Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Blues sign Lindstrom to one-year contract

Former draft pick of Columbus spent past 
two-plus seasons playing for Skelleftea AIK in Sweden

ST. LOUIS -- The Blues are busy retooling their roster and coaching staff for the 2014-15 season, and after setting up their goaltending tandem recently with the signing of Brian Elliott and bringing in coaches Kirk Muller and Jim Corsi, the roster continues to take shape.

The team announced Wednesday morning that it has reached agreement with forward Joakim Lindstrom to a one-year contract.
Joakim Lindstrom most recently with the
Colorado Avalanche in 2012.

Lindstrom, 30, has spent parts of the past three seasons with Skelleftea AIK of the Swedish Hockey League. This past season, the Skelleftea native tallied 23 goals and 40 points in 55 games. 

The 6-foot-0, 203-pound Lindstrom is a 2002 second-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He has appeared in five NHL seasons, including stints with the Jackets (2005-08), Phoenix Coyotes (2008-09) and Colorado Avalanche (2011-12). 

Lindstrom's best season was with the Coyotes in 2008-09 when he had nine goals and 20 points in 44 games. Overall, Lindstrom has recorded 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 97 career NHL games.

But in the past four seasons and in the Swedish Elite League and SweHL, Lindstrom had 76 goals and 149 points in 183 games.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Blues hire Corsi as goalie coach

Veteran spent past 16 seasons in same capacity with Buffalo Sabres

ST. LOUIS -- Instead of bringing back the former Buffalo Sabres goalie the Blues paid a hefty price to trade for, the Blues are instead moving forward with the guy who was Ryan Miller's former coach.

The Blues elected to allow Miller to walk when the free agency period begins July 1, but on Tuesday, they elected to hire Jim Corsi, former goaltending coach of the Sabres the past 16 seasons, as their new goalie coach. Corsi, 59, replaces Corey Hirsch, who the Blues elected not to rehire.
Jim Corsi

Corsi, who worked with Miller the past 11 seasons in Buffalo, was let go by the Sabres following the 2013-14 season.

Under his guidance, Corsi worked with not only Miller but Dominik Hasek as well, among others. Hasek (1999 and 2001) and Miller (2010) won three Vezina Trophies while working with Corsi.

Corsi's signing would have been a no-brainer to signal that the team would also pursue resigning Miller, but the Blues last week chose to part ways with Miller and brought back Brian Elliott with a three-year, $7.5 million contract to team up with Jake Allen moving forward.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said after announcing the signing of Elliott that there was no immediate urgency to bring in a goalie coach. They brought on Kirk Muller, former head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes who played for Ken Hitchcock in Dallas, as an assistant coach. Muller replaced Gary Agnew, who also was not brought back.

"... Certainly (would) like to have everything coaching-wise wrapped up by the draft," Armstrong said regarding a goalie coach at the time. "But getting Muller signed was the No. 1 priority. There's not the rush for the goalie coach ... there doesn't seem to be that many teams that are in the same position as we are right now. We're working through it on a day to day basis, we're talking to people, we're interviewing people, but we're not in any rush to do something."

Overall, Corsi brings with him over 20 years of hockey experience, including time as a player, coach, manager and analyst. Previously, he has worked with both the Italian Men's and Canadian Women's National Teams, as well as with junior (OHL's St. Michael’s Majors), collegiate (Ottawa University, McGill University, Concordia University) and professional European programs (Schwenningen HC, German League).

Corsi also developed the 'Corsi Rating,' which is an individual stat figured by calculating the number of shots directed toward the offensive goal versus the number of shots directed toward the defensive goal while in five-on-five situations (excludes empty net shots).

