Sidney Crosby returned to Pittsburgh last week, joined his teammates on the ice for informal practices leading up to the start of training camp this week and then proclaimed his wrist healthy and himself ready to start the 2014-15 season.
When the captain arrived in town most everything around him looked familiar save for a few new teammates, except so much about his Pittsburgh Penguins has changed.
The Penguins have a new general manager (Jim Rutherford), a new coach (Mike Johnston), new assistant coaches (Rick Tocchet and Gary Agnew), and a new philosophy about how to play and how to make their way through the 82-game grind that is the NHL's regular season.
|Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby says his wrist is healthy and he's ready for the season, one that features a new coach, general manager and philosophy after an offseason shakeup. (Photo: Andre Ringuette/NHLI, Joe Sargent/NHLI) |
A lot of what Crosby and his teammates did under former coach Dan Bylsma and former general manager Ray Shero now has to change. The Penguins still can be called the favorite to finish first in the Metropolitan Division, but how they go about trying to win their third consecutive regular-season division title will be different.
Crosby touched on the new philosophy in Pittsburgh, Johnston and the team in an interview with NHL.com during the League's annual Player Media Tour in New York last week.
Here are Five Questions with … Sidney Crosby:
I have heard you say that the team needs to enjoy the process of the regular season more than it has. I have also heard that come from other sources, including Jim Rutherford and Mike Johnston. How, in Pittsburgh, where all that matters is what you do come playoff time, can you enjoy the process of the regular season more? Doesn't everybody care only about what the Penguins do in the playoffs?
"It's not easy to win. You have to enjoy competing and not necessarily welcome adversity, but when it does happen you have to understand everyone goes through it. And just because you're facing or dealing with something in January it's not the end of the world. Every team deals with certain things. You can't play Game 1 [of the regular season] and then get to Game 1 of the playoffs; it doesn't work like that. So I think just being a little bit more patient … the seasons go by so quick. I'm going into my 10th year and I've played on some really good teams, and there are a lot of other teams that would want to be in our shoes. Obviously we haven't won lately, but we've been in good position. Appreciate that and make sure you do your best to make the most of your opportunities. It goes by fast, so keeping that in the back of your mind is a good thing."
What changes in philosophy do you expect under new coach Mike Johnston?
"It's hard to say. All 30 teams want to play the same way. When you think about it, I think every coach would want puck possession, would want to play fast, would want to be good in your own zone. That's the formula for winning games, and what Mike is going to try to do is probably no different than any other team is going to try to do. But I think how well we're going to do it and how consistently we're going to do it is going to be a big part of it.
"He wants to play with speed. He wants to hold onto it and make plays. That's stuff you want to do, but there's another team that wants to get the puck too, so you've got to find ways to do it well."
Do you feel comfortable yet that you know enough about Johnston and know him well enough that you also know what to expect from him when training camp opens?
Center - PIT
Goals: 36 | Assists: 68 | Pts: 104
Shots: 259 | +/-: 18
"I think you have to have an open mind because, one, there are going to be some new things and you're going to have to figure out what they are. And then, I think, two, individually you have to find out where you have to work on things that are going to help you be productive within that system. It's two things, grasping what it is he's teaching and in your own way transferring that over to your own game and finding out those little details you have to sharpen up.
"As a centerman, last year we used the wings a lot going through the neutral zone and you're used to getting the puck at a certain spot. Well, if we're going to play a different way now, as a center where do I have to be to be open to get the puck? Those little things will be adjustments, but I've always loved learning and finding new ways to create offense. Hopefully that will be the case here, that I'll be able to learn some new things and allow that to help me be a better player."
Did you do any homework or research on Johnston after he was hired?
"Not much. I mean, there were a lot of people who had crossed paths with him, and he's actually from Nova Scotia, not too far from where I grew up. He spent a lot of his time out west after university so I hadn't actually met him. For me, it's nice to hear things and there was always a lot of encouraging things said about him, but I always like to meet somebody and get to know them. With camp and all that stuff we'll get to know him more and more. His demeanor seems pretty calm and I'm sure that will transfer over on the bench. But with that being said, it's always nice to go through things and get a feel for somebody that way."
Johnston visited you in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, this summer. He went to Russia to meet with Evgeni Malkin. He went to a lot of places across the globe to meet with players. What does that tell you about him? And as a player what does that mean to you that he came to you?
"I think it's a great thing. It was almost like he was on tour there for a while. It was cool because there were a lot of guys who recognized that. I felt like I was getting a text every day almost from someone who had met with him and had a really good meeting, and most of the time I don't think they talked that much about hockey. From what I gather he was just trying to get to know guys so that when we get to camp that side of things, getting to know guys, was out of the way and he could just coach. I think that was a great move by him and I'm sure the guys will be a lot more comfortable coming into camp knowing that whatever they have to do they have a pretty good idea of what's expected."