Goodbyes are never easy. There are the sentimental goodbyes, like the last day of high school, in which you lay everything out there like it's the last time you'll ever meet again, perhaps tearfully. Then there are the ones where you hold it in, despite knowing that everything's about to change.
I'm sure you'd be shocked to find that I'm the sentimental type.
Every locker room has its own kind of closeness, but to anyone who watched the Lightning come together as a unit this season knows that this team has a different level of brotherhood. One thing was clear during exit interviews this morning at the St. Pete Times Forum: no one was ready to let that go.
"I'm sure if you ask the greatest majority of these players they'll say 'I'd love to stay,'" said Guy Boucher. "And that'll be a true statement."
Boucher, who said he's looking forward to taking a summer break for the first time in a few years, said that the hardest thing is not knowing who's going to be back.
From Steven Stamkos to Simon Gagne to Dwayne Roloson, all uncertain of where they will be next year, the consensus was that they'd love to return to Tampa Bay.
"I'd love to come back," said Roli. "Since I've been down here it's been a great organization from top to bottom, from the ownership down to the coaching staff down to the players."
And besides the brotherhood built in the locker room, there's one individual who made a difference: Head Coach Guy Boucher.
Sure, this is nothing new. Boucher, who will never admit that he's done anything for the team, who even took the time today to thank the media, was such a vital force behind this team.
Roloson, who came to Tampa Bay with years of experience, admitted the difference in Boucher:
"You always learn. When you stop learning I think you need to quit playing. For me it was coming in and having to deal with Guy. I learned so much from Guy, how he prepares the team, how he prepares each individual differently, because he has to."
As for the playoff run, there may be a sense of regret, but it has been overshadowed by a sense of the accomplishment of the season: The team identity and how far they went together this season..
"It was a great run with these guys, we're proud, and maybe surprised some people, but I don't think we surprised anyone in this room," Steven Stamkos said today.
Stamkos, who today said he was waiting for a call from Gary Roberts (who he trains with in the off-season), said that he will probably take a few weeks to relax, mentally and physically, before jumping into training for the summer.
As for coming up short with the team's playoff run, Stamkos said, "It's tough to swallow, but something that you have to, and something that will make us better."
Boucher recalled words that a fan said to him over the weekend: "Don't be disappointed, the team is back on track, and we're on the map now."
Tampa Bay is definitely back on the map, and we'll look forward to seeing what comes next.
On a personal note, I'd like to thank the staff at Raw Charge for all of the work throughout the year. Special thanks to John and Cassie who pour hours of work into the work they do here. Blogging, whether part time or full time, is hard work, and having a supportive staff to makes the difference. I'm so thankful for all of the opportunities I've had this year getting to cover the team, and I want you all to know how much I appreciate your continual work and energy for this site.
As for our regular readers, thanks for the support throughout the year. Obviously, you guys make it happen. Otherwise we'd just be talking to ourselves.