During his playing career, Corsi appeared in 89 professional games in North America, including stints with the Edmonton Oilers and the World Hockey Association's Quebec Nordiques. Corsi also played internationally in Europe, Russia and China from 1980-92. In international tournaments, Corsi represented Italy several times, including eight World Ice Hockey Championships (1981-83, 1985-87, 1989-90) and the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Blues bring back Elliott, say goodbye to Miller

Along with Jake Allen, goaltending tandem set for next season; 
deadline deal for Buffalo goalie ends with a steep price paid

ST. LOUIS -- Blues paid a hefty price when they made a bold trade to acquire goalie Ryan Miller near the NHL Trade Deadline this past season.

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong stepped to the plate trying to hit a home run.

But after an unsuccessful run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs that ended in a disappointing loss in the Western Conference First Round to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blues are moving away from Miller and again turning to a familiar face.

And it's a guy that somehow seems to find his way back in the Blues' plans even when it seems like he'll be cast aside for the umpteenth time.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Brian Elliott resigned with the Blues on Monday and will team with
Jake Allen as the team's goaltending duo for the 2014-15 season. 

The Blues announced on Monday that they resigned goalie Brian Elliott to a three-year, $7.5 million extension ($2.3 million next season, $2.5 million in 2015-16 and $2.7 million in 2016-17) and will team Elliott with incumbent Jake Allen for the 2014-15 season, meaning Miller will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

The Blues acquired Miller and forward Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres for goalie Jaroslav Halak, right wing Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a first-round pick in 2015 and a third-round pick in 2016 that would have turned into a first rounder in 2014 had the Blues chosen to resign the 34-year-old or made it to the Western Conference Final. The 2014 first-round pick would have triggered the Sabres' 2014 second- and third-round picks coming back to the Blues.

However, the following provisions still remain:

If St. Louis trades Miller prior to the June 27 NHL Draft, the deal becomes the following: Miller, Ott, a 2014 second-round pick originally belonging to Minnesota and a 2014 third-rounder to St. Louis for Stewart, Halak, Carrier, the 2015 first-rounder, the 2016 third-round selection plus a 2014 first-round pick.

If St. Louis trades Miller after it makes its first-round pick and before the start of free agency July 1, the trade finalizes as Miller and Ott to the Blues for Stewart, Halak, Carrier, the 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 second-round selection.

But after Miller went 10-8-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in the regular season and followed it up with a 2-4 record and 2.70 GAA and .897 save percentage against the Blackhawks, Blues general manager Doug Armstrong chose to move on with the tandem of Elliott and Allen, the American Hockey League goalie of the year this past season after playing for the Chicago Wolves.

But after going 7-0-1 in his first eight games with the Blues, Miller won five of his final 17 regular-season and playoff games.

"We took a calculated gamble of bringing in Ryan and we didn't have the success that we needed as an organization," Armstrong said in a conference call. "Certainly it was not all reflected on Ryan. It's a team game and as an organization, we're all responsible, but it was additional payments necessary to Buffalo if we signed Ryan that would have basically meant moving back a full round in the draft from a first to a second round and adding a third-round pick. We just felt at this time it was better for us to go with Elliott and go with Jake Allen. They provide us with a good tandem as we move forward."

Miller was considered the missing piece for the Blues, who felt like they had the necessary tools in all other areas to make a deep postseason run, and perhaps win the franchise's first Stanley Cup with the addition of Miller. But after a great start to his stint as a Blue, it never materialized.

Armstrong said conversations between Miller and his camp, including agent MIke Liut, took place last week and although the Blues' GM would not discuss specifics, a source indicated that Miller's monetary asking price was too steep for the Blues to move forward with. 

"I had a meeting with Ryan at the end of the year," Armstrong said. "I told him I'd get in touch with him. I talked to him last week. We've gone in this direction and we're excited with the tandem we have.

"We certainly gave up quite a bit to get Ryan. ... That's why the trade was made. It didn't work out that way obviously. This job is about second-guessing. That's the industry that I've chosen to be in. You make calculated decisions. You move forward, If they work, you're hailed as a genius. If they don't work, you're a dummy. We took a swing and at the end of the day, we didn't accomplish what we needed to.

