On Saturday night in Florida, the Carolina Hurricanes played their final regular season game of the 2015-16 season. On Monday in Raleigh, players met internally with coaching staff and management. And on Tuesday, the Canes faced the media at PNC Arena for the final time before the offseason.
Though the Hurricanes were once again left to answer questions in early April, having missed the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, there was a fresh air of optimism as the team reflected on the progress it made and where the promising young core could lead next season and beyond.
CanesVision was there to capture video from the players in the room, and links to each can be found below. Embedded are some of the highlights from what was said to cap the 2015-16 season.
On if he believes the team is headed in the right direction: “I think so. … Definitely a lot of good things with the young group we have and the players that have come up and played really well, showing they can move this franchise in the right direction.”
On falling short of the playoffs: “Unfortunately it’s happened a few too many times the last few years. It’s not easy. Every player wants to push for the Cup. Just to get the chance to fight for that thing is a privilege. We were very close to getting there, and hopefully we can get that privilege next year.”
On playing without his brother, Eric: “Obviously I’d rather have him here, but it is a business. We knew that when things don’t go well, things change. It is what it is. I played out the rest of the season and still felt very comfortable here. It was fun playing alongside these guys, and I want to see where it takes us from here.” Cam Ward
On the 2015-16 season: “To be honest, I had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed playing with this group. I know it’s a young group, and it almost made me feel young again. Coming to these exit meetings is never an easy thing to try to explain what went wrong, but I think there’s a lot more positives coming out of this year and the direction this organization is going.”
On the team’s young defense, specifically Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce: “I can’t say enough about them. The fact that you had three rookies step in and play the roles they played, that’s not normal. … We had three guys who were definitely in our top six and they deserved to be there. What impressed me the most about them was their maturity, not only on the ice but off the ice, too. That’s how you know those kids are for real. They’ll be big parts of this organization for a long time, and I had fun playing with them.”
On the uncertainty of this summer and his future with the Hurricanes: “I think eventually it will sink in, but I’m not ready to close that door. I’m remaining optimistic that hopefully something can happen. I’ve made it clear that this is where I’d like to be. I’m proud to have been a Hurricane and been here for as many years as I’ve been. Obviously the feeling needs to be mutual, and I’ll address it when it’s presented to me.”
On playing with one team in his career: “It’s worth a lot. I’ve talked to my wife about that, how fortunate and lucky we are. You come across all these other players who, for the most part, have been elsewhere, and they can talk to you about their experiences on other teams, whether good or bad. That’s something I’ve never experienced and you tend to wonder what it could be like, but I’m comfortable here and would rather be here. If I’m told it’s time to move on, then you be professional and move on.”
On how different the locker room was without Eric Staal: “It was really different. That’s a guy who I played with for 12 straight years. Emotionally it was hard, especially the timing of the trade. I can admit that if there was a game that I wasn’t mentally quite there, it was against the St. Louis Blues. When you see your best friend get traded, for me I immediately think of being there for him and his family and trying to make that transition easier on him.” Noah Hanifin
On representing the United States in the World Championship: “Anytime you’re playing on the world stage you’re playing against the top players in the world. Just playing more games and seeing different guys around the league on your team definitely will be an experience that will help me. Just kind of measuring myself against those guys and being in the same locker room as them will help me.”
On advice from the team’s veteran defensemen: “They were huge. We had a lot of young guys on the team, including three young defensemen. Guys like Ronnie and John-Michael Liles and even Faulker, who has been here for five years, all helped us out a ton. Just little tips in practice and throughout the games. They did a great job of making it a fun environment coming to the rink every day. They’re all great guys and definitely made us feel welcome right from the beginning.”
On expectations for next season: “We have a lot of good character in the room. Our goal is to make the playoffs next year. We were pretty close this year. It’ll be important for us to have those expectations next year, to make the playoffs.”
On improvements he can make heading into next season: “I think it would be just giving other players less respect. I think coming into this year it was a little weird because you’re watching some of these guys your whole life and then you go out and play against them and you’re kind of in awe sometimes. I think I’ll get rid of that just as I get older. Coming into next year, I’ll just play a little more physical in the D-zone.” Jaccob Slavin
On his takeaways from his rookie season: “I think just learning how to be a professional hockey player even more. You watch the older guys and how they go about their routines and stuff like that, and you learn a lot of stuff. Every day is a new day and you have to compete every single day. In that aspect, I definitely learned a lot. On the ice, just continuing to grow each and every game.”
On his opportunity with the Canes this season: “I definitely don’t think I expected to be up here much this year. The call came in November and I just tried to take advantage of my opportunity and just help the team in any way that I can. It was definitely a treat being up here most of the year.” Brett Pesce
On his thoughts on his rookie season: “I think I proved to myself and management that I can play in this league. I know that it was definitely a development year, and I had my fair share of mistakes. I’ll continue to get better, and hopefully I can be a better player next year.”
On expectations for next season: “We’re a young team. Everyone knows that. We had a great year this year, and we’re going to have a fresh start next year. We can’t let off the gas. We accomplished a lot, and we’ve got to only get better. … I think we’re up for the challenge. I think everyone in the room here expects to be a playoff team next year. We obviously have to live up to it.” Justin Faulk
On the performance of the team’s young defensemen: “It’s not easy as a young guy to come in the league and be successful, especially on the back-end. It’s tough, and there’s a lot of pressure. We’re relied on them for quite a bit this year. All three did a pretty good job from where they were day one to where they are now. I’m sure they’re a lot more comfortable and have a better feeling of where their game is at. It’s good to see the progress like that. If they can keep doing that, they’re going to be some good defenseman. It’s going to be fun to play with them.”
On Faulk’s evolving role with the younger defensemen: “They’re young and they want to learn. I’ve been through it, maybe more recently than some of these other guys. They look to me sometimes for help, and I’ve just got to be there to offer some advice or whatever they need. It could be hockey-related or something outside the rink that’s going on and they’re just trying to get comfortable. If they need my help, I’m here for them at all times.” Jeff Skinner
On the progress the team made this season: “There’s definitely been some good steps, just the fact that we were in the hunt for so long. We gained some valuable experience in those big games coming down the stretch. Hopefully next year, we’ll be talking about something else.”
On the search for more goal scoring: “I like to think we can score a couple more. Obviously, we needed a few more. Especially when you think about coming down the stretch, we had a lot of games go in to OT and shootouts, and if you can find that goal late, maybe it doesn’t go to OT and maybe you can find one in OT and get that extra point. It makes a big difference.” Full Player Interview Video
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