Sens assistant GM Randy Lee went on the air with SiriusXM's NHL Radio to look back on last season and preview the 2014-15 Senators on Tuesday. Here's what he had to say...
On what went wrong in 2013-14:
We did a lot of soul-searching as an organization at the end of last season. We had pretty high expectations knowing we were getting a lot of guys back from injury, we added Bobby Ryan, we thought things were pretty strong but you're right, it just wasn't a good year. We talked to the players, we polled them, we got their feedback and I think we came up with some good insight to what happened. We've got to be better, more competitive and I think as a group we've got to be harder to play against.
On the defensive shortcomings:
Definitely the team effort, we looked at a lot of aspects of our game and we weren't as good defending as a group and that's what hurt us. It wasn't individuals and it wasn't the goaltending, we had a lot of guys who had off-years and it's sort of a coincidence that you have that many guys having off-years at the same time but that's exactly what happened.
On cutting down the shots against:
That's going to be the number one focus. We're going to play better in our own end, compete a lot harder, be a tougher team to play against. We've got good goaltending an we've got a good defensive core so I think there's no excuse for that. If we can get the whole team to commit and buy into defence-first we'll be much better this season.
On the goaltending battle in camp:
Robin's a young guy who wants to learn from Craig and Craig is a great veteran, a great leader on our team and he pushes Robin. I think it's a great tandem but I think Robin is going to get some more games this year, he's going to try to take his game to the next level.
On replacing Spezza:
We've got some young guys that are ready to take up the centre position in terms of Kyle Turris and Mika Zibanejad, we added David Legwand and we still have Zack Smith so we think we're strong down the middle. It'll be more of a team-first approach. From a leadership perspective we have a lot of guys on this team who are good leaders — Clarke MacArthur, as I said before Craig Anderson, we've got Turris, Neil, Phillips — and I think young Erik Karlsson is really in a position to step up and take his game to the next level. He's really maturing and I think he wants to take on more of a leadership role with this team so I think we're well positioned. It's a big loss, Jason is a lot of points, you can't question that, but I think overall guys are willing to accept the challenge.
On where Turris has improved and his next steps:
He is much more competitive in his game, he's better at both ends of the ice, his skating has really improved, he's much more confident with the puck and distributes it really well. I think he liked the challenge when Jason was out with some injuries, Kyle really stepped up and liked the challenge of being the go-to guy at centre. I think he's ready to take on that big role.
We think he can [be a big producer], we have a lot of confidence in him but getting Legwand gives him a buffer so there's not too much pressure on Mika. We like him. He's a good skater, he's a powerful guy and when he's confident he's a really effective player for us so I think having Legwand as insurance is really good for our organization and depth down the middle.
On the prospects coming up:
We've got young Curtis Lazar who has done very well. Myself and Pierre Dorion just went to see him at the World Junior camp in Montreal and he was very strong. We have a number of guys like Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mark Stone who have been really good for us, they played a lot of games up for us and were both really strong in the playoffs for Binghamton last year. We've got Mike Hoffman who came up and auditioned and showcased himself really well. He didn't get the points he thought he could get but proved he's really close to being an every day NHL player. We've got a real competitive guy named Mark Borowiecki on the back end who's on a one-way this year. He's a real hard-nosed competitive kid, a local kid who we think is going to be a good addition to our back end.
On if Lazar will have an opportunity in Ottawa this year:
Well overall we're very patient with our guys but we put them in a position to succeed. If Bryan Murray thinks that's the best bet for him to be up, he'll be up. If not, we're more than willing to send guys back so they're put in a position where their long-term development is never compromised.
On the approach to spending:
We just want to spend smart. I think if you invest and draft well, which we've done — we're very proud of the drafting processes we've gone through and the young players we have coming — if you draft well and develop them and invest in these guys, give them support, you don't have to go out and overspend on free agency. There are some really good players in free agency but we look at free agency as how to augment your team and complement what you have rather than filling voids. We really rely on drafting and developing.
On Michalek's extension:
It was good because he wanted to be here. Milan is a real good, quality veteran guy, he's a good leader, he works hard every day. He's one of those guys where he's a good influence on your younger players and that's a good indication of the type of group we have is he wanted to return and he was willing to take a fair contract that worked for both sides.
On Bobby Ryan's future in Ottawa:
We like Bobby, we like what he brings to the table and we have a lot of respect for what he did last year. He played injured for a number of games and he never said anything — he had a lower abdominal tear and some people thought he was struggling but that's a really tough injury to play with. He wanted to help the team. To his credit he kept it to himself, he did whatever he could working with our doctors and therapists to see how he could get through games and it finally just became too much. That shows how much he cares and that's a good indication of the type of player Bobby is and we'd like to get him wrapped up if we can get this done.
You can listen to the interview in its entirety HERE.