"... I don't know if it's perplexing. We brought in a goaltender with experience. We felt it was going to give us a better opportunity to play against the upper echelon teams. Probably one of the issues that we had, we thought we have to face the Chicago Blackhawks at some point. Our slide at the end of the year for a host of reasons made us face them in the first round and we didn't get by as an organization. It's certainly very painful and very disappointing."

The 29-year-old Elliott, who would have become an unrestricted free agent July 1, has done nothing but win since joining the Blues prior to the 2011-12 season. His 23-10-4 record with a League-leading 1.56 GAA and .940 save percentage in 2011-12 was part of the tandem with Halak that helped the pair win the NHL's Jennings Trophy.

Elliott is 55-24-7 in three seasons with the Blues. He went 18-6-4 with a 1.96 GAA and .922 save percentage this past season but was on the bench during the Blues' postseason run.

"When I talked to him at the end of the season, his desire was to go to an organization where he could compete as a No. 1 goaltender and now we provide him with that," Armstrong said of Elliott. "He came here as an unknown and if you look at his save percentage and his goals-against average and his win-loss record, his numbers are very good. He's been through the maturation.

"When we got to the trade deadline, we didn't make a move because we didn't believe in (Elliott). We made a move because we thought Miller could make a difference and take us to the Stanley Cup. That hasn't happened and not we move forward as an organization. Brian Elliott has done everything asked of him."

For Elliott, it's a chance to begin a season as the true No. 1 after sharing the spotlight with Halak the past three seasons. Heading into the summer, that's all he was looking for.

"I think I've made a reputation throughout the league as a hard-working guy that can come in and win big games and do a lot for a team," Elliott said recently. "It's about trying to make that next step and try to be a No. 1. 

"Like I always say, if you don't prepare and go into a summer and an individual workout in that summer and say, 'This is to be a backup,' you're not doing yourself justice. You always want to try and push yourself and get to the next level. Whether it's attainable or not, you have to push it."

With Elliott, whose contract kicks in at a $2.5 million cap hit per season (a raise of $1.9 million salary from last season) and Allen, whose contract will pay him $850,000 ($800,000 cap hit), the Blues have $3.3 million in cap space tied up in their goaltending, which should free up monetary figures for the team to pursue necessary ingredients to help them offensively, which was a telling reason they've been eliminated the past two seasons.

"I would say that there's larger unknown in our goaltending than there has been over the last three years," Armstrong said. "Jaro Halak was a proven goaltender when he came in. He and Elliott obviously found a good rhythm together. But now we're bringing in Jake Allen, the American Hockey League goaltender of the year. His numbers are outstanding. We had a chance to watch him. He's an NHL goaltender now and he's got to come in and grab the ball and run with it. I just think that's a good tandem for us and it's going to be really good competition. I think our organization, we have our greatest success when we have competition internal.

"We're always trying to improve our team and if we can do that, you look at there's still six weeks before July 1st; you never know who's going to be there," Armstrong said. "... We have to make good, strong, calculated business decisions on July 1st and if we can improve our team on that date, we will. But it's going to have to be in the feeling that it's something that it improves us for the term of the contract."

Although Armstrong may have struck out with the Miller trade, there is no second-guessing. He'd do it all over again.

"Of course I would," he said. "... You get to the trade deadline, you look at your options and you assess what is that difference you can make in a positive or a negative way. Obviously you're looking to make a positive move. The consensus was that Ryan Miller would upgrade our team -- internal consensus -- and it was a decision that we felt we wanted to make to try and push for the Stanley Cup. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
After being acquired near the trade deadline, Ryan Miller (right) and the
Blues will part ways  after only 19 regular season and six playoff games.

"Hindsight is 20/20, but at the time, I felt comfortable with the deal, and at the end of the day we didn't get where we wanted to as an organization, so it certainly was a lot to give up for 20-some-odd games and six playoff games."

