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2015-16 Ontario Reign Exit Interviews: Peter Budaj, Mike Stothers, Darren Abbott

Budaj recounts season which will be "special in my memory forever" + Stothers thinks Reign will be much younger next year, compliments Kempe, Auger & MacDermid + Abbott talks Kings inter-squad exhibition, All-Star Game in Ontario

Joshua Lavallee

2015-16 Reign Exit Interviews: Forwards

2015-16 Reign Exit Interviews: Defensemen

Peter Budaj

  • "We left everything out there," stated Budaj.
  • When asked if he had perhaps put too much pressure on himself during the Lake Erie series, the netminder instead pointed at Ontario's lack of familiarity with the opponent, "It was tough to see...their transition game was very fast." "Completely different style." "Of course, they were in the same boat."
  • "First few games, especially at home, I don't think we put too much pressure on ourselves. We just fell behind."
  • He wasn't a fan of the 2-3-2 series set-up. "I actually think the team playing second at home has the bigger advantage."
  • Reflecting on the course of events that led him to the Bastien Award, which included supplanting both of Manchester's Calder Cup-winning goalies, he admitted, "If you asked me last year at this point, same time, I would've never dreamed of what happened this year." "Not many teams would've looked at me after the year I had last year."
  • "This year will be pretty special in my memory forever, especially after last year." "I came to camp just to play, see what was going on. But I knew my situation. I was coming without a contract, I was coming as a tryout. I was behind young, great goalies." "Thank God, I was able to do what I can, what I was born to do."
  • At the moment, Budaj says he doesn't know what the organization's plans are for him. He re-signed with Los Angeles for another year and should compete for the back-up position behind Jonathan Quick next season.

Mike Stothers

  • "I think we're going to be a lot younger next year. Even more so than we were this year."
  • "When I look at the team, where we started [this year], and where we finished. Totally different make-up. We lost an awful lot of offense from the year before...That's something to build on."
  • "Manchester had some good results in the regular season, didn't always translate into the playoffs. We're pretty proud of the fact that not only have we had good regular seasons, we've had success in the playoffs as well. All that is valuable for these guys...that's the type of stuff we're hoping to develop for these kids so that they'll have that experience when they get up with the Kings."
  • On why his teams have had more playoff success than past Manchester teams. "You learn by losing. Those guys that Chris and I inherited, they'd already been through some playoff experience."
  • "It maybe stings a little that it was a four-game sweep. I thought we were better than that."
  • Stothers talked about how to get such young players to be more consistent. "It's no different than trying to train a puppy." Or cats? "Not a big cat fan. At all. I like dogs." "You have to have some patience. You have to spend a lot of time with them. A lot of positive reinforcement."
  • "I don't think we had a bad egg in the bunch...There's not one individual that I've had in the past two years that I couldn't wait to see leave at the end of the year. I love these guys."
  • By the end of the season, Justin Auger and Kurtis MacDermid had caught Stothers's attention in terms of being farther along in their development than he would've expected.
  • On Auger: "It's harder for a big-bodied guy. I think his skating has improved. His hands have improved immensely. He's got a real nose for the net. He's pretty aware defensively. He's killing penalties. I think his growth as a player has been huge this year."
  • On MacDermid: "Big man, tough guy. But showed that he can play."
  • Stothers believes that Kempe would "probably" benefit from another year of development in Ontario. "But sometimes, he can take your breath away. Sometimes, he takes your breath away like you got kicked in the stomach." "But what you saw in the playoffs? That's the way this kid can play." "The Kings don't usually rush anybody." "But you got a talent like him? He's already NHL-ready skating-wise and probably from a hockey sense-wise."
  • Stothers noted that Development Camp is more about instruction, making it harder for individuals to stand out. But he recalled his first camp with Chris Hajt two summers ago: "Kevin Raine was there. He was just invited. But because he did so well...he ended up getting himself a contract."
  • Stothers was stumped by the question about which current Reign player had a future in coaching. He quipped, "I'm sure if I said that, they would probably think their career was over. If I throw a name out there, they'd probably think, 'Aw, Stutts thinks I'm junk now.'"
  • He wasn't sure if he'd be interested if an NHL team came knocking. "It's easy to say yes...I don't know. I’m pretty happy doing what I’m doing."
  • He highlighted why his current job is so satisfying to him. "I’ve been to the NHL. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a real sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when you’re able to help these younger guys and fulfill their dream of playing in the NHL. It’s a weird feeling, but you take great pride in seeing somebody play their first NHL game or turning on a TV and seeing a highlight of somebody getting a point or whatever in their first game. It was the same way in junior, but it’s even more magnified here in the American Hockey League."
  • "You never say never. Am I actively looking? Not a chance. You might be stuck with me."
  • What happened with Kris Newbury in Game Four? "What happened to Newbury in Game Four? He didn't play."

Darren Abbott

  • "We have one of the bigger season ticket bases out here." "Season ticket base, if you include premiums, is well over 4,000. It's one of the tops in the league."
  • In late September, Citizens Business Bank Arena will host a Kings intersquad game. They will also have a preseason education game for local elementary school kids.
  • They will also push for an AHL All-Star Game in Ontario soon. In addition, "We'd love to get a practice rink going." Currently, the Reign practice at Citizens Bank Business Arena and local rink Center Ice Arena.
  • "We've also got to get a new lease done at CBBA."
  • On rumors that AEG will not be managing CBBA anymore: "I'd rather not comment at this point." "Nothing's done yet."
  • The Reign, which averaged 8,000-plus in the regular season, dipped to a little over 6,000 in the postseason. Was this a concern? "No, a great deal of our tickets are sold in group packages. It's hard to get those groups out on short notice." Group dates are usually scheduled at least a month in advance. "We average 2,000-2,500 groups a game in the regular season."
  • On next season's schedule: "I know Chicago [Wolves] would love to come out and play." The Rockford IceHogs, Iowa Wild, and Charlotte Checkers will be on the schedule next year, but not the Lake Erie Monsters. The Reign will still play six games in San Diego and that many in Tucson too, but a few less up north.
  • How does AHL scheduling work? Essentially, the league asks around, but a lot of the more Eastern-based teams, for good reason, want to stay close and have "the players' heads in their own beds."
  • On the California-based teams playing just 68 games and any plans to up that number to match the rest of the league's 76. "It'll take the AHL two or three years to get it all figured out."
  • The Reign probably will not be on TV next year, but that's something he and Luc Robitaille are working on. Ontario would've been on FOX Sports West or Prime Ticket if they had advanced to the Calder Cup Finals. "We'd like to explore maybe a ten-game package, not next year, but the year after. Five with us, five with the Gulls, something of that nature." "I think FOX Sports West has an appetite for it as well." They will also explore radio options.