Only three Ottawa Senators saw action in all 82 of the team's games last season.
And at least one of that ironman trio believes it was the best thing for him in terms of preparation for a more important role on the team's blue line.
"It was good for me and good for all the coaching staff and management to see that I can play that many games and play through the regular schedule without breaking down the body," said defenceman Jared Cowen, who joined forwards Colin Greening and Nick Foligno (who has since been traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets) in recording perfect attendance, so to speak, in 2011-12. "Overall, the season was good for me. I was glad to get the experience and play the amount that I did, so next year I can take a step forward instead of just (not improving)."
In Cowen's case, that 82-game workload came in his first full National Hockey League campaign, in which he produced five goals and 17 points to go along with a minus-4 rating. As he ponders his sophomore season, the 21-year-old Saskatchewan native is working toward establishing himself as a steady presence among Ottawa's defence corps.
"I just want to get back, take a step forward and become more of a reliable player," said Cowen, the ninth overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. "That’s what I want, that’s what I’ve been before in my career and I don’t see why now would be any different. I want to be a big part of the team and hopefully, they realize that, too."
Though the Senators did push the New York Rangers to the limit in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, their season was over before the end of April. Compared to the year before — when Cowen played into June as a part of the Binghamton Senators' Calder Cup-winning squad in 2011 — the lengthy off-season has been a bit of a luxury for him.
"Every year, you want to do well and go far but at the same time, you need your time off in the off-season to get ready for the next season so you can do the same thing," said Cowen. "So it’s kind of a good and bad thing, but once you get going on the workouts, you kind of forget you had time off and just get back into the swing of things.
"This year, it was nice. It’s probably the longest off-season I’ve had in ... I can’t remember when I had this much time off. But it’s good for my body and good for the head, too, so hopefully I can come back next season feeling a lot more fresh than I usually do."
The off-season has also brought Cowen a unique honour of sorts. Plans are in the works for his hometown of Allan, Sask., to erect a "Home of Jared Cowen" sign honouring the fact he's made it as a National Hockey League player from a town with a population of less than 700.
"It’s cool," Cowen said from Saskatoon, where he now resides. "There’s only a couple of towns here that have those signs. It was all their idea, so I think it’s a pretty neat thing."
Senators buy out Butler's contract
After he cleared waivers today, the Senators announced they have bought out the final year of the contract of winger Bobby Butler. The native of Marlborough, Mass., had signed a two-year deal with the club after a 2010-11 season in which he produced a combined 32 goals in Ottawa and Binghamton, and added 13 more tallies in the B-Sens' drive to the Calder Cup.
Butler, who originally signed with the Senators as a free agent on March 29, 2010, after completing his NCAA career at the University of New Hampshire, scored six goals and 16 points in 56 games last season and went scoreless in three playoff contests.