The Blues are still in search of a goalie coach after Corey Hirsch was not brought back. They have filled one assistant coaching position with the addition of former Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller, who replaced Gary Agnew, who also was chosen not to be resigned.

"No, we're in a process now, certainly like to have everything coaching-wise wrapped up by the draft," Armstrong said regarding a goalie coach. "But getting Muller signed was the No. 1 priority. There's not the rush for the goalie coach ... there doesn't seem to be that many teams that are in the same position as we are right now. We're working through it on a day to day basis, we're talking to people, we're interviewing people, but we're not in any rush to do something this week."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Blues add Muller as assistant coach

Former coach of Carolina who played under Hitchcock, replaces Gary Agnew

ST. LOUIS -- Another familiar face will lend a helping hand to coach Ken Hitchcock when the puck drops for the 2014-15 season.

The Blues have hired Kirk Muller, a former Carolina Hurricanes head coach, as an assistant coach to Hitchcock's staff. Terms were not disclosed but TSN's Darren Dreger reported that Muller received a two-year contract.
Kirk Muller

Muller, 48, played for Hitchcock (1999-2002) when the Blues' coach was guiding the Dallas Stars. He essentially replaces Gary Agnew, whose contract was not renewed along with goalie coach Corey Hirsch. The Blues are still  in the market for a goalie coach.

Muller joins the Blues after serving the past three seasons as coach of the Hurricanes, where he was 80-80-27. Before joining Carolina, Muller was an assistant coach with the Montreal Canadiens for five seasons (2006-11).  

While with Montreal, he helped lead the Canadiens to four consecutive playoff appearances, including 2010 when the club reached the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 1993.

"We are excited to add Kirk to our staff," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said in a statement. "He was a Stanley Cup-winning player, and as a coach, has shown excellent communication skills and the ability to relate to both young and veteran players."

During his playing career, Muller spent 19 seasons (1984-2003) playing for the New Jersey Devils, Canadiens, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida  Panthers and Stars. He appeared in 1,349 regular season games and finished his career with 959 points (357 goals, 602 assists). Muller was captain of the Devils (1989-91) and Canadiens (1994-95). 

Muller also played in 127 postseason games, posting 69 points (33 goals, 36 assists), including the Stanley Cup-clinching goal for Montreal in the 1993. He's a six-time All-Star and five-time 30-goal scorer.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Blues, Hitchcock exercise mutual optional for 2014-15

Team's coach will at the very least return next 
season; assistants Agnew, Hirsch will not return

ST. LOUIS -- To nobody's surprise, the Blues announced on Wednesday that they have extended the contract of coach Ken Hitchcock through the 2014-15 season.

The Blues and the 62-year-old Hitchcock had a mutual optional contract for next season and on his exit media session, Hitchcock expressed his desire to continue coaching.

"You mean am I too old? I love living here, I love working here, I love working with Doug," Hitchcock said last week, referring to general manager Doug Armstrong. "... We've made a home here. We've made significant progress here. I know it doesn't feel like progress to people right now, but it is. 
Ken Hitchcock

"I've only been here three years. I see the progress, I know the debris of years of getting close and being frustrated and then building it. I see the level of improvement here. It's incredible. ... There's a real high level of commitment here by the fans and by the players. We've just got to help it along and enhance it, improve it."

Hitchcock was named the 24th coach in franchise history on Nov. 7, 2011, when he replaced the fired Davis Payne. 

Hitchcock has led the Blues to three straight postseason appearances, including a franchise-best 52-win campaign this past season. He has a 124-55-20 regular season record, making him the club’s all-time leader in points percentage (.673), while in 2011-12, he became the fourth coach in team history to win Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach.

Overall, Hitchcock has a 657-405-178 record in 17 seasons (.602) and won the Stanley Cup in 1999 with the Dallas Stars, as well as the gold medal with Team Canada at the 2002, 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.  Hitchcock ranks 7th on the NHL's all-time wins list, including second among active coaches behind former Blues coach and current Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.

