With the comings and goings of the 2013 offseason, the incumbent star of the Sens forward corps is none other than Jason Spezza who has been in the process of preparing for next year and rehabbing his back and knee after a difficult season.
Jason caught up with the Team 1200 in Ottawa today and covered many topics such as his work mentoring young hockey players, the departure of Daniel Alfredsson, the addition of Bobby Ryan, his health, being left off the Team Canada evaluation camp list and more.
Take a look...
On his work with Allstate All-Canadians:
It's a great program that I was a part of a couple years ago — time constraints kept me away from it last year — but I think it's one of the better programs I've ever been a part of just with showing 14 year olds, the best 14 year olds in Canada, and it's just kind of showing them what it takes to be a professional, what to expect in the years coming. For me it's a great way to give back and also a neat way to kind of get to know some of these players. I was just watching some of the highlights of the under-18s, some of the kids that I coached two years ago. You start getting name recognition and I'm sure I'll be playing or maybe we draft one of these guys. It's just a fun way to get to know some of these players.
On how the age group has changed from when he was an elite underager:
I think the development curve has gone way up at a younger age. The biggest thing is these guys specialize so soon. They all have nutrionists, strength coach, shooting coach, I was with a couple of young players the other day and they were going over all the coaches they use and stuff. We didn't have that and I'm not that far removed from it. It's almost like they're pros when they're 15 years old. When I was 15 years old I was just a really good hockey player but I was pretty wide-eyed for everything else. You learned that stuff through your first two or three years in the NHL whereas, you see it now, and guys come to your team as 18 year old juniors and they have workout programs, they have trainers, you don't have to really teach them any of that stuff, it's more about the maturity and handling the day-to-day grind.
On that advancement in youth hockey:
I think you have to specialize but sometimes what's lost in the shuffle is kids focus too much and then the burnout happens. You see a lot of guys and they're really talented but they don't love the game quite the same as maybe guys in other generations because it has been so much work for them for so long. Not many hockey players love going to the gym and working out all summer but we love being great hockey players so we all do it. I think these young guys sometimes lose a bit of that love for the game and that's something we talk about too at a camp like this is make sure you're enjoying the game still. It is serious, it can be a job, but it's pretty hard to make it so make sure you enjoy it while you're going through it.
On his tournament game rivalry with Philadelphia's Claude Giroux:
I haven't talked to him yet about it but I'm going to see him tomorrow. I'm 1-0 so I'd like to make it 2-0. We'll see what happens.
On the departure of Daniel Alfredsson:
Alfie called me the day before free agency and we talked, we had a good talk. I was really surprised — I think as anybody was — to hear that he was going to move on. I respect his decision as a player and I think he wants to have a chance to win and he wanted to go somewhere else and kind of see what was out there. I really respected him calling me and explaining his reasoning and I wish him nothing but the best. There will be no ill will held towards Alfie. He's taught me a lot and he's done great things for our team and the community but we'll move on and I think we have a real good club too.
On if he saw the move coming:
No, to me it was completely out of the blue. You'd have to talk to him at a later date probably to see if there was a thought throughout the last year but to me it was completely out of the blue. I knew he was going to come back and play because he had felt pretty good all year but to me it was just more of a decision where if he was going to come back and play and if he did it was inevitable that it was going to be with us, but that's sport and that's hockey and we respect his decision.
On if the change in free agency rules affected the process:
I have too much respect for Alfie to get into our conversation and his reasons why. He'll kind of map out why he made his decision over the course of time but I think maybe having the chance to talk to teams (played a role) but only Alfie knows why his decisions were made and I wouldn't really feel comfortable talking about what we talked about. I think the free agency period is good for guys, it's good for teams to be able to talk to guys and it gives guys a few more days to think about things instead of making rash decisions but, as for Alfie making his decision, he's the only one that should speak upon it.
