he recognized that he had been a backup for a few years and he hadn’t played a lot of games. When you’re a backup and you haven’t played a lot of games, I think your game really struggles. And he was adamant that he had to go down to Iowa. He wanted to be a No. 1 guy. He wanted to get games. He wanted to give himself a chance to be a competitive No. 2 goalie again. And he did that. He was a little sick early in the year, but from November on he played great. I think that team improved by 20 points this year, and we didn’t score a lot down there, so it was a large part because of how he played. So we’re very confident in Alex, and obviously we’ll look and see what other options are there. I think you need three good goalies. Hopefully another guy or two that you’re developing and three guys that can compete. But certainly Alex will be given a very strong chance to be that guy.”
ON OFFSEASON NEEDS, A NEED FOR A PHYSICAL DEFENSEMAN
“We are going to have to look at that. I think there's a couple trends with our team that I've seen from Day 1 that I think Bruce would acknowledge too that we need to get better. We have to become a little bit better of a net-front team. Maybe go back to [the] Andrew Brunette [era] even, I don't know if we're a team that gets good net front presence. I'd also say in fairness I think we can do a lot better of a job of getting pucks in from the point. I think our D need to do a better job of creating shooting lanes. Sometimes it's hard to go stand in front of the net and take a beating if the puck isn't going to get there. I'm sure the defensemen would say if the guy was standing in front of the net I'd get the puck there. So it's a little bit the chicken or the egg. I think that's an area. We scored a lot of goals this year. We were a very highly skilled team. We scored a lot of goals off rush plays. In the playoffs St. Louis just collapsed five guys in the front of the net and basically said, 'Just get it to the point and shoot it because there's no room around the net.' You've got to fight to get into the middle of the ice. You've got to find a way to get pucks through. And it's hard. It's a hard way score. I think there's ways to do that. I like the depth of our team. We are going to have to add some young guys. There are going to be some young guys that get a chance to make the team. But I like the way we move the puck. I like our skill. I like our depth. You always want to be a little bit bigger. Add a physical defenseman. We will potentially look at that. And just make sure we have enough depth. It's a good group. It's a good team. We have to keep pushing.”
Boudeau on what he wants next season: “Well I think as a coach you want everything. You want to get bigger, faster, stronger, younger. You've got to look at, definitely the salary cap comes into play. I think we have a lot of players still on the upside of having their best years. And to me it's always been that those guys when they get to be in their mid to late 20s is when they're physically the strongest and hopefully they've gone through the wars where they can be mentally the strongest. I don't see where anybody is at the age where they should be taking a backseat to being on the decline of their career. If anything, MIkko had his best year, the first time he's been a Selke finalist. Granny is a finalist for the Lady Byng, he had his best year. Eric Staal had his best year in five years. I think there's a lot of upside where we're going to get better rather than be on the decline. And they all know me now so they know what to expect come training camp. There's going to be no guessing. That part of it is all over. I would anticipate that in my mind that we're going to be better team than we were this year.?”
Boudreau on his desire to solidify the top-4 particularly with a bigger, physical defenseman: “You always have wish lists. I do think that that would be something that we'd like. But at the same time when we get that we're going to look and go, 'Man. I wish we had some more mobility back there.' So either way there's never the perfect combination. You'd like to be able to think that you're a bigger team and faster team. And getting a bigger defenseman on the back end, a more physical defenseman anyway, is something that I think we need. Whether we can get it or not, I don't know. Whether we could survive without it, I mean, up until March we were No. 2 in the league defensively so we did obviously survive without it. So we'll see how the summer plays out.”
WHAT HAPPENED IN FEBRUARY/MARCH AND WHY THE HANZAL TRADE
Here’s Fletcher on this subject: “It's interesting because all the stats tell a different story than what our record was. We were actually the best CORSI team in the league in March. I think our concern in February was personally I didn't think we had a lot of depth at center after Staal and Koivu. I was a little bit worried about our fourth line and how it was constituted. And we tried Charlie a little bit at center in February and at that time what we were trying to decide was, we knew we needed to add at least one or two forwards to our group. We thought we had 10 good forwards. Do we keep Charlie at center and get a winger, maybe a scoring winger? Or if we kept Charlie at the wing, we thought we had enough skill at wing where we would need a center. You know, with 20 games in 35 days we didn't know if Koivu and Staal with the wear and tear, were they going to be healthy. An injury to one of those two guys would've ended our season. So we thought adding Hanzal would really help and push Haula to the fourth line which in theory would give us a massive advantage in the fourth line hole and really help that bottom six get more production, have the puck a little bit more, play a little bit more in the offensive zone. We thought part of the game was slipping in February. We were very reliant on our top six forwards and we did get to be a little bit of a deeper team as the season went on. We will have to take a deeper look at everything. There's no question our shooting percentage went down, our save percentage went down. Clearly we weren't doing as well in every area. I thought at the end of the season -- the last seven or eight games -- we played a lot better. Even went into Detroit and lost a game in a shootout, I thought we played a really solid game. We were defending the way we were earlier in the year. Guys were squeezing their stick and maybe not scoring goals like we did. But I thought toward the end of the season we were playing better. I thought in the playoffs we generated a lot of chances. I thought we defended pretty well. We just have to execute. At the end of the day you've got to score goals when you have those looks and we didn't.”
