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ESPN.com: How would you assess your team's performance last season?
Rutherford: We had, like all teams do at the first of the year, we had a good feel for the team, but we couldn't score all year. We actually generated a lot of scoring chances, but our top scorers were a little bit off, they weren't going at the numbers they were in previous years. And our power play was not very efficient. But during the season we added Justin Williams, and before that Pavel Brendl.
ESPN.com: Which player made the biggest strides in your estimation, had the biggest impact?
Rutherford: Josef Vasicek. That was his best season. He was very good. He's big, he's strong. He's just starting. He's got several other steps to go through, but he got 19 goals playing 17 minutes a game. A player like him should be about 20 minutes or so.
ESPN.com: Which player needs to bounce back or take the biggest step forward if there is hockey?
Rutherford: It's not one player because one player doesn't make a team. But certainly Jeff O'Neill. When he had 40 goals and then 30, and 30 to last year only having 14. If he goes back to the 30-goal mark, it changes our whole team. And Erik Cole ended up with 18 goals, but I think he's a guy that could get to the 25 goal line if he had it all going all season. He's still a bit inconsistent. And of course Brind'Amour dropped off last year, too.
ESPN.com: What is the top priority in improving the organization?
Rutherford: Our special teams have to be better. Look at the teams that had success in the playoffs, they all have solid special teams. I think the biggest thing is having somebody that can quarterback our power play. We haven't had someone like that for a long time. Frank Kaberle will help that, but ideally if we had one more guy, like having a Sean Hill playing with Kaberle, but Hill signed with Florida. Brad Fast who played at Michigan State has one year of pro under his belt. He's actually a guy that fits that bill. He can feel free to do it right from the first day of camp, but I can't start projecting.
ESPN.com: Who is the top player in your system ready to play in the NHL right now?
Rutherford: Brad Fast would be one. Danny Richmond. And of course our first pick at the draft, Andrew Ladd. Last year, we did not predict Eric Staal would start the season with our club. Andrew Ladd will get the same opportunity coming into camp. And of course Cam Ward, who hasn't played on our team. The backup job is his to lose not to win.
ESPN.com: What was your favorite moment from last season?
Rutherford: I think my favorite moment was when Eric Staal, right away, had such a great training camp. When you don't hand something to a young player and he earns it, it's a great feeling for everybody on the team. He just went out and went about his business like a veteran.
ESPN.com: Least favorite moment?
Rutherford: Just the whole year. The least favorite moment, though, is when you get to the point that you have to change the coach. Paul Maurice was very good. He'd been here a long time, but there came a point when we had to make a change. And I think we made the right change. Peter's very demanding and makes players accountable immediately. And it's really what this team needed at the time.
ESPN.com: What activity, destination or hobby will take you furthest away from hockey this offseason?
Rutherford: There's no break. If I have a break, I love to play golf, but I don't play 18 holes without thinking about something to do with work.
ESPN.com: Does it affect your driving or your putting?
Rutherford: You never know. But at some point in time when you're out there, something's going to pop into your head that you should be doing at the office.
Scott Burnside is a freelance writer based in Atlanta and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.