Bouwmeester didn't pull many punches, saying he wasn't ready to commit to the Panthers long-term during the summer, mainly because he doesn't know how things are going to go down. He says "we're always starting from scratch. That's tough.''
Jay also says this is "not a hockey market by any means,'' before adding the team has a solid core of fans and it's a fun place to play when the team is winning. As far as the Panthers not making the playoffs, he takes some of the blame for that, and adds he can be part of the solution to fixing things here. Below is the transcript of Jay's talk with the South Florida -- and one member of the Toronto -- media.
-- No distraction: “It's not going to be. It's done. I have a year, and you can't do anything until January anyway. It's no distraction. When the time comes, we'll deal with it.''
-- Why one year?: “Over the summer I wasn't prepared to sign a longer term deal. There were a lot of changes and everything else. At that point, I didn't feel it was time. We'll see what happens. Nothing can happen until January. We'll go from there.''
-- Is money the issue?: “No, it's not. If you're just in it to sign a contract and get the money out of it, I think you're in it for the wrong reasons. It has to be a good situation, and if you're going to sign a long-term deal, you have to make sure its something good for you and your family. It has to be something that works. This past summer, with the changes and not knowing what's going on, well, I've been through that before. I wasn't prepared to do that.''
-- Importance of the Panthers becoming a winner: “I've been here five years and haven't played in a playoff game. It's not fun for anyone. Hey, I'm partly to blame for that. I know that. You go through all these changes, and your always starting from scratch. It's tough. Now, the last few years, we've finished better. And what we have here now is a lot better than we've had in the past. Again, it takes time. We have to see what happens.''
-- On Keith Ballard: “He's a good player. For sure, this defense is the best we've had since I've been here. There's some pretty solid players. And we have great goalies. Looking at things, we should be solved defensively. Hopefully we have some guys who have some breakout years and continue the offense and all that. We should be good defensively if everyone plays the way they can.''
-- Improving the D: “It's good. Teams with solid defense start there. You don't want to play in your own end all the time. It makes things a lot easier. It's good when you have good guys around you. It makes it a lot more fun. There's optimism this year that we're going to have a good team and make a good run at it. But you have to take it – this is the first day of training camp. Everyone feels that way. You have to wait and see what happens, get off to a good start and take it as it comes.''
-- Open to staying in Florida: “Well, yeah. If I wasn't, I would have signed something and that's the end of the discussion. I wasn't prepared to do so. That's not closing any doors.''
-- Going to a traditional hockey market: “Obviously there are differences no matter where you go. This isn't a hockey market by any means. But at the same time, we do have good fans and when we do well, people show up and this is a fun place to play. Most of that is our fault because we haven't been good for a little while. That's no excuse. It's all speculation.''
-- Pros and cons for all situations: “Of course. You go to some markets where it's just ridiculous. The guys from Toronto can tell you about that, how everything gets blown out of proportion. That's no fun. So, anywhere you go, there are pros and cons. It doesn't make a whole lot of difference.''
-- Simple as 'make the playoffs?' -- “I don't know. That would be a tough pill to swallow for sure if you don't make the playoffs then faced with, well, you have a tough decision to make. Hopefully that doesn't happen. We'll just have to see.''