The questions are now, unfortunately, an annual rite for Mike Green.
The ones about the Washington Capitals' playoff disappointments and what'll be different this year. The ones about the consequences for himself and other core players if the Capitals can't advance past the second round of the Eastern Conference again. The questions about his stats, his health, his defense.
He answers them all, confidently and directly. Like the rest of the Capitals should, Green grows from his failures and strives to be better.
Take his defensive game, for example. Green was pigeonholed as all-'O'/little 'D' earlier in his career, when he was a 70-point defenseman who still couldn't win the Norris. He worked on his defensive responsibilities last season, and the punditry noticed.
"Until Mike Green got banged up [...] I didn't see a defenseman that improved more defensively in the entire National Hockey League than Mike Green," NBC's Ed Olczyk said. "Yes, his points suffered by it severely. But he became a better defensive defenseman and I think he committed to being that way."
Green appreciates the accolades. "I felt it was an element of my game I had to work on to become a complete player and being stronger defensively was up there," he said.
"I did what I could to develop that aspect of my game. Hopefully I can stay healthy and put it all together."
We spoke with Green this week about the Capitals' chances this season, their revamped defense, their power-play struggles and his HBO 24/7 experience. But first, we revisited last year's playoff sweep at the hands of the Lightning.
Q. You guys have always been competitive in the playoffs, pushing deep into series even when you've been eliminated. But last year's loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning was the first time the wheels really seemed to come off. In hindsight, what happened?
GREEN: I think that their game-plan beat ours. We put everything we possibly could into the New York series, and we were very successful.
I think that week that we had off in between series really killed us. I felt the energy level and the inspiration kind of fell off there through that week. We just fell flat.
You look at Boston and they're sneaking through series, they had momentum and they ended up winning.
You can look at [the break] from any way — it could be an advantage at times, or it could be a disadvantage. You don't want to make excuses, but that's my explanation.
What stock do you put into the notion that if things don't work out for the Capitals this season, it's time to look at blowing up the core of the team rather than trying to bring in more people to help the core?
That's their opinion. I think we've got a great core here. That we're going to be great for years.
Again, at the end of the day, it's an opinion. This team is a family, starting from the owner to the general manager to the coach to the guys.
It's about us, not about what people think.
Speaking of the family: Did you watch all the episodes of HBO 24/7?
No. I didn't. I watched the third and fourth ones.
Any reason why?
I wasn't interested really. I heard the first two weren't really that positive. I wasn't interested.
They put you on the Vespa.
That's why I watched the third one. Not to see myself but to see what the big deal was about it.
I think we're all professionals and what you see is what you get. They obviously spend a little more time viewing certain guys. I'm sure that will happen with the Flyers and the Rangers series.
For whatever it was, positive or negative, I thought it made for a great show. The response we got back from not only hockey fans but people in general was great. It was great for the fans, great for the game.
What kind of advice would you give the Flyers and the Rangers for their 24/7 experience?
Do not let it distract you. They are around 24 hours a day. Right when you wake up, they're there. It's something that can be distracting. If you let it distract you, it can cause problems.
So yeah, don't let it do that.
Now that you're an old man at 25, have you changed your summer training at all?
It's changed a bit. I used to go six times a week but now there's two days off during the week, which I'm not used to. But you accumulate all of these injuries during the course of the year, and they don't nag on your during the season, but in the summertime they do. So you have to adjust your training schedule.
Is there now a little more recuperation time for you after the season?
Absolutely. I took a few more weeks off than I usually have. But it's something unusual for myself, but it's something I have to do to prepare properly for the season.
What does Roman Hamrlik bring to the team?
He brings the presence of experience, which is good for our D corps. He's a very solid player who's been playing the same way for years. He makes a great first pass, very smart player.
How do you see John Carlson's development?
It's great. He's been getting better each season. I think him paired up with Karl [Alzner] is a good fit for them. I think he can bring his game to another level.
The power play — how do you make the power play work?
You score goals. [Laughs]
Well, of course, but what is it about this team when the power play doesn't click? People not moving? People trying to do too much? What is it?
It's working hard. The guys that are on PK for the other team are their grunt guys. The guys who are going to work their whatever you want to call it off. Sometimes it's overlooked by the skill guys because they don't necessarily use their hard work to their abilities — they use their skill.
We have to get back to working hard and retrieving pucks after shots. Using our skill when it's needed but also being simple. The power play's a simple thing — you have an extra guy. You have one more guy open who can put the puck in the net.
Quick ones: What's the movie or TV show you most watch on the road?
Seasons Four through the last season of "Entourage." And then I'm going to start "Sons of Anarchy."
What's on your iPod?
The Sheepdogs. My new favorite band. Canadians, too.
Your favorite piece of hockey memorabilia?
It would probably be my All-Star Game jersey that I got last year. I got to keep it. That's pretty special.
Are you a fan of the All-Star Game draft format?
I am, actually. It was obviously different, but I was more for the fans. It was grueling standing up there for three hours.
And then not getting a car out of it.
Yeah, but I'd rather be up on stage than in that position.
Finally, do you use yourself when you play NHL 12, and why or why not?
No. Never play as the Washington Capitals. Just superstitious.