Fletcher has begun preliminary discussions with Golden Knights GM George McPhee about trying to dictate what player he selects from the Wild – the Wild will protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. But Fletcher won’t get down to the nitty gritty with McPhee until he knows for certain if he can make any trades with the other 29 teams beforehand.
Fletcher told me after the news conference, “I’ve had so many calls on a lot of our guys the last year. We held on to everybody because we wanted to make a run. But if someone’s going to offer me a good deal right now, I’m all ears.”
I know everybody wants me to write an expansive Vegas advance, and that’ll come and I’ll point you to the several stories and features I wrote on Vegas before and early in the season. But right now, it’s absolutely pointless to try to figure out which players will be exposed before we see if Fletcher actually uses a defenseman or forward to try to acquire a scorer or physical defenseman.
And that very well could happen before the lists have to be submitted June 17.
Fletcher said, “I've already had a few conversations with him. I've got a pretty good sense of what they're looking to accomplish and I think they have a good sense of what we're trying to do. We will just have to see if we can find a fit. Certainly over the next couple of weeks I'll speak to George. He's overseas right now. I'll be in contact with him. They know what we're trying to achieve and they're trying to achieve some different things so I think there could be a fit there. We will work through it. We're going to lose a good asset one way or the other. Part of what we need to do is also find out what's out there on the marketplace outside of Vegas. That's the part where there's a little bit more uncertainty.”
ON IF HE EXPECTED THE SALARY CAP TO BE THIS FLAT WHEN HE COMMITTED THESE LONG-TERM CONTRACTS
Fletcher said, “I think going back to about the summer of 15 there were some projections that the cap would grow 5, 6, 7 percent, 10 percent in some cases. You know, for the last few years we've been pretty aware that we're in a flat cap world. We spend to the cap every year because we're competing and Craig is great and he gives us those resources every year and allows us to spend to the cap. When you spend to the cap sometimes it means you have to dig out from year to year. Last year we bought out Thomas Vanek which gave us the money to sign both Staal and Stewart. You're forced to make those kinds of decisions that isn't ideal but that's the reality that we're in. And this summer is going to present some different challenge. As I mentioned earlier, it's going to be difficult, but I think there's opportunities to bring in some different things to our team. There will be some opportunity next year. We are going to have some players on entry level deals play. There's no other way of making it work. We'll see who's ready. There will be opportunity whether it's Tuch or Kunin or Soucy or Reilly or Olofsson. There are some young players. Not all of them will make it but someone is going to have to and hopefully they'll have big summers and show up.”
FLETCHER PAINTING ROSY PICTURE ON SEASON
I wondered in my analysis here in Monday’s paper if Fletcher would go all Stan Bowman and call this season a “complete failure” and unacceptable. He didn’t.
Here’s Fletcher’s opening to today’s presser:
“This year is different. First of all you have to give credit to St. Louis. That was a very good hockey club. I think they were 21-7 the last two months. Obviously had some struggles in the middle of the year themselves. They had a really tough stretch in December and January. But from February on they played great, they rediscovered their identity and they were a hard team to play against. They played well, it was a very close series. Every game was hard-fought.
“This was the first year we had home-ice advantage. Of the six previous playoff series we’ve been a part f since I’ve been here, we’ve been the underdog in every one of them. Last year we played a Dallas team that was, I think 23 points ahead of us in the standings, and we played them without our two best offensive players in Parise and Vanek, our goalie had a broken hand, we were an 87-point team and we took them to six (games). I don’t think there was a human being that picked us to win that series.
“Whatever we did the previous four years has no bearing on this year. Go back to 2013 we played the Chicago Blackhawks. First time making the playoffs in four years, your goalie gets hurt in warmup before the first game. They were a better team than us, and they beat us. We were not favored to win that series.
