Journalist Michael Langr of NHL.com/CS talked to Andrej Sustr for his weekly column. If you use this translated text in any way, please credit Michael Langr of NHL.com/CS and Igor Nikonov (@nikonov_igor) of Raw Charge.
Andrej Sustr: I feel fine. It could be better, but I’m doing everything to stay on the team and the rest doesn’t depend on me.
Sustr: Sure, I was very happy. These goals helped me to stay on the team, so I was satisfied.
Langr: The goal against Bruins happened on your 27th birthday. How did you celebrate?
Sustr: Just by this goal. After the game, we flew home and then we played another game the next day, so there wasn’t a chance for a big party. Nothing special.
Langr: Mikhail Sergachev and Dan Girardi joined the team. There are also other young defencemen Jacob Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek. Do you feel some kind of increased competition between defencemen?
Sustr: Yes, the competition has really increased. Sergachev and other players are really good. They have confidence and coaches give them a chance to show it in the NHL. And honestly, they deserve it.
Langr: That means a hard fight for a spot on the team for you…
Sustr: Yes, this is right. Among so many good players, it’s a fight. That’s the cost of team success, but it is the same every year. Nobody gets anything for free in the NHL.
Langr: But did you expect that after three seasons you will have to fight for your spot on the team?
Sustr: It’s hard every year. When I saw how they were completing the roster, I had the thought that it would not be easy for me. Opportunities were given to other players, and I either play or wait for my chance.
Langr: How difficult is it for players to spend so many games in the stands? And what else do you have to do to keep up with those who play games?
Sustr: I have to try hard and work hard in practice and then work again to keep improving. When I don’t play, I need to get extra work to keep myself in good shape and not be surprised when the coach gives me a chance.
Langr: Is it hard to prove yourself when you get a chance in one game and then don’t play for 11 days, just like it was in the last two months?
Sustr: It is definitely hard. If you don’t have room to show up in the games, it will hard to show up elsewhere. Being a substitute, of course, isn’t very good for your mind.
Langr: Did you discuss with coaches if you have something to improve or it’s just because of having too many defencemen on the roster?
Sustr: It’s more likely because of having too many defencemen. There are really a lot of good defensive players, so we have many options.
Langr: Have you thought about asking for a trade?
Sustr: It’s tough. It doesn’t depend only on me. I can say that of course I want to play more.
Langr: Your contract expires after the end of the season. Is it important for you to play more in that case? Would you like to stay in Tampa or move somewhere else?
Sustr: I would be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but it’s hard to say if some team would or wouldn’t be interested in me. We’ll see. It’s possible that I will have to move somewhere else; that’s hockey.
Langr: Tampa Bay is the best team in the league. What’s changed since the last season, when you didn’t make the playoffs?
Sustr: It depends on many circumstances. We had a long summer, everyone relaxed and then we could prepare well for the new season. The management have put together a great team and it works well both in the locker room and on the ice.