Eric Boulton enters his second straight summer as an unrestricted free agent after his sixth season with the Thrashers. This time he is coming off a career-high in goals with six, which included a hat trick against New Jersey on Dec. 18.
The forward was one of three full-season Thrashers to finish with a plus rating.
In the next of a series of interviews with Thrashers players following the 2010-11 season, here is some of what Boulton had to say about his desire to return next year and the potential he sees in the young team.
Q. How would you describe your season and your expanded role, which included a career-high in goals?
A. I played a lot more than I have in the past. I think that each year I’ve played here, I’ve played more and more. [Coach Craig Ramsay] likes to roll four lines so that was great for a guy in my role. I think I proved to him, the coaches and management that I can contribute besides just the physical side. Obviously we are not happy with the outcome, not making the playoffs but we have a lot of potential here. We can turn it around, for sure.
Q. What is it that you see in this team that makes this more than just another year the Thrashers didn’t make the playoffs?
A. I think we are such a young team and we lost a lot of one-goal games. I can’t count how many. There were just a lot of mistakes made. In terms of the talent and youth and potential that some of these guys have is overwhelming. I think if we play as a team like we were down the stretch we gave a lot of teams a hard time. I think with the experience of this year, we are going to build and grow as a team year after year.
Q. Why did this team have success against the top-level teams like Washington and Philadelphia?
A. I think guys go into those games thinking I better be on my best game or we are going to get stomped on. You might not think that going in against a team below you in the standings. That’s part of learning. Teams are so good in the NHL right now every game is a must-win. You have to win hockey games. You have to put points together whether it’s Washington or Florida. You have to be ready to go. When we play well against those teams it shows we are capable of doing it. When everyone gets on the same page and a little wiser and smarter, I think we will be all set.
Q. It’s another offseason for you as an unrestricted free agent. You’ve made a home here. What are your thoughts, hopes, plans?
A. Hopes are to re-sign with the team. We’ve made this our home. We obviously love it here. The potential of the team is very attractive too. I think there is a bright future with a lot of young kids who can play. I definitely would love to come back.
Q. Your negotiations last year went late into the offseason. Is that why there was just a one-year deal then?
A. I’ll take as many as I can but you’ll have to ask [management] about that. But we definitely want to stay here. We want to be a part of this.
The series will continue over the next couple of weeks. Coming Friday, Anthony Stewart.