A familiar voice could be heard bellowing inside The Rinks - Anaheim ICE this morning, as the Ducks officially opened their 2016 training camp. Randy Carlyle, the winningest coach in franchise history, was back on the ice with the club he led to a Stanley Cup championship in 2007. A lot has changed since then for both the club and himself, but the fire he showed from his first go-around in Anaheim was rekindled this morning with up-tempo drills that had many players hunched over.
"Coming back into this building has been pretty seamless," Carlyle said. "I think all the jitters are gone. I wasn't as nervous as I was the first time in 2005, that's for sure. With the familiarity with the people and the personnel both off the ice and on the ice, this is what we're here to do. We have a job, and that's to prepare the hockey club."
If today was any indication - and, granted, it was only the first day of camp - Carlyle's brand of hockey will place a heavy emphasis on speed.
"The pace was extremely high. The guys are executing well, so I thought it was a really good first day," said defenseman Cam Fowler, whom Carlyle coached as an 18-year-old rookie back in 2010. "He's always a guy who's super organized and expects a lot out of his players, and that was no different today. The thing with Randy this time is, he expects us to be a well-conditioned team and a team that can skate because he wants to play a high-octane game. You can't do that if you don't have your legs underneath you.
"We want to be a team that attacks instead of sitting back," Fowler added. "That's the style he wants, and all of that starts with a team that can really skate. There's no better time to start that than Day 1 of training camp."
Not on the ice, however, were a handful of Ducks that were (or currently still are) competing in the World Cup of Hockey tournament in Toronto. John Gibson (Team North America), Ryan Kesler (USA) and Sami Vatanen (Finland) are returning to Orange County over the next few days, and are expected to join the team shortly after. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (Canada) and Jakob Silfverberg and Hampus Lindholm (Sweden) are still taking part in the tournament, while Rickard Rakell continues to recover from abdominal surgery.
Veteran defenseman Kevin Bieksa skated under Carlyle's guidance from his days in the American Hockey League with the Manitoba Moose. Bieksa jokingly said the practice today reminded him of the ones he went through many, many years ago.
"His presence out there, right away you notice it," said Bieksa. "He likes to stop practice, he likes to teach and he likes to coach. He's very well-organized. It felt like a typical Randy practice from 14 years ago."
With Carlyle now behind the bench, Bieksa says there won't be any grey area when it comes to roles.
"The first words he talked about were discipline, accountability and structure," Bieksa said. "We're going to be organized. We're going to know how to play. There's going to be communication and everyone is going to know what their role is. If you know your role, and you don't do it, you're going to be held accountable."
Carlyle believes this team has what it takes to exorcise the demons of postseasons' past, if they all commit themselves to a common goal.
"The game has changed," he said. "This will not be the same group as last year, so we're doing an evaluation on the players that were here previously, and some of the younger players who are transitioning into this hockey club. There are some good young players here. With their commitment, this team is ready to take the next step."
TRAINING CAMP CONTINUES TOMORROW
Fans are welcome to attend Day 2 of training camp at The Rinks - Anaheim ICE tomorrow from 9 a.m. - noon featuring the same format used today.
Saturday, Sept. 24: Practices for Groups A, B & C run 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. on both Olympic and NHL rinks
Sunday, Sept. 25: Practices for Groups A, B & C run 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. on both Olympic and NHL rinks
Monday, Sept. 26: Scrimmage, 10:00 a.m.