BostonBruins.com - Paul Carey is sitting on 100 career NHL games.
It is, without a doubt, a nice number for any hockey player to land on. It is not, however, one that Carey has interest in sitting on for too long.
The Weymouth native would like nothing more than to get another extended shot at hockey's highest level. But for the time being, Carey knows his role - and it's one he has fully embraced.
Before the 2019-20 campaign, the 31-year-old was named the 25th captain in Providence Bruins history, an honor that brings with it a mountain of responsibility.
"It was certainly a huge honor for me to wear the 'C' this season," said Carey, now two seasons into his second stint with the P-Bruins. "I've known a lot of the captains that have played here before; one of them, Tommy Cross, is a really close friend and old teammate of mine. I knew that I had very big shoes to fill.
"I was super excited for the opportunity when [head coach] Jay Leach told me I'd be wearing the 'C'. There's a lot of history that goes into it. It's special to be able to represent our team and our guys and try to create a culture moving forward that's conducive of winning and [being] family oriented."
Carey, who also played 17 games for Providence in 2014-15, acknowledged that becoming the captain of such an important franchise took some getting used to. It requires a unique balance as he weighs his own ambitions with helping a bevy of young players that are essentially competing against him for a spot in Boston.
"That was a bit of a challenge this year, really starting to take these young guys under my wing was an adjustment I had to make," Carey said during a virtual conference call on Wednesday morning. "But these young guys make it so easy. They show up to the rink every day with a ton of passion and they're eager to learn everything.
"It's funny because you really don't have to teach them a lot. At such a young age, they're already very good pros. They get to the rink early, they take care of their bodies. They really seem to get most of it.
"But I just try to help them along and keep an open mind to whatever questions they have and try to teach them through my experiences that I've had along the way."
Video: Carey Addresses Media Members On Wednesday
Carey, a 2007 fifth-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche, appears to be handling that responsibility just fine. Both Leach and Bruins top prospect Jack Studnicka made sure to praise Carey - and the P-Bruins' veteran core - for setting a strong example both on and off the ice.
"I think the one thing that PC does so well is he focuses more on the team and the team success more than anything," said Leach. "Kind of lets everything else fall where it may. If we're focusing on team success, he wants everyone to get better…and we're all on the same page and in it to win it.
"That's what he's about and that attitude grew throughout the room. We were able to create an environment here in Providence that's healthy, a healthy competition between PC and [Trent Frederic], [Oskar Steen], whoever it might be."
Carey was humbled by the kind words of his coach and young teammates.
"It means a lot to me," said Carey. "And it's not just me, there's other leaders in that room too that make my job and Leachy's job a lot easier because we're a very tight group and we like to help each other along. When guys show up to the rink every day and they're eager to learn, they're energetic, it makes everyone's jobs a lot easier.
"If I can turn on the TV [in the future] and see a handful of these young players playing in the NHL then I feel like I did a pretty good job and I can hang my hat on that a little bit."
Video: Studnicka answers fans' questions during Town Hall
Providence clearly fed off that positive atmosphere as it surged to the top of the AHL's Eastern Conference with a team-record 12 straight victories - a streak that was only officially snapped last week when the league canceled the remainder of the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like their NHL brethren, it appeared that the P-Bruins were well on their way to a deep postseason run.
"It was very disappointing the way the season came to an end because we were all feeling so great about the group that we had, the opportunity that was ahead of us," said Carey. "For us, the American League Playoffs is the highest competition that we're gonna face within our league. For young guys and veterans alike, it's our opportunity to showcase our ability to play at that level.
"When you have such a tight group, a team that's really trending in the right direction at the right time of the season, it was a big letdown to not be able to see that through and give guys opportunity to showcase themselves and earn contracts for next year and work their way up the ladder, potentially make it to the NHL…and maybe some guys would have played up with the Bruins as well."
Individually, Carey had a stellar season of his own, as he built on the success he had after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators in January 2019. The winger potted 22 goals in 30 games upon his arrival in Providence last season and matched that total this year, ranking second on the P-Bruins behind Studnicka (23). Carey's 39 points in 60 games was also second to the rookie center.
"I thought it was a good season," said Carey, who played one game with Boston this season and remains on a two-way contract through the 2020-21 campaign. "I've weighed my success on a lot of personal stats and call-ups and whatnot. But this year it was different because when you're wearing the 'C' or any letter…you really rely on winning and being a successful team.
"I would have really liked a chance at the Calder Cup this year. I think having a first-place team and going on that win streak, it was a great season. A ton of great teammates and friends along the way. It was a great year in that aspect."
While his AHL season is finished, Carey is hopeful that his year is not completely over. With the possibility that the NHL resumes at some point this summer remaining open, Carey has continued to train daily in case he gets the call to join Boston.
"I'm taking every day as an opportunity to get ready for my next game, whether that's in July, August, September, 2021, I don't know," said Carey, who was a member of the 'Black Aces' squad that accompanied the Bruins during their run to the Stanley Cup Final last season.
"But it's on me to still treat every day as if I would be at the rink or I would be in a playoff run right now. I'm trying to stay as ready as I can, I'm trying to get in as many workouts and be in game shape whenever that game may come.
"I think it's on each guy that was playing and has an opportunity to maybe be a 'Black Ace' or play games in a potential playoff scenario coming up in the future. Or if our game isn't for six months it's on us to be ready. That's how I'm gonna take it."