Hope everyone is still riding the high of this week’s lease agreement. If you would like a refresher on some of the new features and additions coming to Mohegan Sun Arena, here is my rundown from Wednesday.
While I was there for the festivities, I took the opportunity to ask CEO Jeff Barrett about last season and any thoughts he had on a couple of topics. I thought I’d share with you what he said.
On the team missing the playoffs and how the team goes forward:
“That’s more of a Billy Guerin question, but I can give an overview. Our expectations are to make the playoffs every year. It didn’t happen this year. With that said, it’s been 17 years and we missed it on the last weekend of the year with five guys called up and five guys injured. So, I’m not making excuses, but that’s a little bit of the nature of the business. How we react to that is that I think we look at the nucleus of our team, and I was going through that with (Clark) today, we’ve got a really strong young nucleus. I think that the hockey people are going to look at it, ‘OK what do we need to improve? Do we need centers? Do we need defensemen? What are the assets we need to get back to being among the top-tier teams in the league?’ They’re going to address those issues as they have every other year.”
On talent development in general:
“You see Teddy Blueger go up and Garrett Wilson, what a great story that is. He was a second-round pick, minor league guy his entire life, and then he gets a shot up there and succeeds. Scores a goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Those are the feel-good stories we like to see. … I don’t think anyone develops better players for the NHL than we do.”
He also mentioned Aston-Reese as another success story.
On the way Clark and the coaching staff handled the near-constant turnover throughout the year:
“It’s easy to always sit there and blame the coach. But ultimately it’s up to the players and different circumstances. The Pittsburgh Penguins are on a Stanley Cup run, so they’re going to do what they have to do to make sure they stay on that run. Sometimes that helps us, sometimes that hurts us. The injuries, I mean that’s unlucky. Di Pauli — that was a bad injury on a really bad check from behind. It wasn’t intentional; the guy slipped as he went into him. But, that was a crucial injury. But, every team has injuries, so we’re never going to make excuses for it. We do sign a lot of depth. We have a lot of guys that we sign and they start here or go to Wheeling. Jarrett Burton is a great example. He’s now made an AHL career out of it. … I’m very high on our future and our team and the young kids that we have and some of the veterans that they’re trying to sign on July 1.”
The mention of Burton makes me think it’ll be very likely he’s back next season, unless he gets some kind of fantastic deal somewhere else. The coaches voted him DPOY for a reason; he’s well thought of behind the scenes.
Also, it’s good to see there seems to already be a gameplan in place for free agency, and from the sound of it I would expect to see at least a couple new faces.
For now, take some time to enjoy summer after the agita of the negotiations, and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.