“We’ve been about to win two first round series in the previous four years as underdogs and that’s a credit to those groups, but this year was different. This year it’s very disappointing to lose after a tremendous regular season. You look at our regular season, we had three bad weeks, and it hurt us to go 4 and whatever, 4-10 in March. Those three weeks definitely hurt, but the previous four months I don’t think we lost consecutive games in regulation.
“So it was a strong group. I thought the leadership core was tremendous all season to have that kind of consistency. There was a little bump in March but we were able to go 5-1-2 in the last eight to right the ship and then I thought we played pretty well in the playoffs and lost to a team that played hard.”
So how do you make the next step? Fletcher said, “Yeah, we didn’t (meet expectations). We lost in the first round. Twenty-nine of 30 teams are not going to reach their goal this year. That’s the nature of the game. But you’ve got to look at the big picture. Go back a year ago and the questions then. I remember sitting in this room…and the question was is Granlund ever going to become a player, was Jason Zucker ever going to become a player, what happened to Marco Scandella, what happened to Jonas Brodin, can he get a centerman, how do you have a center, do you have enough depth, how are you going to take a step when the team fell back? And I think we had the fifth-biggest improvement of any team over the regular season.
“People don’t want to hear about the regular season but it’s still an 82-game picture. That’s six months of hockey where we were in the top ten in goals against, goals for, power play, penalty kill, home record, road record. Again, four months without consecutive regulation losses. We were a remarkably consistent team. That whole group of kids 24 to 26 all took a step, not even just in terms of production where they had career years, but I think you look at a couple of them in particular and Granlund and Spurgeon have begun to take on leadership responsibilities, which is very important. The older group or however you want to define them, guys who are 32, 33, 34, you look at a guy like Koivu who had arguably his best year in three or four. I think Eric Staal probably produced more than most people would’ve anticipated and certainly had a major impact on the hockey club. You look at Ryan Suter who had another tremendous season, Jason Pominville I think was in the top 25 in the league in points per minutes played even strength and had a big bounce-back year. And Zach finished really strong after a real disappointing start with injury and illness. It just seemed like everything that could go wrong for that guy. Who gets strep throat four or five times in six months. He batted through a lot and he finished strong.
“You look at all those things and it’s still a very good core, it’s a strong team. To me we took a lot of steps this year. Bruce and his coaching staff did a very good job. It was a disappointing five-game playoff series, yet a playoff series that I think could’ve gone the other way. Give St. Louis credit. But you look over 82 games and we took big strides and were one of the more competitive teams in the league. There’s no reason we won’t continue to be that way.”
Asked if he feels this roster can make a deep run, Fletcher said, “Obviously we do. First of all, there’s going to be changes. With the salary cap and expansion, whether we won the Cup or finished 30th in the league, there’s going to be changes. We can’t bring this team back as it is. So there will be some challenges this season for those reasons, but also opportunities. And I think we can certainly look at important things that we do need to improve upon going forward. But this is a team that has three lines that can score, five quality D, a real good goaltender, so wholesale changes, I don’t think we need wholesale changes. Certainly we can look at ways to improve the team and that’s what we’ll do. And again there will be significant challenges for a lot of teams this summer, and we’re one of them.”
BOUDREAU ON LEADERSHIP
“Well, I think they came to play every night. You know, I think they prepared the right way. I think they did everything right. Mentally strong. We battled back all the time. I didn’t think that there was any point in the series where guys said, ‘Aw, crap. We’ve lost this.’ I mean, every time we got behind we came back. So the mental part of the game I think was fine. The leadership was really good, and we just didn’t get the job done. I’m not concerned about whether they can mentally go a second or a third or a fourth round. I think they can, and I think they’re striving towards that, and I think they want that opportunity, and I think there’s not a guy on the time that is happy with the outcome, and they’re all kicking themselves a little bit as much as the coaches are kicking themselves. We’d like another crack at it as soon as possible.
“They were easy to talk to, easy to approach. If I wanted something done and I talked to the leaders they would make sure that the room got it done. They came to practice hard every day. They did it with a smile on their face too. So I have no problem talking to any of them about anything.”
SOME PLAYER QUOTES
“It’s probably a little bit too early to start putting the positives right now. I think you’ve gotta be always critical on what went wrong and why we didn’t get the results we wanted, but for sure, there’s a lot of good things going on throughout the season. We finished, got the home ice, that was our goal going in to the season and I thought that for the most part we learned from the previous seasons. We were able to keep our level of the regular season pretty much, not every game, but every week basically. We had a little setback there in March but I think every team will face that and we got out of it, so yeah, there’s always something good if you’re able to get the home ice and all that but at the end it’s playoffs and when you have disappointment there then it’s tough to find those positive things right away.”