On his departure motivating the Senators:
I think we feel like have a really good team and I don't think I agree with the assessment that they're in a much better place than us to win. We've made some good acquisitions and his decision was made on what he felt was best for him personally. We feel strongly about our group here and we think we've made some big strides. With all the injuries last year guys have had a chance to step up and play in a bigger role than they would have last year. I think that coupled with us coming back healthy, hopefully we can take the next step as a group. Every year is a new challenge and you really can't rest on a good season last year.
On possibly being named the next captain:
If you ask any player you'd love to have the distinction of being captain of your club. It's something that I pride myself on being a leader in our room and we've always led as a group leadership core. I think it'll continue that way whether it's me or someone else as captain. I feel like I'm one of the leaders on our team that has to be good night in and night out and make sure things are running smoothly in the room and take a lot of responsibility with how I'm playing. If it does happen I don't think there's much in the way I have to handle myself that'll have to change and that couldn't have been said five or six years ago. We'll see what happens, we don't make those decisions but it's definitely something I'd love to have a chance to do.
On the group leadership dynamic:
We've always leaned on each other. Myself, Alfie, Philly (Chris Phillips), Chris Neil, Erik (Karlsson), we've all been together for a long time, especially me, Philly, Alfie and Neiler. Not much will change in our room but we'll see where it goes. You have to lead as a group within a dressing room, there's so many different personalities, there's not one guy that can just be the sole leader of a team. I think we have a great nucleus and a great leadership group. You hear Mac (Paul MacLean) refer to it all the time. When we have meetings it's not one-on-one Mac and the captain, it's five or six of us that get together and kind of bounce things around.
On adding Bobby Ryan:
He's a heck of an addition for our club. When I saw that I was pretty excited. He'll bring a different element to our team that maybe we haven't had in a few years. To get a guy at his age that's in the prime of his career that feels like he's got a bit more to give — I talked to him he's really excited about coming and I think there's a lot of things I think I can probably help him along with to make him a better player. If we get a chance to play together that'll be great and if we don't there's still a lot of great things in his game he can bring to our team. I'm excited, I hope I get a chance to play with him and it's a great acquisition.
On how close the Sens are to contention:
I don't think you ever want to get too far ahead of yourself in this league, but I think we have a team that I feel should make the playoffs this year and if you get into the playoffs and things are going well, everyone has a chance. We're in a tough, tough division right now but I feel like we have a great team and we made a lot of strides two years ago, we've made more strides last year. If we can continue to kind of keep building our foundation we have a chance to contend, but you've got to get into the playoffs first and that's no easy task.
On his health:
I feel great and the only impact it has had on my training is it's making me feel really motivated to make sure I'm coming to camp in great shape and excited to go. I can't remember having the excitement coming towards a season like I have right now for a long time just because of the time that I've missed. I'm feeling good, I'm able to train fully. I started skating probably three or four weeks earlier than I normally would and I've been skating three or four times a week just because I missed so much time that I want to make sure I'm getting the proper reps in so it's no surprise to my body come training camp. It's been a fun summer for me, I haven't had to worry too much about the injuries. With a back you never really cast it aside and expect to never hear from it again, it's something that'll be a career long thing where I have to make sure I'm doing the proper maintenance but I feel pretty good right now and I'm excited to go.
On being left off the Canadian Olympic camp roster:
They phoned me before they released the list. I was a little bit surprised, but as these things are and you don't control how they pick these teams or what. Like I said, I was pretty motivated going into this season because I had missed all of last year and I'd say this has definitely added to it a little bit.
On receiving the call:
You know what, I'm not really worried about it. If I have a great season with the Ottawa Senators and we win a lot of hockey games and I'm a big part of it and they feel like making room for me come Christmas or whenever they pick the team then great. I've played for Team Canada a lot and you can't control how they pick these teams. My goal is to help our team and get better and be a leader on our club. I expect to have a real good season this year, I've pushed myself this summer and I missed a whole year last year and I feel like I have a lot to give. I was making big strides in my game. I'm going to let a development camp get in the way of my goals.
For those of you who are more audio inclined, you can listen to Jason's full interview with the Team 1200 here on this page.
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