NEWARK, N.J. -- Mike Cammalleri still is trying to adjust to his new normal as a player for the New Jersey Devils. It hasn't been easy, but it hasn't been boring either.
Cammalleri didn't envision the Devils being 13 points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot and ahead of only three teams in the Eastern Conference by this point in the season when he signed a five-year contract with the Devils on July 1. He certainly had no way of knowing former coach Peter DeBoer would be fired in December.
But as disappointing as the season has been for the Devils, it at least has given Cammalleri an opportunity to observe and learn more about the game, as well as a chance to see into the Devils' future. It's a view that has Cammalleri optimistic about the Devils' potential for better things ahead.
Cammalleri offered his thoughts on the Devils, their future, his future, his reasons for coming to New Jersey, and a bit on his former team, the Calgary Flames, in an interview with NHL.com.
What makes you optimistic about what is going on here this season? Because it obviously has been a tough season.
"You come to a new organization, and New Jersey has a cachet to it also, so I've been trying to do as much observing as I can and assimilate the best I can. It's been an interesting year for us that way. We've seen a lot go on. I came in, got comfortable with a new system, a new staff, and we had such a tumultuous first half and we weren't having the success we wanted so a coaching change was made. It's been interesting to see how Lou [Lamoriello, general manager] deals with things and how he goes about his business. It's been a learning experience. And that was one of the things that was attractive to me about coming here, getting a chance to play in an organization and for a manger like Lou, who has done what he's done. To learn the way he does things was interesting for me and has been interesting for me.
"As far as our on-ice progress, there is still a lot of evaluating going on in a lot of ways and there are some exciting things to be a part of. I mean, we have five young studs on [defense]. You just can't get these guys anymore unless you get them through the system. We have five guys on [defense] and the sky is the limit as far as potential for these guys. And we have a great goaltender. I think it really all starts there. Moving forward that's exciting for me. I think that's a great template to start from."
Considering how this season has gone, do you have any regrets?
"No. No regrets. You learn that pretty quickly in life to have no regrets. You look back at why you make the decisions you do and at the time you make those decisions you do it with the best knowledge you have. I'm still happy I'm here. We're not where we want to be in the standings and it's been the kind of year it's been, so that's been disappointing. But for all the other reasons that's why I wanted to be here."
Do you keep tabs on your former team, the Flames?
"Of course. I watched the game [Thursday against the Minnesota Wild]; I watched a couple of periods at least."
What do you think of the success they've had this season?
"It makes sense in a lot of ways. No one can put a timetable on these kinds of things. But the one thing I always said about Calgary and the one reason why it was so hard to leave Calgary, and I said it in the summer and will say it again, is I really believe in the people. Craig Conroy and Brad Pascall I know pretty well; they're the assistant GMs there. I was just getting to know [general manager] Brad Treliving through the process, but from an initial reaction he seemed like a guy who really knows what he's doing. The coaching staff I got to know so intimately when I was there, so I had a lot of belief in them as well as the players that were going to remain. I really believed in the people there so I believed they would do it. I didn't know, like anybody else, that they would have such immediate success. Like I said, it's hard to put a timetable on those things. But it's been fun to watch them and they deserve all the success they've had. I know they're going to be in a big push here for the playoffs and it'll be exciting to watch down the stretch."
With that said, why did you leave?
"There's a lot of factors, some personal factors that I'd rather not talk about. But I did think we'd be in a much better spot to compete here this year. Looking at the [Devils] last year on a statistical basis with special teams, shots-against, goals-against, teams that are the top of the League in those categories usually have a correlation to finding success. Hey, you know, things change, but I'm still optimistic. We're on a roll now. You never know; we can snap off 20 in a row here."
One of the things about the Devils is they never really have had sustained droughts. Is that another reason that you might be optimistic? Or do you only consider the team now?
"I think so. As a player at this point in my career one thing I've also learned is when it comes to your success, all you can really control is what you do every day on the ice and what you do every day in the locker room. Be the best teammate and player you can be. You really have to have a lot of faith in management and coaching to make the difference because we play the consummate team sport and you can only do what you can do as a player. That probably goes to what you just said, Jersey has never really struggled for long periods of time and it's a testament to the way Lou does things. For me, putting faith in that is the plan."
What about Adam Oates? What has he done for you since he came on board?
"He's been good. Oates has a very detailed perspective on the game and he sees the game at a different angle than a lot of people do. I've been fortunate in the last few years especially to really learn a lot from coaches I played for. I think players always need coaching, so it's been nice. I'm learning now from Oates, I learned a lot from Pete in the time here was here, from Bob and his staff in Calgary. I think we can always learn from coaches. It's the benefit of having some good coaches. Good coaching is vital."