The ice is still out at PNC Arena, not that it's needed by the Carolina Hurricanes. There will be no Stanley Cup playoff games. Their season is over. On Monday, the Canes players milled about the locker room, doing media interviews, packing up equipment bags. They rehashed a season that began well, went awry and ended in disappointment while talking optimistically about next season. Canes captain Eric Staal said he never expected to be doing the year-end interviews so soon this season. "Not from where we were at," he said. "We were sitting in a pretty good spot." The Canes were 15-9-1 and leading the Southeast Division on March 14 when they hosted the then struggling Washington Capitals. The Canes lost 3-2, then begin a losing streak that turned into a 1-13-1 nosedive while the Caps righted their season and went on to win the division. "We were playing Washington and they were far behind us and you're thinking about putting them in the rear-view mirror for good," Staal said. "And then some unfortunate circumstances and from there it just kind of went the other direction. "It's obviously frustrating and difficult. But I think over the summer there will be some changes, I'm sure, and a fresh outlook and obviously some guys getting healthier and we'll be back ready to go in the fall." Losing goaltender Cam Ward to a season-ending knee injury on March 3 hurt the Canes. But Ward said Monday he does not believe his injury was the reason the team missed the playoffs. "There's other areas where we just weren't good enough," Ward said. "I guess it was bad timing but you had Justin Faulk go down, you had Joni (Pitkanen) go down, you can go down the list. At the end of the day it wasn't good enough." Alexander Semin acknowledged he was bothered by a shoulder injury but said he was pleased, from a personal perspective, with how his first season unfolded with his new team after the past seven seasons with the Caps. "I'm very happy," he said. "It was not a good season (for the Canes) but for me, I like playing here. It's a good town and a good atmosphere here. A good organization." Semin liked the setting, his teammates and the organization so much he signed a five-year, $35 million extension. He joined with Staal and Jiri Tlusty in giving the Canes one of the league's most potent, productive top lines. "I like playing with those guys. We understand each other," Semin said. "I understood Eric from my first practice. Jiri, same thing. No big problems." Not reaching the playoffs, Semin said, "Is no good for the team. But we will try for next year. This season's over. We forget this season. We learn from the losses, but we will try next year to (make) the playoffs. It will be a new season. New emotions."
Canes players pack up, look to next season
Raleigh News & Observer | Apr 29