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.”
Question: Is it harder knowing that [you were] one victory away from the playoffs?
Andrej Sustr: Yeah, for sure. You kind of look at the whole season as a whole. You kind of see the games that maybe you should have won, where you lost some points, where you were expected to win some games. It was definitely tough in that way.
Question: What do you think was missing, when you look back? I know some guys mentioned yesterday just the beginning of the season, maybe not having some of that consistency or urgency. What would you kind of pinpoint into looking at? I know you could say one game or another...
Sustr: Yeah, it’s tough. You saw that a little bit slip away from us at the start of the season, before Christmas. To find ourselves in that spot [at the bottom of the Eastern Conference] around February was tough to see. I think we rallied back, battled with a lot of injuries and stuff, and guys stepped up big time in some roles that helped us win some games at the end. I think we did a good job of fighting until the end and staying in it the whole - towards the end.
Question: How do you think the experience that the young guys had at the end of the year that played so well will help you guys moving forward into next season?
Sustr: When you get on those runs like that or anything, it’s valuable experience. A lot of guys are heading down to Syracuse to play in the playoffs and get that experience as well. Everything is valuable and a huge plus for the future.
Question: With this team, there won’t be probably a lot of change in the off-season. Maybe some changes, but look how close this team is still - even though you missed the playoffs - to being the kind of team that could go on a run next year.
Sustr: Yeah. I can’t say a bad thing about the team chemistry now. We have a lot of great guys. It’s always fun to be around and come into the rink every day. Hopefully we’ll see a lot of faces back.
Question: How do you feel about your game? I know you’ve got over 250 games played now in the league...
Sustr: Yeah. It’s tough to say. When the team’s not winning, you can’t be that much positive. I think after Christmas, when we turned it around, the game went up for everyone. I feel the same way.
Question: More time in the off-season than the last couple of years. How do you guys approach that your advantage?
Sustr: I think you definitely want to take some time off and kind of get away from the game. You also want to make sure you prepare and take this feeling at the end of the year towards your training. When you show up for training camp, you know how the season’s going to go. You know what to expect, so you’ve got to be ready for that.
Question: Is it going to be strange to have two extra months that you didn’t have the last couple of years?
Sustr: Yeah, totally. But like I said, you’ve got to make the most out of it and do whatever you have to do to be ready for training camp and for the next season.
Question: Is there a point in the season that you’re going to look back at and say, “That was what cost us.”
Sustr: There could be. I think it’s still kind of early to see, but there’s definitely going to be some evaluation and see what we could’ve done better or whatnot. Yeah, just got to look at it.