Hitchcock's 124 wins trail only Brian Sutter (153) and Quenneville (307) for most in Blues history.

But after the Blues were eliminated from the playoffs in the second round for the second straight season, the biggest sense of frustration set in from all sides.

"It's really tough, it's really tough to go through what you're going through right now, but you just from an evaluation standpoint, you get just a true evaluation of ... there's no gray area," Hitchcock said. "It is what it is. It's tough to go through, but there's just no gray area on evaluation now. I know exactly what's needed from a play standpoint. We've just got to find a way to move it forward."

The same could not be said for the team's coaching staff. Associate coach Brad Shaw and assistant coach Ray Bennett will return next season but assistant coaches Gary Agnew and Corey Hirsch will not be back.

Hirsch had been the team's goalie coach for the past four seasons, while Agnew, who was with Hitchcock during the team's coaching days with Columbus, has been in St. Louis the past two seasons. His primary duty was working with the team's power play that came under scrutiny after converting on only 2 of 29 opportunities against the Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs.

"I would like to thank Gary and Corey for their diligence and dedication as members of our organization, and wish them nothing but success in their future endeavors," Armstrong said in a statement. 

No further comment will be made by the team until replacements are named.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Blues right wing T.J. Oshie

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Blues players were on hand Wednesday to clean out their lockers and belongings one final time after their season ended in the Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Blues right wing T.J. Oshie, who captivated a country with his shootout performance at the Sochi Olympics, became engaged and a first-time father, answered questions on a variety of season-ending issues:

On surprise that killer instinct is still missing:
Yeah, it does. I think just because of how far we've come offensively, some guys had some good years and put up some good numbers and throughout the whole lineup we had scoring from everywhere and it just didn't happen in the Chicago series.

On wanting to see the group stay together:
I'd like to see it stay together. There's a lot of guys in this locker room, a lot pieces to the puzzle that are all coming together. I think they have come together, I just think we need to play better when it counts, a little more so than when it's just the regular season.

On this being a step back:
It feels like a big letdown, I don't know if it's a step back. But it's hard, it's so early, it's so fresh that it's hard to really ... we're still all in a little bit of shock and awe, I think, that we're not coming to the rink and practicing still. So, it's hard ... I think everyone feels the same way. No one feels worse than the players do: the coaches, the general manager, the fans ... no one feels worse about losing out than the players do. It's hard, it's hard to talk about.

It's so fresh that it's really hard to look back on and reflect right now. The shock is still kind of there of why we're not there.

On watching playoffs:
I probably won't watch anything. I don't know. it'll probably make me a little mad. I don't know what watching would do for me.

On offensive problems in postseason:
Obviously we're not there offensively, where we need to be to win games. ... Bottom line is, guys like me and 'Backs' and 'Steener,' we have to lead the charge. Even if other people weren't scoring, that means we have to score more. So I think a lot of it falls on us three to lead the charge in the offensive department and everywhere else on the ice.

On Ryan Miller's performance:
I think he played great. There was a lot of saves that he made from when I was there in Games 3-6 that could have turned for the worse earlier than it did. I think he was great. As a team though we all have to get better, me and everyone.

Blues goalie Brian Elliott

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Blues players were on hand Wednesday to clean out their lockers and belongings one final time after their season ended in the Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Blues goalie Brian Elliott, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, answered questions on a variety of season-ending issues, including his future:

On disappointment:
Yeah definitely. It's always a tough time when you're packing up your gear. It's mixed feelings and emotions to come out. You don't really expect them sometimes, but we'll figure stuff out. Whatever happens, happens. Hopefully, it'll be a new chapter in the career whether it be here or somewhere else. Hopefully I'll have a better ending to that chapter next year.