On roster changes: “I think the future looks good. I think for sure there’s going to be, with new teams coming in to the league and things like that there will be some changes on I’m sure every team in the league but I think we proved that what we were able to do throughout the regular season and, I say it again, I believe we played good, played good enough to win for sure more than one [playoff] game and for sure changes are small in the series like if you get a goal you’re in the game, if you get a second win, you know what I mean. A loss is a loss, like I said, there’s no excuses on that but I think you gotta look at the bigger picture on that and the way you play and the way we were in the series I think there was a lot of good in that series as well.”
On Boudreau: “I think it’s always when a new coach comes in there’s always a lot of new and basically the whole staff changed so, a lot of new ideas and the way we play the game and the work up to, it was a short camp but I thought we responded well but like I said going back to the regular season I thought we were able to get better as a team from previous years and I think the results will show that aw ell .I think we played some good hockey and I think, it’s not always an easy thing to do, I think payers are excited to get something new but at the same time it’s challenging to go and do things right away, usually it takes awhile but I think we were able to get where we wanted pretty fast early on the season and for sure did a lot of good with that.”
Some fans say this should be blown up? “I don’t think that’s the case. But everyone can have their own opinion. … I think we all like to think we can do that (make a deep run). Unfortunately it just didn’t happen this year like we had anticipated and like I think everyone had anticipated. But we’ll come back next year and try it again.”
Was this a good step this year? “I think we all like to think so. It’s pretty easy right now to forget about the good regular season we had because of what happened last week. Really, it’s about what you do in the playoffs. A good regular season is all you want, but we all want to win in the postseason. It just didn’t happen. We lost in five games, so it’s pretty easy to forget about the regular season.”
On his season? “It was a pretty unique year. It felt like I was chasing the year for a long time. Pretty unlucky, but it’s over now. By the end of the year, I felt fine. It was just a tough start.”
Nice not to be rehabbing in summer? “Yeah. But we’d all love to still be playing right now. Looking back on last year, going into the summer with what happened at the end of the year, yeah it’s nice to not be rehabbing today and for the next couple months. That part is nice, but I wish we were still playing.”
Left with more questions than answers? “It’s different. We talked about that before the playoffs started. But we didn’t play well going into the playoffs. We weren’t really peaking at the right time. We were struggling a little bit at the end of the year. There’s a lot of questions. I think we all want to know the reasons and are trying to figure out the reasons. Unfortunately, we have a lot of time to do that.
How’d your back hold up? “Great. No problems. Thank you for asking.”
How do you balance successful regular season with playoff defeat? “Obviously you feel like you should still be playing, the way that the season went. But the reality is we’re not. We’re here doing this and that’s the last place we wanna be right now.
Was this as fun of a regular season as you’ve had? “Definitely. We had a good group of guys. We have a great group of guys. And it’s just so frustrating, disappointing that you had so much fun and had such a good regular season and then to have it end like that.
Takeaway from sometimes being one of the best in the NHL? “Obviously it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, right? At the end of the day, every team that doesn’t win their last game is probably disappointed. I felt, with the team we had, we should still be playing, but that’s why you have to play the games.”
What worked well under Boudreau? “I think our group of guys has matured one more year. We got some depth down the middle, which we knew we needed, and everybody played up to their capability. I thought it was a solid year. But I think our group of guys is a great group of guys here.”
Is he the kind of coach that could take you guys a step further next season? “Yeah, at the end of the day, it comes down to your players, right? You have to perform and you have to perform at your best in the playoffs and we were unable to do that.
Summer plans? “Probably, gonna sound like a farmer now… plant some corn. No. Lots of lawn mowin’, I’m sure.”
Crazy long blog and thanks to the numerous reporters who helped compile this quote loop. If you have questions, find me on Twitter or email.
I’ll be on KFAN on Wednesday afternoon with Barreiro.
The Russo-Souhan Show will be at Hell’s Kitchen at 6 p.m. Wednesday and I’ll be doing another video podcast with Souhan and Anthony LaPanta, I believe, at 4:30 p.m. Friday from Hell’s Kitchen.
I’m also filling in for Paul Allen at 9 a.m.-noon May 3.
Hope you enjoyed our coverage this season. Talk to you in September.