The “Knights Vow” is taking on a new meaning.
In the aftermath of coming up short in their quest for the Stanley Cup, the core group of Golden Knights’ players say the experience will serve as motivation to improve over the summer.
The Knights, who lost in five games to the Washington Capitals, won’t have as much time as the teams they vanquished en route to the Final. But many will get some rest, then get back to work and prepare for training camp in September at City National Arena.
“I can’t wait to get better next year,” defenseman Nate Schmidt said Friday as the players cleaned out their lockers. “I’ve never felt that way after a season. Usually, after the season is over, you want to drink a million beers. You want to be done with everything.
“It’s weird. It just gets me excited what we can do next year.”
Center Erik Haula, who had a career season with 29 goals, said he has loftier aspirations for 2019.
“I’m not going to be satisfied with anything,” Haula said. “I’m sure I’m going to look back and say it was a good year. But at the end of the day there is still some parts that I’m not happy with this season.
“I’m looking to grow into that top-six role and looking to get better.”
Forward Jonathan Marchessault will use the time to reboot physically and mentally.
“Just being healthy, take care of my body in the summer, be in good shape because it’s a long season but there’s also a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “We came out short at the end. I think everybody will work on their conditioning and be ready to come back fresh.”
Center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said everyone should be motivated for next season.
“Only one team can win in the end,” he said. “So it’s up to us, collectively and individually, to see what we can do to get better.”
General manager George McPhee will likely make some roster moves. But one thing he is not changing is the organization’s culture.
“We’d like to keep this identity,” he said. “It’s a very tight-knit group. It’s a hardworking team. They really played well for Gerard (Gallant). He coached them well. That’s what we want to keep.
“What I love about our room is there’s no hierarchy. There’s no entitlement. It’s just a bunch of guys that show up and work their tails off and get along and represent this organization and this city very well.”
Gallant is looking forward to coaching whoever McPhee gives him to work with.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “I’m sure a big part of our team is going to be back for sure. It’s a good group of guys and you try to get better every year. We’ll do the best that we can.”
Forward Alex Tuch, who started the season in the minors but stayed in the lineup once he got called up in late October, said his rookie experience will serve him well along with future young players.
“As long as you are true to yourself and having a lot of respect for the guys in this locker room, that goes a long way,” he said. “I look up a lot of guys in this locker room, and being a part of this team is something special and you should never take it for granted.
“Yeah, I think we have a really good team in this locker room and we will come back stronger next year. Me personally, some experience under my belt will help me a lot. I think it will be good. We had our feet in the water this year and it was a good first (year) to say the least.”