I caught up with Scott McCulloch, who is living and training in Calgary this summer, via cell phone today to chat more about how the fifth year came about since he only had time Sunday to confirm he was coming back.
As a quick side note, Mike Testwuide (and his brother, J.P., who is Denver’s captain), will be at Montreal Canadiens development camp today–the number in the story (eight CC players) was correct, I just neglected to include the info about Mike.
Here’s what McCulloch had to say:
When did you know you would have the option to come back for a fifth year?
Coach called me two weeks after the season and let me know they’d changed the rules and I’d be able to play a fifth year if I wanted to. It was another option — it’s always nice to have options — and I was kind of just waiting to see what Chicago was feeling and where they were with me. There wasn’t a ton of interest with them and so on June 30, I decided I’d like to come back a fifth year and play another year and finish off my college career on a good note.
How do you feel about the Chicago Blackhawks not signing you and where do you go from here? [Ed. note: The Blackhawks drafted McCulloch as one of 15 forwards in the sixth round of the 2004 draft]
I didn’t have the strongest year obviously and I knew that they had 15 forwards in one year and signed a lot of guys into their system already. There might be another team with fewer forwards in their system, that might not be so stacked and might have a little more room. I’ll be a free agent [as of August 15] and that’s a good thing. I think last year I put a lot of pressure on myself; your senior year always want to do well. Now I have a second chance at it and not a lot of people get that chance. I hope I can stay relaxed and play the way I know I can play.
At what point last season did you feel like you played your best?
It was when I came back from my concussion — that’s when I got rolling there. The puck started going in the net and I felt like I was playing better than I had most of the year. I didn’t play terrible the rest of the time, but I was really inconsistent with putting the puck in the net and that’s got to be better.
Why do you think you were better post-concussion?
Once you step out of the normal routine of being in the games you get a chance to think about the game and the things you can do better and the things you can change. … It translated when I got back on the ice. When I came back, I tried to keep it simple because I hadn’t played in three weeks. That’s a key to my game, not trying to do too much.
Do you think the interim period between graduation and deciding to come back to CC will have the same effect?
It’s more just the opportunity to put an exclamation point on my college career that has had ups and downs and end on a strong note. We have a great team coming back and it gives me an opportunity to prove myself.
Coach Owens said you’ll be wearing the final ‘A.’ After the way last season ended and being the most experienced guy on the roster with 129 games, what does that mean to you?
I’m very excited, especially to be a leader again. The senior class is a great group of kids and I have a lot of good friends there. I think last year we had a good season, but we were disappointed with what happened in the playoffs.
When I interviewed you after Michigan State, you thought your time at CC was over.
I thought my college career was over. Then, two weeks later, I found out: ‘You’re going to get another shot to do this.’
So what does this mean academically? [Ed note: McCulloch will pursue a degree in Comparative French Literature. A three-time WCHA Scholar Athlete, McCulloch graduated with a bachelor's in economics in May.]
I got the minor, so I only need five classes to get another degree. It’s another thing in my back pocket — you can’t play hockey forever. [In regards to the Comparative French Literature major] I would like to live in Canada when I’m older and I think it will look good on the resume and open up other fields of work for me. CC is great school. I like the set-up there. It’s comfortable for me. …When I found out I might be able to come back, I wasn’t even supposed to take an eighth-block class. It’s weird to be a senior in an eighth-block class, but it was just to make sure I only had to take five if I came back.