Inside Hurricanes Locker Room Part 3

Carolina Hurricanes post-game interviews this season often included this statement: “We didn’t start on time.” Or its cousin, “We didn’t seem to have energy.” Often baffled at the notion that highly paid professional athletes could have problems with starting on time or having energy, I decided to go right to the players and ask how this could be possible.

The end of season interviews inside the Hurricanes locker room was the setting for my quest to understand “not starting on time.” In case you missed the previous two articles from the end of season interviews, here is part 1 of my series, “Inside Hurricanes Locker Room” and here is part 2.

Chris Terry

THW: “I heard often after games, ‘We didn’t start on time.’ How do you guys correct that, what causes that?”

Carolina Hurricanes Chris Terry - first NHL Goal - Photo By Andy Martin Jr
Carolina Hurricanes Chris Terry
(Photo: Andy Martin Jr)

CT: “I think guys are always mentally sharp, ready to play. You know I think it’s just a mindset that has to kinda happen every day, get more comfortable with coming out and starting on time like coach says. You know, just find ways to do that.”

Michal Jordan

THW: “We heard after games sometimes, ‘We didn’t start on time, we didn’t have energy.’ How do you correct that, what causes that, to not come out fully ready to play?”

MJ: “I don’t know. It’s a hard question. I feel like maybe it starts in the summer. You gotta make sure to be ready for the season. It’s a really long season, especially that last month. Pretty much we played every other day; we traveled and stuff like that. So I would say it starts in the summer, taking care of your body during the summer. Other than that I don’t have any response for you.”

So far, we’ve learned that it’s a mindset and it starts in the summer. The fans are hoping that the Hurricanes will develop a winning mindset, one that knows how to start on time and that the summer will be productive physically and mentally for the team.

Brett Bellemore

Carolina Hurricanes BRETT BELLEMORE - Photo by Andy Martin Jr
Carolina Hurricanes BRETT BELLEMORE – Photo by Andy Martin Jr

THW: “After some of the losses we heard many times, ‘We didn’t start on time, we didn’t have energy.’ As a professional athlete how do you correct that, how does everybody come together to start on time and have that energy that you need right out of the gate.”

BB: “I think it’s just a mindset. You gotta make sure you’re prepared to play. You have to do the little things that you have to do to be ready right out of the gate to come out flying, come out hard. And that’s mentally as well, to be in a good frame of mind going into each game.”

THW: “If there were something you could do to help that along, what would it be for next season?”

BB: “For me personally or for the team?”

THW: “For the team.”

BB: “For me, I’ve always been pretty vocal; I try to make sure everyone’s engaged. And they are professionals, and they know. A lot of communication is the biggest thing.”

Andrej Nestrasil

THW: “Many times after games we heard a player or the coach say, ‘We didn’t start on time. We didn’t have the energy.’ How is that possible with professional athletes and how do you change that to develop a culture where everyone every night is playing at a hundred percent?”

AN: “To be honest with you I think it’s only about the players. I’m sure all the guys try to be ready and mentally sharp every game, but sometimes the other team just starts better than you do.

It’s not that every time you lose you didn’t start on time. Sometimes the other team has a better day and that’s how it goes. But, like you said, everyone should be a professional and show up and get ready.”

We are continuing to hear that it’s a matter of being mentally sharp. We’ve also learned that sometimes other teams have better days. Let’s find out what the highly paid Hurricanes have to say about the team’s lack of energy at (many) times.

Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward
Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward

Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward

The veteran goaltender for the Hurricanes has been to the summit, having won a Stanley Cup. He’s been with this team through the peaks and through the valleys.

THW: “Many times after games we heard the phrase, ‘We didn’t start on time.’ That didn’t seem to be something that was in between the pipes, but out on the ice. How does it make you feel to know that your team is not playing with energy, and how do you change that?”

CW: “It’s preparation really, you know, just being ready for game time. And maybe when you think of that, you know

leaders need to lead

and I think we did lead it’s just for whatever reason there were too many times we waited to see how the game was going to adjust to it. In this game you want to be initiators, you want to be the guys that are pushing the pace. There definitely were some nights where we go off to slow starts.”

