As the season ends, Tampa Bay Lightning players reflect on the ups and downs of a very tumultuous season. Relevant quotes from the recent interviews are transcribed below. For the sake of clarity and fluency, I have omitted extraneous uses of the phrases “you know,” “obviously,” “and,” “so,” and “but.”
Transcript based on audio recorded by Clark Brooks, Raw Charge beat reporter.
Tyler Johnson: I’ve never been in this position before. Whether it be in juniors or anything. The last five years, we’ve had some pretty good runs. It’s one of those things where you can honestly say it just sucks. It’s not a fun time. It’s not where we want to be, we want to be in the playoffs. That’s where the fun hockey is. Now we’re going to be even more motivated for next year.
Question: What did the team show you in the last few weeks of the season in terms of never giving up and saying, “Hey, we’re going to bring this everything that we got every night to try to get in.”
Johnson: Well I think that says a lot about the character of everyone on this team. We want to win. We want to be in there. We weren’t happy with the way we were, and where we were at in the standings obviously. There’s a lot of teams that could have just quit, but these guys never wanted to quit. We want to keep on going. We wanted to keep trying to prove people wrong and get in. We got really close, but unfortunately that’s all that it was - it was close.
Question: How banged up are you?
Johnson: Right now, pretty bad I guess. It’s not - I take that back. It’s not bad. It’s getting better. Probably another week or two and I’d be back to 100%. Unfortunately right now we don’t have that time.
Question: Could you have played this week in the playoffs?
Johnson: I think so. I don’t know. The last week here I wasn’t really skating that much, trying to heal up. We’d have to test the skating, but definitely would have done anything I possibly could to [play in the playoffs].
Question: Now that it was over, what was your injury?
Johnson: It doesn’t really matter. [chuckles]
Question: You tried to come back those two games. How tough were those two games to play?
Johnson: Yeah, I tried to come back, tried to help the team. It was hard, just where it was at. I didn’t feel like I could contribute that much. We had another discussion where if were going to make the playoffs, it would be better just to rest it and try to get it back to that strength. That’s kind of why we decided to take the other games off. At some point, we didn’t get there.
Question: You need a procedure at all? Or is it all going to be rest and rehab?
Johnson: No, it’s definitely not a procedure. Nothing like that, it’s just time. That’s the common theme with this injury. We couldn’t really do anything with it. It’s just one of those things that need time and we didn’t have that. Kind of a weird, fluky thing, but it happens.
Question: You mentioned never being in this position before. You’ve played a lot of hockey. A lot of you guys have played a lot of hockey over the last three or four seasons when you guys were in the playoffs. I know you’d rather be in the playoffs, but in this long summer, would keeping guys healthy and mentally put in an extra [inaudible]. Do you think that’s something that would propel you a little bit?
Johnson: Well yeah, I think so. It’s tough every year having a two-month summer and trying to get back into the shape that you were at beforehand, recovery and everything. But I’d much rather have that two-month summer than have this. We’re already motivated. This is a crummy feeling - no one likes this. I think you saw at the end of the year how motivated we were to get into the playoffs and really make a run. It’s what we’re going to be working for all summer. I know every day I’m going to be thinking about it.
Question: With all the new faces, was there one that particularly stood out to you this year?
Johnson: I don’t know. A lot of guys did, especially at the end of the year. There were guys coming up or whatnot. I think that says about the quality of the depth in our organization. We have a lot of guys that can come up, fill roles, and play different things. I think you have have to give a lot of credit to the AHL team [Syracuse Crunch] down there of really getting these guys ready to play - and also the scouts finding them. I think our future’s pretty good here.
Question: You said in [pre-season training] camp Brayden Point was going to be a heck of a player. I think the league saw that this season. What did you learn? Or what was it like watching him develop in his first year?
Johnson: Yeah, he did unbelievable. I think right at the beginning he working hard, getting all those chances, but I think he was in his head a little bit. Actually after his injury when he came back, I think he kind of calmed down and played more of his game. He’s a heck of a kid. I really like him. He’s sitting next to me in my stall every day so I got to know him quite well. Good Western Canada boy, sp we played in the WHL [Western Hockey League] together, I like that. He had a great year. You could see at the end. He’s just going to keep on working hard and keep on getting better. That’s great for our organization and team.
Question: Like Pally [Ondrej Palat] and Jo [Jonathan Drouin], you’re a RFA [Restricted Free Agent] this summer. Are you hopeful something will get done quickly? What are you kind of expecting going into the summertime?
Johnson: Yeah, hopefully it gets done quick. We’ll see. Obviously there’s things going on. But yeah, so I want to be here. Tampa is my second home. Hopefully everything works out the way that I want it to.
Question: If you return, do you see your role in this team changing or adjusting a little bit next year?
Johnson: I don’t know. I mean I’m going to do whatever I can to make the team better. Depending on what’s asked of me, that’s all that really matters.
Question: All indications though, you’ll be here next year?
Johnson: [chuckles] I don’t know. We’ll find out. I mean I sure hope so. That’s what I’m hoping for. I know Pally is as well. There’s a lot of guys, so we’re - it’s going to be a busy summer, but at the same time it’s a long one.