He's beloved by the home fans, respected by his teammates and full of optimism when it comes to the 2011-12 NHL season.
There really never seems to be a bad time to talk to Chad LaRose. The charismatic Carolina Hurricanes' forward exudes energy and enthusiasm even in the off-season.
“Of course I can talk, no problem at all,” said LaRose, just hours after her signed a two-year contract with the Hurricanes. “Everything is great. Nothing at all to complain about.”
It's just the type of response you'd expect from the 29-year-old forward, once a pure goal scorer in his junior days, who altered his style to become one of the league's top forecheckers.
But that's not to say LaRose can't still find the back of the net.
In fact, he's hit double digits in goals in his past four campaigns, including a 19-goal season in 2008-09 and 16 tallies last year.
But for LaRose, who went undrafted before signing as a free agent with the Hurricanes in 2003, his biggest motivation is in helping put the Southeast Division squad back on the playoff map.
“We can win with this team,” said LaRose, who led the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers in scoring in 2002–03 with 117 points in 67 games. “And we will. Each and every guy is committed to that. We have the pieces in place and we have the desire.”
They also happen to have some serious talent.
While he might not share the same notoriety as some of his other goaltending brethren, Cam Ward, who won the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 becoming the first starting goaltender to win the NHL championship as a rookie since Patrick Roy in 1986, is one of the game's very best.
“We have the best goaltender in the league,” offered LaRose, of the 2005–06 Conn Smythe Trophy recipient as the playoff MVP. “I truly believe that. He's phenomenal. It's not just that he makes saves - he's the type of goalie that makes the big saves in the big games. I think there have been times where we've made him do too much work, but he's always there and always ready.
“I think a lot of the reason why guys want to stay here is because of Cam. It's been proven that you need a great goalie to win the Stanley Cup. And with Cam in net, we feel we've got that chance.”
Then there's Jeff Skinner. Selected seventh overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the forward was the youngest player in the NHL during the 2010–11 season.
The 19-year-old had 31 goals in his first NHL campaign, netting Calder Memorial Trophy honours as the league's top rookie.
kinner, who played alongside current Boston Bruins' young star Tyler Seguin when they were junior teammates in TK, was one of Carolina's most consistent contributors throughout the year.
He also caught the eye of his teammates early on.
“Jeff was sensational,” lauded LaRose. “His composure and ability to score big goals was huge for us. It's quite funny when you look over at this guy and you don't feel that old. Then you realize you're 10 years older and that's when you know you're a veteran.
“But he's great. To see that enthusiasm and love for the game has a big effect on all of us. He loves being at the rink, he loves competing and he has all the talent in the world.”
LaRose is hoping the combined talents of the Carolina players will translate into a spot in the top eight in the East. Last year, in spite of seven wins in their last 10 games, the Hurricanes fell short of that goal.
They went into the final day of the season able to determine their own fate, but lost 6-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning to finish ninth in the East.
LaRose sees better days ahead.
“That was tough,” he admitted. “But there's no doubt we feel we can win here.”
He's looking forward to proving it when the season starts in October.
“I love our fans and I love the group we have. All I'm looking to do is to provide that jump and spark, get the crowd into the game and do whatever I can to get the win.”It's exactly what anyone associated with the Hurricanes, fans, front office and the players, have come to expect from Chad LaRose.