Forward Jason Williams was looking forward to mingling with his new teammates at the 2011 Summer Sticks Golf Classic on Wednesday – if he could just find the course.
“I got lost five or six times coming here,” Williams smiled after arriving, adding that driving around Pittsburgh has been a tough task for the London, Ontario native, who split last season between Dallas and Hartford of the American Hockey League (AHL).
“I just try to follow the GPS as much as possible, but it’s been really bad,” he admitted. “I’ve been getting lost left and right. It’s a tough city to get to know, but hopefully I can get to know it a little bit better in this little short time before training camp and hopefully after.”
Navigation troubles aside, Williams and some of the other new Penguins who joined the organization this summer were looking forward to the chance to get to know each other away from the rink in a more laidback setting.
“It's a tremendous opportunity to get out there, meet people in the community and spend time with some teammates,” said forward Steve MacIntyre
, who spent the 2010-11 season with Edmonton. “You get to know them and show off our golf game – or lack of. “
Not only are the new guys trying to get to know each other as people, but they’re also trying to get acquainted with the Penguins’ systems as best they can before they report to training camp on Friday in order to give themselves the best chance to be successful.
It’s especially important for newly acquired blueliners like Alexandre Picard to learn the Penguins’ aggressive, high-tempo defensive style as quickly as possible, which can be tough to process right away.
“I’ve actually got a meeting with (assistant coach Todd Reirden) Thursday to go over the system, which is a little different,” Picard said. “I know from playing against the Pens in the past that it was something teams had a hard time figuring out.”
Players like Williams, MacIntyre, Picard, Boris Valabik
and Richard Park
were all signed to add depth and make the battle for a Penguins roster spot – already very scarce to come by – even tougher.
Head coach Dan Byslma pointed out nothing is certain heading into this year’s training camp – except that the competition will be fierce.
“Competition for those spots, having quality people to fill them is something that we have,” Bylsma said. “It will happen. It’s how it works. … I love the competition all over the place. There is competition within our lineup and our lines, defensive pairings. There is good competition with our team.”
While it may not seem like an ideal situation for the players themselves, they thrive off it. All they want to do is put together the strongest squad possible in order to contend for a Stanley Cup, something they feel Pittsburgh has been able to do for the last few years. They’re going to do whatever it takes to be a part of that.
“It’s going to be very competitive, and that’s what you want coming out of training camp,” said forward Steve Sullivan
, who came to Pittsburgh this summer after spending the previous six seasons with Nashville.
“You want the best team available and the players know that there’s jobs available. They’re going to fight for them. It’s going to be a very competitive camp and you want that. It’s going to get everybody going right off the get go and set the tempo very quickly, so that when the exhibition games come and the season starts, we’ll be battle ready.”