As tough as it may have been for the Nashville Predators to pack up their gear on locker room cleanout day, say farewell to their teammates for the summer and contemplate what could have been, all is not lost.
After posting a 104-point season and with a core group of players set to return to Nashville in 2015-16, the hope is that this is just the beginning of something very special for years to come.
“It still stings,” goaltender Pekka Rinne said of the postseason loss to Chicago. “It’s always so sudden how it ends. You play a long season, and then all of a sudden you’re in the exit meetings. It feels kind of surreal, but I know looking back, it’s a good season for us. I think our future looks good with our young players, so you’ve got to be happy with the season we had overall.”
“We didn’t want to finish that way, but I think we had a good season,” forward Gabriel Bourque said. “It was my favorite year so far in the NHL and there are a lot of positives to take out of the year. You want to do better in the playoffs, but I think we did a good job too. [Chicago] was a tough team to play against and it was a good year.”
Bourque, a restricted free agent, along with forwards Craig Smith, Colin Wilson, Calle Jarnkrok and Taylor Beck, echoed a sentiment that was heard loud and clear during Monday’s closing media sessions.
“I want to be back here,” Bourque said. “It’s a fun team, and I like the boys here. Any chance I can get to come back here, I would be happy.”
And while time will tell as to who will be on the Preds roster come training camp in September, one thing is certain. The future of this team is more than just bright. It could be blinding in due time.
“We’ve got a lot of young, great players,” Wilson said. “It’s obviously not [the finish] we wanted, but it was a great improvement. I think this team did some great things this year and things we can definitely build on.”
“Looking at our team, I think we’ve got one of the better young teams in the League, on our backend especially,” forward Viktor Stalberg said. “[We might] already have the best D corps in the League and those guys are just going to keep getting better and better. With Filip [Forsberg] and a couple of guys coming up front, it should be a good future.”