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.”
Pregame Press Conference - April 9, 2017
Alex Killorn: We were that close to being in a playoff spot when 30-something games out it didn’t look really good. For us, we take positives out of that. But I think just in terms of season, there’s got to be more urgency. You realize that making the playoffs is really tough in this league. With the parity in the league, it’s difficult. We just have to be ready and have that sense of urgency throughout the entire season.
Question: You guys have made a couple of really big runs in the last couple of years. Just in the playoffs last year and now you almost did it - is it more emphasis on the start of the season and the first half?
Killorn: Yeah, we’ve had some really good runs. I think in a lot of those you realize how much fun playoff hockey is and you kind of just want to get back to the playoffs. But you have to realize that the season’s a grind. There has to be more of a focus put on the season because everyone wants to play in the playoffs. That’s the fun part of the season, but there has to be more of a grind during the season for us.
Exit Interview - April 10, 2017
Question: Alex, when did the reality kind of hit you? You look at the standings today and you guys missed out by one victory.
Killorn: I think it - I mean it hit us obviously when I was watching the Pittsburgh-Toronto game, at the end of that game. I think it’ll sink in more once we start watching the playoffs and we see these teams playing and we’re just kind of sitting at home.
Question: You look at too - last year, you were just three point better than you are this season, but you made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Question: It just shows, if you get in, anybody can win this thing.
Killorn: Yeah, I think it shows the parity in our division and more so our conference. It’s tough to make the playoffs. Like you said, it was three points from this year to last year. It just shows you how close these teams are. It’s tough looking back that it was only three points and we went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. Something to look forward to next year.
Question: Alex, was there any point this year that you guys felt the effects of two playoff runs?
Killorn: We get asked that question throughout the year. I don’t think so. Maybe injuries played a part in that, I don’t know. I think for sure it’s tough, but we’re pros. We have to take care of our bodies. We have to make sure we’re ready. I could only talk for myself personally, I don’t think it had too much of an effect. Maybe mentally, it is tough playing those long playoff series, coming in the next year. But we can’t use that as an excuse.
Question: In that sense - I’m sure you’d rather have a short summer than a long summer - but to have this time, going into next year, everybody fully back and healthy, to have that mental time. Do you think that - not having any choice otherwise - but does it give you a bit of a boost?
Killorn: Yeah, well when you look at it now, I mean we’re not in the playoffs. It is a benefit in the sense that we’ve had guys that have been hurt with injuries these past couple seasons, to have a long off-season for guys to really get in their best shape will help us out. I think this team with everyone healthy is a team that people are going to be worried about.
Question: Was there a period that guys were just trying to feel each other out to see who was going to step up with the losses of all your key players early on in the season that might have kind of slowed things down for you a bit?
Killorn: Well, when the young guys came up, you mean?
Question: Yeah, not knowing if they were going to be able to step in. Was there kind of apprehension about the team? Or just not a lot of confidence?
Killorn: I think that was kind of the turning point, right? We had all these young guys coming up - kind of guys that haven’t really proven themselves in the National Hockey League. For us, it was we needed to get points. That was the point in the season where if we didn’t start winning, it was going to be over pretty quickly. Those guys stepped up really quick. Like I always say, they brought a ton of energy to this team. When you have guys that are excited to play and want to play, it’s just the energy’s contagious throughout the room.
Question: I guess if you look at January, that was the month that hit you hard with just three wins.
Killorn: Yeah, that was a tough month. I think the beginning of February, we were last in the [Eastern] Conference. To go from last in the Conference to - I don’t know, what is it? One point?
Question: One point away.
Killorn: One point away. It says a lot about the way we played in these last couple months. That’s one thing I think we could be proud of in the season, the way we fought back.
Question: How encouraged were you with the play of the younger players? Moving forward, having everybody back next year in addition to them [and] what they can provide, what this team can do?
Killorn: I think it just speaks to the depth in this organization, the drafting they’ve done. These players have been huge for us, especially throughout the run - [Adam] Erne, [Yanni] Gourde, [Joel] Vermin - you could go through the list. Even when Kuch [Nikita Kucherov] and those guys are holding a lot of the scoring, a lot of the goals, and doing a lot of the offensive things - these guys were, like I keep saying, had a ton of energy and came to play every night.
Question: The playing time that those guys got already, is that going to create just a very competitive camp when you guys come back this summer?
Killorn: I mean I hope so. You always want to have competitive camps. You always want guys fighting for jobs. That’s just the way it is. I think that competitive nature will foster a good team and things we want going forward. It’s always good to have guys in a competitive environment.
Question: This team hasn’t changed very much in the last three years, other than the trade deadline of course - you started to have a little bit more of a makeover there. You mentioned when this team’s healthy, how good it could be. You don’t really need anything much - any changes in this off-season right?
Killorn: I don’t know. I don’t make those decisions. So yeah, I won’t... I don’t think there’s much. We’ve shown with this team what we can do at the end of this season. I don’t think there’s much that needs to be done.
Question: Alex, when Ben [Bishop] was traded, what did you see shift-wise in Vasy’s [Andrei Vasilevskiy] game, in terms of knowing he’s the number one guy?
Killorn: Yeah, well for him I think it was - you guys have seen it throughout his time here with Bish [Bishop]. When he doesn’t know whether he’s going to be the starting goalie or not, and he ends up being the starting goalie, so it’s good on him.