|No matter who is in the lineup or on the ice, Senators head coach Cory Clouston says the success of the team should always come first (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Cory Clouston admits he's still a long way from knowing exactly how his Ottawa Senators will look when the puck drops on the 2009-10 season.
But regardless of whether that lineup includes forward Dany Heatley, the Senators head coach said the goal remains the same: keep building on the success the team earned as a group to finish out last season.
"You have to have scenario A and scenario B," Clouston told Ottawa media earlier today when asked about the continued uncertainty of Heatley's status with the Senators. "We have no idea what that is going to look like but as of now, we're looking forward and planning accordingly."
Heatley, the Senators' two-time 50-goal scorer, hasn't wavered in the demand to be traded to another National Hockey League team that he first filed with Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray back in May.
But as the days tick down toward the Sept. 12 opening of training camp and with no deal yet in sight, the prospect of Heatley beginning a fifth season in a Senators uniform continues to grow stronger. Clouston, for one, doesn't believe that to be an unworkable situation.
"To be honest, I don't think it's going to be that tough," he said. "As long as (Heatley) comes in here and works hard, and he's said he will do that and we don't doubt that he will. There is going to have to be some trust rebuilt but until we cross that bridge, we're just talking about 'what ifs.'
"We still have a few weeks (before training camp). I don't know what's going to happen or how it's going to play out, so we'll wait and see on that."
During a media conference call last Friday, Heatley said his trade demand was rooted in what he believed to be a "diminished role" with the Senators over the past season. But Clouston said he'd welcome more input from Heatley in the season ahead.
"In my opinion, (his role) wasn't diminished," said Clouston. "It might have been 'second power play' but that was not a punishment. That was done to spread out the scoring. Everybody knows his production went up over the last little while as well.
"To be honest, I don't think it's going to be that tough. As long as (Heatley) comes in here and works hard, and he's said he will do that and we don't doubt that he will. There is going to have to be some trust rebuilt but until we cross that bridge, we're just talking about 'what ifs.' We still have a few weeks (before training camp). I don't know what's going to happen or how it's going to play out, so we'll wait and see on that." - Cory Clouston
When the player and coach met at the end of last season, Clouston said Heatley "talked about a bigger role and I think that's great.
"We need a guy like Dany Heatley to want an expanded role," added Clouston. "What we needed from Dany is what we need from everybody else – to come into camp with the right frame of mind, be a team guy and work extremely hard. If those things were done, his ice time was not going to be diminished in any way, shape or form. If anything, it was going to go up.
"What happened in free agency and who we were going to sign over the summer was going to determine how our lines shaped up. With the signing of (Alex) Kovalev, that gives us another top-six forward we're really excited about."
At the end of the day, Clouston said, it's all about what's best for the team.
"Ultimately, it comes down to how the team performs," he said. "If it performs better with a certain lineup and certain combinations, that's what we're going to go with and people have to make personal sacrifices at times.
"There are two goals that you set. Individuals want to succeed individually but ultimately you play for a team. You're not playing golf or tennis, you play for a team and that's what you're here to do, have that team win."
Author: Rob Brodie