A year ago during his first training camp as head coach of the Rangers Alain Vigneault passed out tee shirts with the phrase "Clean Slate...Grab It!" to his players. A year later, AV says the motto still applies.
"There is a clean slate (this year), meaning that the roles and the lines and the duos that worked last year might not necessarily work this year," stated Vigneault. "So that's why you have training camp to take the opportunity to try a couple of different experiences and see how those experiences work out. Each year is a new opportunity."
Vigneault did not offer specifics, though he did say he wants to play Rick Nash both at right wing and left during pre-season, and that both J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes will start training camp as centers, not on the wing, while adding that "versatility is a big plus". He mentioned that there will be "great internal competition" for spots on the roster, in particular at forward, and that if a younger player and a veteran fighting for the same spot play to a standoff in camp, his preference likely is to pick the youngster because of upside and likely improvement.
The head coach also spoke fondly about last year's team and its run to the Stanley Cup Final, but was just as quick to say that the page needs to be turned on 2013-14 and that "our focus has to be on the here and now..on training camp."
"You understand that with each new season it's a different group, a different team," offered Vigneault. "What we all try and do is learn from our experiences because that makes everyone stronger individually and collectively, but what you have to do is turn the page on the past and focus on the now. The most important thing now is to pick our team, and put guys in roles that will help us become the best we can be. I like the enthusiasm and the energy level of this group. I'm excited and anxious to see what we've got."
Vigneault will put the players through conditioning tests on Friday then will conduct his first practices of training camp on Saturday.
"There's some great internal competition for some spots," noted the head coach. "Up front we lost some very important players who had very important roles. I'm not saying we are going to structure the team the same way, we have to sort this out and decide what's best for this group. That's why we have training camp. We're going to let this unfold. I think everything is open."