It was meant to be a softball question. "Did you watch the Stanley Cup Final?" But Mark Stone looked at it like it was a heater zipped in high and tight around near one of his ears.
"I didn't watch a single playoff game after we got eliminated," replied Stone, produced in as close to a snarl as the laid back guy from the Canadian prairies ever offers.
Another question came quickly and Stone returned to the affable manner he wears just about everywhere but on the ice. A little later he was asked to explain why he kept his back to the TV for the rest of the playoffs, he gladly explained.
"Coming to Vegas, my goal is to be a part of the Final. So for us, it was tough especially the way we went out, so we felt like we had as good as a chance to win the Stanley Cup this year as anybody and we still feel strongly about that," explained Stone. "I think the 23 guys who are going to hit the ice in October are going to have ultimately have one goal and that's to win the Stanley Cup."
Stone is nominated for the Selke Trophy which will be presented at the NHL Awards ceremony tonight at Mandalay Bay. The 27-year-old winger with the Golden Knights is up against Bruins center Patrice Bergeron and Blues pivot Ryan O'Reilly.
The last winger to win the award was Jere Lehtinen back in 2003. Stone, however, is the embodiment of a winger doing much of the work a center traditionally does. He plays down low in his own zone and is often the forward who takes the first pass from his defensemen to kickstart a defensive zone breakout.
"Everybody kind of says centers have a bigger impact on the game," he said. "But I think now, it's more of a five-man unit. You have to be able to switch from center to wing a little bit."
Stone left Vegas shortly after his team's first round exit to join Team Canada at the IIHF Men's World Championship. He led Canada to the gold medal game and was named tournament MVP.
"It was good to be able to keep playing. And I got to play a lot with Marchy (Jonathan Marchessault) and Shea (Theodore). It was good to get to know them better as teammates and guys off the ice," he said. "I would have rather been playing in the Stanley Cup but it's always a good experience to play for your country."
There's a fairly evident trend in everything Stone says as it always circles back around to winning the Stanley Cup when he's talking hockey. One of his teammates commented on his bearing in the dressing room during the playoffs.
"He's our leader. Doesn't matter if no one is wearing the C here. He's the guy you follow," said the player. "It's just natural leadership. He does everything for the team and he does everything right. It's impossible not to follow him."
Stone says the Golden Knights, both players and the organization as a whole, made it easy for him to come in and have an immediate impact.
"The guy let me be who I am right when I got here. Obviously it's difficult to do sometimes when you're coming into a different setting but between George (McPhee), Kelly (McCrimmon) to Turk (Gerard Gallant) to all the coaches to all the players, the main message that I received was be yourself. Guys are going to accept you for who you are and it was real easy for me to transition into that," he said. "I'm not the most vocal guy when it comes to a dressing room, but I just want to play hockey. I want to go out there and give it my all every night just like the rest of us do. That work ethic that is so contagious, I think all 23 guys on our team can have that. I just want to be a part of a winning culture."