Do you want to test the waters; do you want to know what your worth is on open market?
Based on everything, I think you know what your worth is. It's not about that, it's about where you want to be. The opportunities that are available out there are available here. It's about an opportunity for me to play and what's best moving forward.

About teaming with Jake Allen, if that's an option?
From the first day I met Jake, he's a great guy. He's an up-and-comer. He's obviously had a great year in the (American Hockey League) this year and played well when he was up here. He's definitely earned an opportunity. Whoever is partnered up with him, I think it'll be good. It'll give him a chance to break into the league and hopefully have success. He comes from the East Coast; there are really nice people out there. I have nothing to say about him at all.

Do you view yourself as a No. 1, an every game starter?
I have to prove that obviously. It's about getting opportunities to be able to prove that. I think I've made a reputation throughout the league as a hard-working guy that can come in and win big games and do a lot for a team. It's about trying to make that next step and try to be a No. 1. Like I always say, if you don't prepare and go into a summer and an individual workout in that summer and say, 'This is to be a backup,' you're not doing yourself justice. You always want to try and push yourself and get to the next level. Whether it's attainable or not, you have to push it.

Based on numbers with Blues, hard to sit in the playoffs and watch?
It's hard to watch at any time. It's not fun. You want to be out there with the guys you've worked hard with, blood, sweat and tears and you can't be out there with them, so it is definitely hard. But I'm not naive and I understand why I was sitting. I'm not sitting here saying I don't understand it. It was a move that they made so they had to kind of go with it. I thought we definitely had a chance this year. We kind of came up short.

Ever wonder what might have been if it was you and Jaroslav Halak?
Obviously you definitely wonder, but that wasn't the case. Like always say, you try to approach every day like it's a new day. It's tough to think about and we can sit here and worry about things until the cows come home, but is that going to do any good; no. You always wonder. You always wonder what if that puck didn't hit the post and we scored that goal, kind of stuff like that. We could still be playing and have a Stanley Cup ring. There's a lot of situations that you wonder about, but it's definitely a tough one for sure to not be out there with the guys.

Blues defenseman Barret Jackman

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Blues players were on hand Wednesday to clean out their lockers and belongings one final time after their season ended in the Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Blues defenseman Barret Jackman, the longest tenured player in the roster, has been through six playoff seasons with the team. He answered questions on a variety of season-ending issues:

Simple fix or a process:
It's just having a team down 2-0 and the inability to score goals at the right time and bury a team that we felt we played pretty good, but pretty good's not good enough when you lose four in a row.

On having one of the best teams in the league, franchise-record for wins in a season, then the season ends immediately:
It takes a few days to sink in. But when you’re packing your bag and saying goodbye to everybody for the summer, it's tough. We felt that we had the team that was built for a long playoff run and after six games we're done and licking our wounds, looking at what we need to do for the next year to be in a better position.

Surprised the team lacked the killer instinct for the second year in a row?
Yeah, it's disappointing. It’s something we felt that we were in control of and then things just flipped. A couple of those games could have went either way and they were pretty close. But for us to not get the job done and not score goals ... we had a lot of empty nets, we a lot of opportunities and just didn't bury them. Coming down to it, that's what cost us the series.

What needs to change here to get team over the hump?
I think it's everybody collectively stepping up and doing more. Whether it's scoring goals, better defense. I think everybody to a man has to improve. Whether it's the off-season workouts or being on the ice, it's something (where) we all need to look in the mirror and see what we can do to get better.

On if changes are made:
That's not up to me. I come to work every day and Army's the one that has to make those decisions with the coaching staff. That's for him to figure it out.

Long term have to figure out a way to beat the Blackhawks, division, playoffs, etc?
Definitely with the format that we have now, Chicago's going to be I'm sure our first or second-round opponent for the next 10-15 years. We've got to find a way to beat them. We had some success early in the season and then when it counts, they had the better team. That's what happened.

