Anthony Stewart made the Thrashers roster out of training camp after spending all of last season at AHL Chicago. He played 80 games and finished with career-highs in goals (14), assists (25) and points (39).
The forward, who is a restricted free agent, scored 10 of his goals in the first 35 games. That included a hat trick against Anaheim on Oct. 15. He failed to score over his final 22 games.
In the next of a series of interviews with Thrashers players following the 2010-11 season, here is some of what Stewart had to say about his contract status and his drop in production for the second half.
Q. How do you think the season went for you, considering you got the chance to be here all season?
A. I felt I got a really good opportunity coming into camp. They said if you come in in shape, then it’s your spot to lose. I held them to their word and made sure I came in in top peak performance. It started off really good. I got my hat trick [four] games in. That’s when I knew I could play, stay and stick. It’s all about confidence. I had a pretty good stretch at scoring some goal. It’s a long season and there are going to be stretches where you don’t score and you have to work on doing the other things to help the team. We didn’t make the playoffs, which was the ultimate goal. We are going into the summer thinking about it. We have a long time to think about it.
Q. Your [goal] production did drop off. Any reason you can point to?
A. It was my first season playing 80 games. It was the little things. I think I got away from that a bit. The last 20 games of the season were probably the toughest. A lot of teams are fighting for playoff spots and the chances that you would get early on in the season, where you would fly under the radar, you are not getting those chances any more. It is unfortunate. It’s keeping my hunger and keeping me extra motivated to pick up where I started and I look forward to next year.
Q. It’s a big offseason for you as a restricted free agent. What do you expect?
A. I definitely want to be back. I’ve been looking at different [living] places, like Atlantic Station. I expect to be back. I hope the team wants me back. I played pretty well for my first year being here and I look forward to helping the team make the playoffs.
Q. Have the started contract talks with you?
A. No talks yet but those things will take care of themselves going into the summer. I’ve just got to work on staying in shape and getting in better shape. I’ll worry about the on-ice stuff.
Q. What was the biggest lesson you learned going through a complete season that maybe you didn’t expect?
A. You can’t read your own headlines and take things for granted. Like I mentioned before, it may seem like you are getting easy goals but it’s the hard work. When you expect to score and it doesn’t happen, it’s a little rattling but if you just keep working hard and do the little things, it’s going to go in for you.
It definitely gets harder the second half of the season. Guys are taking liberties. Guys are bearing down extra hard because it’s crunch time.
The series will continue over the next couple of weeks. Coming Monday, Chris Mason.