“I can’t say I knew for sure what was going to happen,” he said after joining Friday’s captains’ practice at Ristuccia Arena. “There was a period of time there where I really wasn’t sure. I never had been told I wasn’t coming back, so I kind of always had that bit of hope, but at the same time, kind of looked at the team — the roster and the situation we were in — and knew it would be a difficult thing [to re-sign].”
Then, of course, changes were made. Trades came down the afternoon of the NHL Draft, and the following week, the Bruins announced that McQuaid would be back in Black & Gold for 2015-16 and beyond.
On June 30, the day before free agency opened, Boston signed the defenseman to a four-year contract extension, and no one was happier to hear the news than McQuaid himself.
“They’re putting faith in me,” he said, “and I want to reward that faith and bring what I bring to the table and not worry too much about anything else. But again, I’m still working on my game and trying to get better, and hopefully, bring in a little more leadership and again continue to improve my game.”
At last season’s final media availability, McQuaid was emphatic about the fact that he wanted to remain a Bruin. He also admitted that he wasn’t sure it was financially possible, given Boston’s cap situation at the time.
In the end, though, it worked out.
“I didn’t foresee things happening the way they did,” McQuaid said, “but obviously, I’m very excited to be back. It’s an organization that has done a lot for me, and I want to continue to win here and bring what I bring to the table, and hopefully add a little bit more, and again, like I said before, have some success.”
Some of the moves that were made this offseason surprised McQuaid. Like the rest of his teammates, he was disappointed to see some of his longtime friends leave Boston — but like the rest of his teammates, he understands that sometimes, these things have to happen in the world of professional sports.
“I guess, like everyone’s saying, it is part of the business,” he said. “But it’s difficult to see guys go, especially guys that you’ve played with for a while and have strong friendships with, and guys you’ve won with before and had long runs [with].
“You have to turn the page, unfortunately, and move forward, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this group can do.”
So turning the page is precisely what McQuaid is doing. He is excited to still be wearing a Bruins uniform, now and for the foreseeable future, and he is excited to see what else he can bring to the table.
As it stands, McQuaid brings stability and toughness to Boston’s blueline. But he knows there is more he can do, more he can bring and more he can accomplish with this team.
“I think I’m looking to take on more of a leadership role,” he said. “I’ve been here for a little while now, and I do want to take that next step. I want to try and bring more to the table, hopefully play a little bit more in a top-four role, but again, at the end of the day, it’s all about what works within the team and the system, and whatever brings success.
“So hopefully, from an off-ice standpoint, hopefully I’ll be able to be a guy who guys can go to if they have questions or concerns, or [if they] need to talk about hockey, or anything else — I can be one of those guys, and that goes a long way, too.”
McQuaid is well aware that leadership will be an important trait among this year’s returning Bruins. There are a lot of new players coming into the mix — some via free agency, some via trade and some via I-95 from Providence — and the stability players like McQuaid can provide will be instrumental.
McQuaid is more than willing to assist in that regard. He is a player who has always prided himself on his leadership qualities. He has always taken it upon himself to reach out to younger players, get to know them, let them know that he is there to help them in any way.
With plenty of new faces expected to enter the fold, those qualities will be more important than ever. But McQuaid isn’t expecting much of a culture shock, given the new look of the B’s. From what he has seen after just one day of informal practices, they are going to be just fine.
He is especially impressed with what he has seen from newbies Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey — not only on Friday, but on the ice over the last couple of years.
“I can remember pretty well playing against Jimmy in Florida,” McQuaid said. “He’s one guy who stood out; there’s not too many forwards I play against that are taller than me, and I was battling with him in front of the net and can recall remembering how big he was, and his size, and the difficulty of moving him from the front of the net. Obviously, [he is] a guy who can shoot the puck.
“I was really impressed with Matt Beleskey — you don’t get to see him quite as much being in the West, but today I thought he skated well and he’s finding the back of the net every time he’s out there. He’s also a guy that can play a physical game.
“[I] haven’t gotten the chance to meet [Zac] Rinaldo yet, but I think we know what he brings to the table — physical guy that can stir things up, and he skates really well. So all great additions to our team.”
Given all of the personnel moves this offseason has brought, it is impossible to predict where McQuaid — or anyone else — might fit into the lineup when the puck drops on Oct. 8. But that lack of predictability isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means there are opportunities up for grabs.
It is up to the players to seize them.
“I think we’re really deep on the blue line,” McQuaid said. “We have a lot of guys that can come in and play, and we’re really fortunate that way, so I think it’s an opportunity for a lot of guys. I think it’s something where if you’re playing well, you’re going to get the chance to do more. So I’m going to hopefully compete and be able to give myself the best opportunity.”