Any risk of overreacting to the loss to defending champs, tight games, etc?
Definitely you can be very harsh in the first few days after a loss like that. That's why Army always says take a couple weeks to really take a hard look at everything. Do it in a better frame of mind than being very drastic and making comments and things that are maybe just a little heat of the moment.

Was the Blues D physical enough in the playoffs?
I think so. The defense probably could have played better, but it's a collective thing, the forwards and 'D' working together, the continuity with holdups and things like that. If you're playing well it doesn't matter if you're physical or not. The playoffs are a different animal but we definitely have the makeup on the back end to succeed.

Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Blues players were on hand Wednesday to clean out their lockers and belongings one final time after their season ended in the Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold answered questions on a variety of season-ending issues:

Does it feel like it was a step back?
It's frustrating. You look at it, I think we had bigger things planned for the group of guys here. Did we underachieve? Yeah. The way we ended the season down the stretch, we had a chance to finish first in the conference, then we slipped down and had Chicago as our first round opponent and that's a tough opponent. I've played on defending Stanley Cup teams, I've played against a couple of them in playoffs. They're a hard team to face in the next year. We got matched up against a tough opponent last year and it's no excuse. They were a good hockey club, but we had a good group of guys and it doesn't do justice when we sit in here late April and pack up our bags and get ready to go home.

Why didn't it happen this time?
You can point the fingers at many things, I guess. The number one thing for us is the inability to score goals. I think getting Ryan was a big step in the right direction for us. He brought a lot to the table with his experience and with his style of goaltending, it kept us in games. If we would have gave him more goals every game for support, I think our team would have played a little differently. Defensively, we played pretty well. During the series, we played good hockey, but we didn't win hockey games. 

Lack of a killer instinct?
It's tough. When you have a team down 2-0, of course they aren't going to lay down and die. We have an opportunity to go into their building and win a couple games, or hope to steal one of those and we didn't do it, and we came back home and ended up losing in overtime in dramatic fashion that we did. That was disappointing. That was a tough game for us. We were right there, and the series could have gone either way. A few lucky bounces could have gone our way to get some momentum and get into the swing but that didn't happen and here we are again packing our backs and asking the questions why, what do we have to do to next season. Of course you can say use this as a learning experience, but it's a missed opportunity. I'm an older guy, I played in one Stanley Cup Final back in '04 and you think you're going to be there every year, but it's tough to get back there. I don't think guys realize how hard it is to go three rounds and play a Stanley Cup Final round. Everybody's playing hurt, everybody's doing what they can. It's two months of just absolute grinding hockey and here we are after Round 1 and we're not there. We're on the cusp of doing the right things. It's just a matter of getting that one break or figuring out how to get a team down 3-1 versus 2-2. It's a tough thing, but we have to go through it and be able to go out there and do it together. 

Can't control changes to personnel by management; what can you guys change within walls of locker room?
We looked at our composure after the L.A. series last year. We let the emotions get the best of us. I don't think that was the case this round. You can look at the comparisons of how all the games went, how you can look at it as deja vu from years prior but the feeling in the locker room was completely different than it was the L.A. series. It's difficult, but I mean as guys, I think the more calmer the better. It does come down to composure. We had a lot of overtime games in this series. We had guys that did well with all the added pressure that brings. I've always said it's easier to play than watch. We dealt with it. In the end, we found ourselves shaking hands after and packing our bags and going home.

Changes are inevitable; would you like the group to stick together?
The group is a good group of guys as far as attitude, leadership, this and that. I've been on many different teams and sometimes guys don't work well together, sometimes they do. This is a group of guys that works really well together. Coming down the stretch, we limped a little there at the end. I think that was tough emotionally and physically for us. Who knows? Does the nucleus stay together? That's really not for me to answer. That's for Army, Hitch and those guys to sit down and figure out where the hockey team's going. Whatever it ends up being, ultimately we have a job to do, finish the regular season and get ourselves in playoffs and then get ready for the second season. We put ourselves in good position this year and we failed.