EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — The Islanders began their exit interviews on Sunday less than 24 hours after their season came to an end in Detroit. A total of 16 players spoke with reporters before heading off on their way for the summer.
The rest of the team, as well as co-owner Jon Ledecky, general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight, will meet with the media on Monday.
Below are excerpts from a few players’ time with the media on Sunday. They touched on everything from John Tavares’ contract situation to what needs to be fixed for next season so that the team is successful.
On surprise at the team’s lack of success with players having big seasons: “Typically you see stuff like this with teams you’d expect in the playoffs if you told us that before the season. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. There’s certain things we’re going to need to work on as a group, and really just as a team, to achieve better.”
On his own season: “Personally it was fun. The last little bit was tough. It was getting in a position where you know you’re not making the playoffs. It’s difficult. You still find a way to get motivated and get up to play games, but you can’t have the same feeling as if you were getting ready to go into the playoffs. I think that side of it was frustrating for all of us.”
On how the season ended: “Offensively our team has had a wonderful season and we just weren’t that complete group that we needed to be, and that we knew we had. We just didn’t put together, so yeah there’s a little bit of hollowness in that for sure. We didn’t expect to have this kind of ending when we set out at the beginning of this year. As we went on throughout the season there was a long time where this didn’t seem like a possibility. It just kind of fell away a little bit and we weren’t able to get back on track.”
On Tavares situation: “I guess the storyline changes from hockey games to the summer agenda of draft and all this stuff that goes on. Obviously, Johnny’s situation is going to be at the forefront and it’s pretty much status quo. Ya know continuing the same lines from us and our support for John and what we obviously hope for him to do. You hope the best for him and his family and everything. And selfishly we all want our captain back and I don’t think that’s any surprise or anything, but that’s just the way it is.”
On his season: “I really enjoyed this year a ton. I had fun playing. It’s hard to say that when you didn’t make the playoffs, but I struggled last season and playing well this year I was able to find some chemistry with a couple young players who are really good players in this league. I enjoyed playing with them. I want to be able to help them and they’ve helped me find my game a little bit too.”
On if he could see himself with the Islanders long-term: “I really enjoyed my time here. I love playing for Long Island. With the prospects of the new arena and some of the young players here it’s an exciting place to be right now. To be honest I haven’t thought about that at all and I’m just trying to focus on trying to find my game, and doing the best I can here.”
On lack of consistency from his line: “I think we had a decent start. A couple months where we didn’t get anything going. Just talking now, kind of a tough stretch individually. As a center, you try to drive the line and help the team produce and create offense. We weren’t able to do that. Towards the end, a little bit better, but I just don’t think we were able to get enough sustained offense over long periods of time as we’d like.”
On team giving up so many goals: “I think it just kind of seemed at times things were snowballing. Maybe at the beginning of the year we were a high flying offense and we were able to win some games, higher scoring. But, the underlying of that is we weren’t able to do the little things on the other side of the puck to keep the puck out. Playing solid defensively. For a while there we were giving up 50 shots, which isn’t easy for the goalies. We obviously have to be better in front of them.”
On Giving up so many goals: “I think it reflects on the whole team. At the same time, it’s definitely tough. It’s not what any of us wanted, especially when you’re looking at the guys who are supposed to stop the puck from going into the net. You look at goaltending, you look at the D-men. It definitely starts with us and it wasn’t what we needed. It wasn’t good enough and it’s going to be a long summer to think about that, but at the same time you have to move and start thinking about next year.”
On his confidence level for next season: “Yeah I have full confidence in everyone. Starting with upstairs, starting with management and then down through the team. I think that’s part of why I signed my deal. I signed for five more years because I want to win a Stanley Cup. That’s all there is to it. I didn’t really look at the money too much. I didn’t look at any of that. I just want to win and I think I can do that here.”
On the problem this season: “It’s not just one person it’s like a whole team game. Everybody has to make adjustments and be better. It starts with me. I just have to stop more pucks and get a little help here and there.”
On his game from a technical standpoint: “Sometimes you give up goals when you’re trying to do too much. Sometimes it goes the other way and it just gets in your head. I can still play hockey. It’s not like I can’t do it anymore. I feel good about my game. I had a bunch of good games at the end of the year. Body still feels good.”
On down season from a personal standpoint: “I think you evaluate the things that you need to improve upon and then come up with a game plan to address those issues. Obviously, I expect more from myself and I want to be a big part of this team becoming a contending team. and fulfilling the potential that we know is here. I’ll do that.”
On Tavares situation: “Those things are out of our control. Everyone is aware of the situation and you’re following it, and hoping that John returns and continues to be a big part of what we’re trying to do here. That’s also his decision and he’s earned the right to be in the position that he is in and to have the different oppertunities that he’s going to have.”