When forward Tom Kostopoulos first joined the Canes' informal workouts a year ago at the RecZone, he was a newcomer to the room but also a veteran player among many veterans.
Looking around the room, Kostopoulos saw Rod Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney, Scott Walker and Matt Cullen, Nic Wallin and Aaron Ward. All that age and experience to go with Eric Staal, Cam Ward, Tim Gleason and the others.
His first thought: "We're going to win the Stanley Cup."
"That's what I was thinking," Kostopoulos said today after his first informal workout. "Coming in this locker room last year it was amazing to see how many veteran guys were here with NHL experience and Stanley Cup experience. They were guys I was looking forward to learning from, from Rod to Whitney to Walker to Stephane Yelle."
Instead of a Stanley Cup, the Canes failed to make the Stanley Cup playoffs. The changeover of the team has been dramatic. Brind'Amour has retired and Whitney is gone. Kostopoulos looked around him today in the locker room to find Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe, Matt Kennedy, Chris Terry and Jared Staal, among others.
"The age difference is huge," Kostopoulos said. "You see the energy of the young guys and how they're working and how bad they want it.
"It's good to see them working hard on the ice. I think it brings a whole different energy to the team. They all seem like they have good heads on their shoulders and are headed in the right direction. ...
"It's a whole new ballgame this year."