Spoke to Mike Knuble at length Wednesday about not coming back to the Washington Capitals next season. Here’s everything the veteran winger had to say:
Surprised to know you’re not coming back?
“No. Not really. I think coming into the season this year, I think it was pretty evident earlier in the year things weren’t going to be the same like they were the last couple of years, that it was probably going to be a last year in a town. I didn’t predict the way the year ended up; it was kind of a very strange year as far as my playing situation. But it was kind of what happened. When [General manager George McPhee] called, it wasn’t much of a surprise, no.”
Why not same?
“I don’t know. It began, they bring in a couple guys. They brought in Troy [Brouwer] and Joel [Ward]. That was all guys playing right wing and made some pretty good commitments to them contractwise and termwise. The game changes and teams change. They thought they needed those guys in there. They proved to be valuable guys to our team, so they didn’t make a mistake in that respect. So somebody’s going to get pushed down the later or kind of pushed down the depth chart, and it happened to be me. Whether I feel it was right or wrong or whatever is pretty irrelevant, but it’s just what happened.”
On moving forward/next year
“I’d like to. I’ve been pretty adamant about wanting to play and stuff like that. I still think I can play just on a help basis and just from a knowledge of the game, having a good understanding of the game. I think I’m a pretty low-maintenance guy in those subjects. I feel healthy and that’s half the battle when you’re an older player is dealing with your daily how you feel the moment you wake up. Coaches have to deal with that, too. They’ve got to whether if a veteran guy is feeling good today or not good. I’m lucky the times I’ve been injured, the injuries have been repaired and I’ve been very fortunate in that respect. I feel like I’m a low-maintenance, low-risk type of guy like that when it comes to that stuff. But free agency begins in a month and you have to have some offers before you really need to make any decisions. So in the meantime we’ll just be going back to Michigan and hunkering down there and just waiting and seeing.”
Negotiating before July 1 at all possible like Tomas Vokoun?
“You mean as far as trading his rights? I don’t think anybody’s going to be looking to trade for mine. Tomas is in a different situation. George is probably up front with him, the fact that Tomas probably wasn’t going to be back. You can see the direction where they’re going with their goaltending. I’m sure if somebody came calling and wanted to give George, what’d Tomas go for, a seventh-round pick? If somebody wanted to give him a pick, they could probably have me.”
Point you knew time in Washington was over?
“Yeah. Yeah. I think it went back from the beginning of the year and you can just kind of see what’s coming down, what’s on the horizon, see how things would shape up, how you’re used. I think you’ve been around the game and you kind of recognize clues at certain points and know where you stand and things. You don’t really have a choice; you just play as well as you can at the time you’re a player on that team, and that’s the most important thing. You don’t worry about the future even though you see some things coming down the line and you see how things are shaping up and you just kind of deal with it on your own terms, I guess.”
On snake-bitten season
“There was a time in January. Pitt on the road, I hit the post. I missed a breakaway at home. Florida disallowed, there was another disallowed goal, Winnipeg at home when [Matt] Hendricks was pushed into the goalie and they waived it off. There was a key stretch where quite literally I could’ve had five or six goals in that time. If those had gone in, in hindsight you’re probably not a healthy scratch. You kind of would have separated yourself from the rest of the group as far as having goals scored and stuff. It might’ve propelled you on to better things in the season. I probably would’ve gotten the benefit of the doubt and more playing time in some key, key moments on the ice. That was the time when I needed some of those to go in and I’m sure that’s when I’m sure Dale [Hunter] was looking at me like, ‘You’ve got to finish those.’ That was the difference probably between being a healthy scratch and not being a healthy scratch at that point in the season.”
On entire tenure in Washington
“Overall, two of the three years were fantastic. This season was very frustrating, I’m not going to lie about that. I came here I was controlling where I was going when I came here. A few offers on the table from some different teams, but I came here because I liked the way the team was going and I liked the makeup of the team, and I still do. My biggest disappointment is we didn’t have more playoff success, and ultimately that’s the way you’re judged. That’s why I came here because I felt like I was leaving one contender and going to another. This was going to be a great chance to win something here. I don’t regret that for a second.”
Regrets this season?
“Watching the finals, I feel like we could be in the finals. Nobody saw the hockey that L.A. Is playing; nobody saw that coming down the line. They’re playing fantastic and who knows if we could’ve got by them. If we would’ve gotten by New York and faced New Jersey next round I feel like we could’ve made the finals easy. Overall, no matter how long you’ve been in this league you can always learn something. You learn how teams are run, you learn how you think things should be done and how things shouldn’t be done and how teams play to win and what ways work and what ways don’t. This year was a huge learning experience in that respect on the players’ side and learning how teams are run and managed and stuff like that. I thought it was a very interesting year. I think I learned a lot this year.”