All of a sudden there is no debate about who is centering the Ottawa Senators' top line.
Kyle Turris was flanked by right wing Bobby Ryan and left wing Clarke MacArthur for most of the 2013-14 season and the line consistently rivaled whoever then-captain Jason Spezza centered as Ottawa's top offensive unit.
With Spezza being traded to the Dallas Stars in July, Turris will have the spotlight squarely on himself. He'll now be expected to maintain and drive the Senators' production as Ottawa looks to find its way back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2014-15.
"It was something I kind of got to experience two years ago when Spezza was hurt," Turris told NHL.com. "I definitely learned a lot from it. It was a lot more difficult playing against the top [defense] pairings and getting the checking lines every time you go out, but that year I feel was kind of up and down, where I'd have a good couple of games and then a bad couple of games.
"I feel like I'm much more prepared for that kind of role now having gone through that experience and I'll definitely know a bit more of what to expect. I tried to apply that into my game last year even though it was obviously a bit different of a role. But I feel like I'm more prepared, I'm more experienced and I'm more ready and able for that challenge."
Turris played all 82 games for the first time in his NHL career last season and had career highs in goals (26), assists (32) and points (58).
"We don't expect Kyle Turris to be Jason Spezza and get 80 or 90 points," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "Can he do that? Oh yeah, he can probably do that. But that's not the expectation for Kyle. The expectation for Kyle is to come in and be a solid player like he has been, continue to work at his game; the little parts, the faceoffs, the defensive positioning, offensive positioning, really helping make your wingers better players. If he continues to do that he's going to continue to grow as a player and we're going to like the player we have."
After longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson left the Senators to sign with the Detroit Red Wings in 2013, Turris now understands Spezza's departure as a business decision for his former teammate and the team.
"We've seen so many different things happen and we understand it from a player's side and we understand it from an organizational side," Turris said. "In this case, it was best for both to move in different directions. Spezza is a great guy. He's a real good friend and a nice guy and I wish him the best in Dallas and he's going to have a lot of success, but at the same time I'm really excited about our team next year and moving forward."
MacLean likes the progression he has seen in Turris since the 25-year-old forward was acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes early in the 2011-12 season. Turris had identical numbers in his first two seasons in Ottawa with 12 goals and 17 assists. He appeared in 49 games with the Senators after the trade and played all 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
"We really think Kyle is prepared to continue to grow as a player," MacLean said. "The three years he's been here in Ottawa he's really grown as a player. He's gone from a boy and grown into a man. He's really dedicated himself in the offseason to training and he's been able to train and not rehab, which is a big deal for young players. He's stayed healthy because of the work he does in the summer and he is seeing rewards from that. The work Kyle continues to put into his game, he's going to get out of it."