James van Riemsdyk: “When I got injured I felt I was playing some of the best hockey of my career”

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On the last two months and his recovery from injury:

It’s definitely been a bit frustrating. It’s a little slower than expected, and it just got to the point where maybe the risk-reward factor of coming back to play the last couple of games in the season didn’t necessarily make sense. Now it gives me a chance to really hit the ground running, basically, right now and start training to get ready for next year. I’m excited to have a really big summer and hopefully the best season of my career next year.

On comparing today’s locker cleanout to locker cleanouts in the past:

It’s funny how we finished lower this year than we did those last two years but the mood around everything is way different. Again, I think, with the way that we’re trying to build things here and the way we’re trying to do things here, it’s only a matter of time before we start having more success in the standings. We can all feel that as players.

On how Mike Babcock changed the way he played:

He makes it pretty easy as far as what he expects out of you. I think that guidance, especially for when you don’t have the puck, is huge as far as the structure that we play with. Every guy knows what to do and I think it allows us to have the puck more. One of the frustrating parts about when I got injured is that I felt I was playing some of the best hockey that I’ve played in my career. Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes sometimes, but it definitely leaves me kind of itching for next year. I’m really excited for the potential that all that has.

On his improved possession numbers:

I just think, as a team, everyone was on the same page. I think that was the biggest key. When we didn’t have the puck, we were all on the same page and we were able to get it back quicker because we knew what the other guys around us were going to do and where they were going to be. We were able to kill plays a lot sooner and break out of our zone a lot cleaner.

On the optimism around the team:

This is the sort of year where it’s a rollercoaster ride with all the changes, and for me with obviously being hurt and not being able to play. The second half of the year, seeing some of the new faces that we have and seeing some of the potential that they have—there’s obviously a lot of excitement around the team. It makes you really excited for next year.

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