Cup hangover easing

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

Your summer is shorter and more hectic, the aches and pains of your playoff drive barely heal before training camp and when the season starts every team in the league is lining up to give you its best shot.

It's not easy being the defending Stanley Cup champions, but the Carolina Hurricanes will be first to tell you that it beats the heck out of the alternative.

"That's definitely one of the reasons we started a little slow,'' said Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour, explaining how the Stanley Cup hangover is a very real affliction. "Our focus wasn't what it was coming into camp the year before, but that's expected. I'll take that any day, have a little bit of a slow start because you had Cup things going on.''

It's been a rush since the Canes edged Edmonton in Game 7. Parades, showing off the Stanley Cup, ring presentations, banner raisings. In short, a lot of things that conspired to nudge them off their game a little in October and November.

After all, with Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final still fresh in your minds, how do you get fired up for game 8 of the regular season against Columbus?

"At the start of the year you can't seem to find the same intensity that you had during the last two months,'' said Ray Whitney. "The season just ended and you have to get ready to training camp already. Combine that with the fact that everyone is preparing to play their best against you every night - you don't get many nights where the other team isn't prepared to play you hard.''

It's something almost all champions have gone through. Rarely does a Cup winner storm out of the gate next October.

"There's no question the price you pay for winning a championship is high,'' said Kevyn Adams. "What your body goes through, but it's well worth it, obviously.

"It's a short recovery in the summer, especially for the guys who were hurt at the end of the year. For me, essentially, I was just healed and we were playing again. It wasn't the conditioning type summer that you're used to having.''

It's a grind that only the teams who've been through it can understand.

But the Canes, after opening defence of their title with seven losses in their first 11 games, have begun to right their ship (eight wins in their last 12 heading into last night).

"The (ancillary) stuff has subsided, it's behind us,'' said Brind'Amour. "We're still not as consistent as we want. We're in the middle of the pack when we want to establish ourselves and get up there with the leaders.

"We haven't really got to our game for long stretches, where you run off five, six in a row. We just haven't done that.''

But he's confident the lessons learned last spring, and this fall, will get them through this.

"We know what it takes,'' said Brind'Amour. "That's the most important thing.

"It's also raised the bar. Our record isn't what we want it to be, but we expect to win every night."

The other tough part about winning a Cup is that anything short of another Cup the following year is a major disappointment. Yet only one team in the last decade has managed to repeat.

"I don't think anybody would be satisfied with just winning it once,'' said goalie Cam Ward. "The guys here have the hunger to do it again.''


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