Exit interview: Tampa Bay Lightning C Vinny Lecavalier says team was good enough to win Cup
This interview with Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier is one of several that will be published with Lightning players over the next several weeks. In this one, Lecavalier talks about how close the team was to winning it all, that it is a shame Guy Boucher was not nominated for coach of the year and how anxious he is to get back at it next season.
On the season in general: I felt we had a great team. From where we started in September till now, I think we really grew as a team. We got better and better as the year went on. To play a seventh game and have a chance to go to the Stanley Cup, it was pretty special. Obviously, I'd like to keep playing right now, but I thought we had a great year. We really grew as a team.
On season's abrupt end: It's always tough when you finish a season. Unless you win the Cup, it's tough. But you've got to look at the bright side. I really think this organization has been through, this town has been through the last three, four years not making the playoffs, to now, I really feel like everybody, really this team, the organization, everybody, really stepped up, made things happen, and I think this town was pretty excited. But it's obviously a new beginning, and everybody is going to work hard this summer to make sure they come back in great shape.
On offseason moves: That's the tough part in sports, not just hockey. Sometimes there are guys who might not come back. Obviously, you want everybody back, you want all your buddies back, doesn't always happen that way. I guess that's the tough part of the business. But I know, I think everybody has confidence in this organization, what they're going to do.
On raised expectations: Definitely. Last September, the outside, what people's expectations were for us to make the playoffs. Inside here, we knew as the year went on our expectations were really high. We wanted to win the Cup. That was our goal. From the outside it was to make the playoffs. Now that we have made the playoffs, now that we have gone to the semifinals of a Stanley series, of course expectations will be there. But we're ready for the new challenge.
On being close to winning it all: I mean, it’s a one-goal game (in Game 7 with the Bruins). It’s one game that decided if you’re going to battle against another team to play for the Cup. You’re right there. It’s not if we need another guy on the team or if we had this. We really do believe we could have. You win that seventh game and you never know what can happen. You’re playing Vancouver, and I believe we could have had a great series then. But obviously that’s a lot of ifs. It all comes down to that one goal, that first goal, and we didn’t get it.
On Boucher not being nominated for coach of the year: Definitely. I’ve been in the league for 12, 13 years and he’s really, it’s refreshing this year, everything he’s brought to us, the hard work we did all year. But at the same time feeling good mentally. Just the way he takes care of the room and talks to the guys, psychologically just makes us a better player. So, overall, if you look at X’s and O’s and what he does with the videos, he’s incredible how hard he works. So, you have no choice but to go out there and try to work just as hard as him. It’s tough. Our coaching staff is unbelievable. We’re very fortunate as an organization to work with these guys.
On a tough season to put behind: Yes and no. Of course, you’re five games away from winning the Cup, but at the same time there’s so much we did this year. That’s a bright spot too. You’ve got to look at it that way. You can’t do anything about it now. It’s over. We just have to look at everything we’ve done this year, where we came from, and build on that.
On team increasing payroll: Everything they’ve said, everything they’ve done has been incredible, and for them to say that now, I think that means so much. It’s great. Obviously, they want to make this team better and they want to win and are committed to it and you can tell, Steve (Yzerman) and Mr. Vinik, how passionate they are about this team, and I think that’s what’s going to make our team go to the next level.
On management being on the players side: Oh, yeah, they‘re great people. They make you feel like everybody is part of the family. That’s why I think this organization is really special for that.
On looking forward to next season: It’s tough missing 18 games or whatever, but the second half I felt really good and I’m definitely looking forward to next year and being consistent. Mentally, I felt good this year and it really helped me be better on the ice.