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Senators won't name captain this season

Coach says role will 'emerge in time' after Ottawa went without one in 2018-19

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

The Ottawa Senators won't name a captain this season, coach D.J. Smith said.

"The captain will emerge in time," Smith told Sportsnet in comments published Thursday. "I think the biggest thing is that we will allow the older guys to mentor these younger guys and blunt the blow until we turn the corner here. After a tough night, I don't want the young guys having to answer all the questions. The veterans and myself are going to answer to it."

Ottawa did not have a captain last season after defenseman Erik Karlsson was traded to the San Jose Sharks on Sept. 13. He had been captain since the 2014-15 season.

 

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Smith, who was hired May 23 after the Senators (29-47-6) finished last in the NHL, said he believes Ottawa can be a surprising team this season. They were 22-37-5 when they fired coach Guy Boucher on March 1 and replaced him with Marc Crawford, who was 7-10-1.

"If you ask anyone in the hockey world [if Ottawa can make the Stanley Cup Playoffs], they would say you're crazy," Smith said. "Everywhere I look, we're pegged for dead last. And that's fine with me. I'm not going to bring that word up with our players. I'm just going to see how we play. 

"We don't have the older superstars of the world right now, but we have some young players who are going to be that in the future, so I've got to make sure I develop them properly, give them all the support I can, to be those players. If we can be really competitive and stay in the hunt that would be great, but ultimately the goal's got to be to have this thing rolling so we're good every year."

The Senators acquired forwards Connor Brown (July 1) and Artem Anisimov (July 16) and defenseman Nikita Zaitsev (July 1) in trades this offseason and signed free agent forward Tyler Ennis and defenseman Ron Hainsey (each on July 1). 

Ottawa's young players include 19-year-old forward Brady Tkachuk, who had 45 points (22 goals, 23 assists) in 71 games as a rookie last season, and 22-year-old defenseman Thomas Chabot, who had an NHL career-high 55 points (14 goals, 41 assists) in 70 games in 2018-19.

"One of the goals I can say out loud is -- to change the mentality and change the culture. That's going to happen," Smith said. "The mentality is the belief that we are one of these teams to be reckoned with in the future. It takes time to earn that confidence. And we're going to work every day to earn a little bit more confidence. Every game. Every year. So we can rebuild this thing into a team that's not good for -- not just one year, and then you miss the next year -- but for a seven-year run. My job is to get that turned around and these young kids are a big part of it."

Tweet from @Sportsnet: "One of the goals I can say out loud is to change the mentality... that we are one of these teams to be reckoned with in the future."@Senators head coach D.J. Smith sat down with @HockeyScanner about his expectations heading into the season. https://t.co/pJlqquzpcy

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