Hurricanes Captain Eric Staal

The captain, the leader, and the superstar. Eric Staal is the face of the Carolina Hurricanes. Here was the player I wanted to ask my question of the most. I waited patiently and went for it.

THW: “Many times after games we heard the phrase, “We didn’t start on time. As a captain, how does that make you feel? Do you see that? How do you get your team to start on time and have more energy right out of the gate?”

ES: “Well a lot of that has to do with individual preparation. We’re all professional athletes. You need to make sure your mind is right and your execution level is at its best right at the beginning of the game. And if you’re not, you end up in your end a lot.”

“I think in the last two months or so we had a lot of young guys in the back end and you get teams that are excited and desperate for points jumped on us I think we just didn’t handle that as well as we could of, and once we realized it was still hockey we settled in and got better as the game went on. Sometimes it felt like we were a little bit overwhelmed to start the games and with experience and with time that gets better.”

Again with the notion that professional athletes need to be mentally prepared. Staal adds to that a little blame for the young guys, and a somewhat bizarre statement that the team felt overwhelmed. I’m not sure that is the best thing he could have said, especially as the Hurricanes’ captain.

Jordan Staal

Carolina Hurricane Jordan Staal - Mandatory Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr
Carolina Hurricane Jordan Staal – Mandatory Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr

Obviously the Hurricanes had a horrible start to the season, largely because Jordan Staal was out with a broken leg. How would Eric’s brother and a player that is regarded by many as top-tier, answer the burning question?

THW: “Many times after games we heard the phrase, ‘We didn’t start on time, we didn’t have energy.’ How do you change that” Is that a culture, a mindset – how is it that a team can come out and just not be ready?”

JS: “Obviously there’s 82 games, you’re not going to feel fresh every game, and your legs aren’t going to be there so it is more of a mindset and you’re going to have to push through it. If you don’t have legs then you gotta be smart, you gotta move the puck and not make mistakes with it then and playing in your end after turnovers and stuff like that.

Like I said, your legs aren’t going to be 100% every throughout the season so you gotta be smart about it too and play smart game that is not going to make you look like you haven’t had a good start.”

Mindset, mindset, mindset. Is there a theme here?

Anton Khudobin

The next to last stop on my tour around the room wanting to know why the team so often seemed lackluster and without a zeal to win, was in front of Anton Khudobin. As I wrote in part two of this series, he was visibly not happy.

THW: “A lot of times after games we heard some of the players or coach say, ‘We didn’t start on time.’ How do you change that?”

AK: “You just have to be ready inside of your body before the game. Sometimes you don’t feel right maybe, but you can’t complain about that. You just have to be ready for the game. You have to start from the first minute.

Everybody knows how to get ready. That’s pretty much it.”

Carolina Hurricanes Justin Faulk (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)
Carolina Hurricanes Justin Faulk
(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Faulk

“The Faulker” had a good season with the Hurricanes. He seemed always ready when he hit the ice. My last stop on the quest for an answer did not disappoint.

THW: Going back to what you said earlier about playing for 60 minutes, we heard, ‘We didn’t start on time.’ How do you correct that to where everybody is ready right out of the gate every night?”

JF: “I think that is up to the individual. I think each guy needs to come ready to go, whether it’s myself or anyone else. I think you gotta do whatever you need to do to get ready to go whether it’s seven o’clock or one o’clock in the afternoon.

You need to show up, know that you gotta play the game, know that’s what you’re here to do. If you’re not you gotta find a way to limit the damage.

From the first shift or even warm ups, how are you gonna feel? If it’s gonna be good obviously that’s great, but if not, just go out there and keep it simple and try to get the job done and go from there.”

There you have it

The answers from the Carolina Hurricanes players themselves. The only problem is, if it’s a matter of being mentally prepared, then why are they not starting on time? Are they not mentally prepared? If not, who is to blame? Is it Coach Peters or is it Eric Staal, the team captain?

Somebody needs to figure out before next season how to get this team mentally sharp and to change the culture from “not starting on time” to being prepared and ready, as Justin Faulk said.

It’s way past time for this team to get the culture of losing out of their system. It’s time to come ready to play hard every night. Let’s hope they figure that out before October.

Mark Shiver is a staff writer for The Hockey Writers credentialed with the Carolina Hurricanes. You can follow him on Twitter @markshiver