Captain Nick Foligno has been through his share of ups and downs as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He had his worst statistical season since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, posting just 15 goals and 18 assists for 33 points in 72 games.
After a quiet start to the playoffs – he had just one assist and zero goals through the first five games – he scored two goals in the Game 6, season-ending loss. Foligno was composed and frank in his exit-day interviews, noting that the season wasn't a failure, but it would also be difficult to consider it a success.
"I thought we were in control of our own fate in this one, and that's probably the most disappointing part," Foligno said. "You look for things. Have you grown? Have you gotten better? I think we did, but this was a step I wanted us to take, and we didn't. That doesn't sit well with me as a leader, and I'm sure it doesn't sit well with all the guys. That's what you try to do as an organization, try to keep moving forward, and I think we have. This would have been a real good point to get going and really become the team we envisioned being."
The sudden contrast between playing playoff hockey and doing nothing is stark. Foligno will likely take some time off before getting back into training. Summers are where these players really have a chance to make improvements, to their bodies as well as to their overall games, and it's not lost on Foligno that this is a crucial summer for him.
"It just sucks now knowing how much time we have between now and next year," Foligno said. "But man I just hope it drives guys like it did this summer to get ready for this season. It's a driving point for a lot of guys, myself included. I want to see us reach our potential, but I want to see it now. I want our guys to realize that now is the time. You don't get very many opportunities. Finally, I feel like I've come into being the older guy. Yeah, it sucks. You just realize how quickly the years go by, and you start looking at how many years have been for not, and there's an opportunity here in this room and this team to have a few years where they can be pretty special."
"Especially in this day and age, you only have so much time with a certain team before things get torn apart and built back up. And sometimes you're not a part of it anymore. So I think we need to realize that with the guys we have signed, the core group in here, the way that this group has been assembled, that with a few additions or subtractions, we have a chance to do something special here and not just be happy with playoffs anymore. That's where I really think we've grown, I don't think we're a team that's happy with playoffs. When I got here, that's all we cared about, just let's make the playoffs. Now it's like, screw that, let's win a Stanley Cup. That's where I think we've grown, and that's why it hurts so much."
Foligno knows the window to win is now, and acknowledged that the pain from losing in the first round for the third time in five years isn't acceptable.
"I think that's what stings the most, is from everything that we grinded through and got through, we didn't reward ourselves enough for it, and I hope that's a motivating factor for everybody," he said.