During the season, Checkers broadcaster Jason Shaya checks in each week with his 10 Thoughts - a series of observations about the team and the hockey world in general.
1) I was as shocked as anyone that Charlotte would lose all three games at home. I've said this before and I truly mean it - this Checkers team was the most talented group we've had in Charlotte. It was also the most friendly and pleasurable group to work with in my entire career. There were moments during the season, especially after the first-round sweep of the Penguins, when I thought this was going to be the year we'd make a trip to the finals. Congratulations to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for their victory. But, I do believe the Marlies win against them in 5 games.
2) To the group of men who spend more time at the arena than anyone will ever know, the equipment and training staff in Charlotte is the absolute best in the entire league. Sometimes, they are mean to me for no reason, and other times, one particular member tries to fight me without provocation. Nevertheless, Steven Latin, Donald White, Bryn-Marc Conaway, Ryan Wysocki and Nick Roy deserve all the accolades for doing the most difficult job in sports. Well done, guys.
3) Here's a quote from me back in 2015: "...after watching Connor Hellebuyck in net this weekend for Manitoba, I will say he might be one of the best goalies I've seen in the AHL. He has size, quickness, excellent mobility, stellar hand-eye coordination and he reads the game one step ahead. If you are buying stock in goalies, I'd put big money down on Hellebuyck." I won't have time to say I called it because this is the last column of the season, but I wanted to dust off an oldie. I know a great goalie in the making when I see one and I've yet to be wrong.
4) I wonder if Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper's job is in jeopardy if the Lightning don't get out of this round. If I had to pick his replacement, I'd make one phone call. Darryl Sutter.
5) One of the unsung heroes of the season from behind the scenes is Derek Wilkinson, the Checkers’ senior vice president of hockey operations. Considering how difficult it is to manage over 30 players and staff and make sure everything is in order, he handles every area flawlessly. I've said this many times previously, but Wilky never gets anywhere near the credit he deserves for all the work he puts in daily. In all these years, I still say he is one of the smartest hockey minds I've ever known.
6) How late was the five-overtime game from Tuesday night? Well, at about 11:45 pm, broadcast intern extraordinaire and high school senior Matthew Esposito got a call from his mom. She said it was too late and that he had to come home because he had school the next day. His mom was right. It was way too late.
7) To watch the Western Conference Finals and not hear John Forslund on the call is very disappointing. I know for a fact that many people share that same sentiment. It's not just his approach to the game and preparation that set him apart from everyone. He has the best broadcast voice and delivery of big moments of anyone. Period.
8) Battling injuries in both the AHL and the NHL, Lucas Wallmark still proved to be the most talented player not just in Charlotte, but the entire Eastern Conference and probably the league. If Lucas was healthy all year and in the AHL for 76 games, he would have run away with the scoring title by a significant margin. He's the King for sure and I hope he can carry his crown to Raleigh next season.
9) Get ready for free agency and the trading to start going again because I believe the Hurricanes will be very active. This is a massive year for Tom Dundon and the future of the organization.
10) Congratulations to the front office staff led by the best owner in sports, Michael Kahn, COO Tera Black and Sr. VP Shawn Lynch. I think it's fair to say this was the most successful season Charlotte's had in all of my 11 seasons.
11) Thank you to each and every fan that reaches out on twitter, email and listens to every broadcast. I hope to see everyone again next year. Goodbye and God Love you.