Senators head coach Paul MacLean met with the media prior to teeing off at the Bell/Ottawa Senators Charity Golf Classic on Wednesday morning. Here's what he had to say about the upcoming season...
On how differently the Senators need to play to be successful:
I'm not sure we need to do a lot of things differently. Two things we have to do differently is be more competitive at the puck and play better defensively in front of our goaltenders to give them an opportunity to be the goalie. We certainly feel as an organization that we score enough goals, it's our play without the puck and, when we don't have it, the competition level to get the puck back is something we have to improve on.
On camp battles:
The biggest battles in camp are going to be for ice time — who's going to get to play, there are positions that are there but the most important thing I think for now is who's going to play where and how much am I going to play. I think that's the biggest battle for the players.
On Bobby Ryan's role:
At this point when we start the season and start the games, Bobby Ryan is obviously a person, with his offensive capabilities, that can have the opportunity to have that ice time, the extra five minutes of ice time that's up there for the offensive players. The only thing I would say for Bobby is you've got to be prepared for it too and something has to happen when you're out there. The best players play and if you're one of the best players you're going to get that extra four or five minutes of ice time. If someone else is having a better night than you, they're going to get that ice time. That's going to be an add-earn basis for who gets that ice time, but when the game starts and we have a plan going in, Bobby would be a guy you expect to have the first crack at those minutes.
On if Ryan is ready to take on that role:
I think a lot of the ice time issues for Bobby last year had to do with the number of penalties we took and the fact that we didn't feel he was a penalty killer type of player for us, we wanted him for the offensive side of it and the power play side of it. The second thing that had an effect on his ice time was the oncoming of the hernia injury. When that starts, with that type of injury you have a window of opportunity to play before the injury aggravates itself and becomes what it was at the end of the year when it took him out of the game. If you end up over-playing and causing that injury to get worse sooner, you have him for a shorter amount of time.
On if Ryan can be a penalty killer:
Absolutely. Based on conversations we had with Bobby at the end of the year — near the end of the season we started to use him there a little bit — that's definitely a place where his skills and his stick can do it, but he has to be willing to do some of the other things that penalty killers do that maybe he hasn't had the chance to do. At this point that's a place we're going to try to use Bobby a little bit more is on the penalty kill.
On the dynamic of the team shifting without Spezza:
I think it changes in the way you don't have that 80-100 point producer that you know has done it in the League. It's a known entity. What we do have, how it changes, is it creates a great opportunity for the players that are here and we're looking forward to watching them grow.
On how to improve the defensive play of the team:
We have to work at it, we have to be committed to doing it. It has to be a focus of our training camp is to play well without the puck and make it one of the goals of our team to be a plus team 5-on-5. We want to be one of the top teams in the goals against category and shots against at our net and all the analytics we can put through it. The bottom line is if we're a plus team at 5-on-5 we're going to like where we are.
On picking a captain:
We want to do it when the time is right, when we finally make the decision who it's going to be — we have a number of qualified candidates to be captain and we're going to take our time in the process and get it sorted. When the time is right we'll make our announcement.
On if the team needs a captain:
No, I don't think we need to have one. I would prefer to have one. I think it's a great privilege and honour for a player to be the captain of the team but it also has to be the right representative of the team and what the team is about. The identity of our team — that player has to reflect that.
On another year of experience for the defensive group helping the approach:
I think so. I think the way our season went last year, I'm sure they didn't enjoy it, much like the rest of us didn't. Some of the criticism they earned, they didn't deserve all of it but we all took criticism for it and we all earned it and deserved to have it. That's a motivator. It's a motivator for me as a coach, it's going to be a motivator for them to be better and I think that's good for our team.
On the difference in this training camp from last year:
We're going to come in this year with enthusiasm and have a purpose of being a team that's 5-on-5 and getting to that identity right away in training camp and I think that's going to make a difference.
On if Erik Karlsson needs to make a change to fit in with this approach:
Does he have to change his game? Not really. I think we just have to reinforce how we play when we don't have the puck and the type of competitive level we need to be at when we need to get the puck back. Erik is one of the elite skaters in the League and he can play defence better skating than anyone on our team. I don't think he really has to change anything, the only thing that would really have to change is our focus as a team when we don't have the puck.
On the goaltending battle:
It's going to depend on how they play. When it starts out I think Robin has matured as a goaltender and has really started to show signs of being an NHL quality goaltender and we have to see that growth in his play. Craig gives us that veteran presence and has that ability to play up to 70 games, he's done that in the past and has been the guy here, but Robin has earned the opportunity to play on a more consistent basis. What are those numbers going to be? I can't tell you that right now, but I know both goaltenders are going to be very important for us. At the position they both compete very well with one another and get along well with one another and they're an important part of our team.
On if he's changing his approach in his fourth year:
I think every year you go in and make a conscious decision of what you want to do and how you want to do things and I think you have to go through the whole process to find out about it. Have I changed as a coach in my three years, this being my fourth doing it? Oh yeah, I think I've evolved as a coach. Am I going to do things differently this year than I did last year? Yeah, we're going to do some things differently. I think as a coach you have to continue to evolve and make mistakes and if you learn from them you can continue to get the opportunity to work.
On changes he's making:
Those decisions that I make I keep to myself.