|Senators centre Jason Spezza couldn't be more enthused about the young talent and new coaching staff that have been added to the team's mix for the coming season (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
His team has taken on a new face in so many ways.
And like a lot of folks around him, Jason Spezza
is anxious to see where it all leads him and the Ottawa Senators in the season ahead.
Pumped up? You bet, says the veteran centre.
"I have an enthusiasm now that's pretty high compared to past years," the 28-year-old centre said in an interview with OttawaSenators.com. "There's still a lot of unknowns. For me, I've played a long time in the league, but you still feel like you want to come in and make a great impression on the new coach (Paul MacLean) and really solidify your spot on the team and set the tone early."
Entering his ninth season with the Senators, Spezza wants to be a leader in that regard.
"If I can come in and have a good, strong camp, it'll set the tone for a lot of guys and show that we can compete for a playoff spot," he said. "And once you get into the playoffs, you never know what can happen. So I'm looking forward to the challenge of having a young team and having to be good every night.
"Things aren't going to come easy for us, but I think we're going to be right there in the mix if we can just work hard and believe in ourselves."
Spezza hasn't had much chance yet to talk hockey with MacLean — "I had a good conversation with him when he got hired, but that's about it." However, he likes the makeup of the new staff, which includes MacLean, a former Detroit Red Wings assistant, along with former Ontario Hockey League bench bosses Dave Cameron and Mark Reeds. Spezza has worked with Cameron before, when both were with the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators (Cameron was previously the B-Sens' head coach for two seasons before taking over the OHL's Mississauga St. Michael's Majors).
"You can't argue with the Red Wing pedigree," said Spezza. "They do things pretty well there. And I'm excited to have Dave Cameron come on as an assistant. He's a guy that can bring a little bit of a different element to the staff. And from what I've heard, Mark Reeds is a great teacher and a real knowledgeable guy. We have three guys that have played the game and really understand our hockey guys.
"It's just exciting as a player. It's a new challenge. A new coach, you never know what he's going to bring in system-wise and stuff. It sounds like we're going to be a real skating team and he wants the guys in good shape. It's a new challenge and it keeps things fresh. We want to build with this guy. We have a young team and a coach that's hopefully going to be here for a long time. We'll just try to build together and grow together for the next few years."
The B-Sens' run to the first Calder Cup crown in franchise history figures to have a positive impact as well, given that players such as Zack Smith
, Colin Greening
, Bobby Butler
and Erik Condra
appear ticketed for spots on the Ottawa roster in 2011-12. Besides playing big roles in Binghamton, that quartet also saw extensive duty with the big club over the final two months of last season.
"It'll give guys confidence," Spezza said of the effect he believes the Calder Cup experience will have on the young forwards. "A lot of guys got one-way contracts because of it and how they played at the end of the year (in Ottawa). It'll give them belief that they belong. We beat some good teams down the stretch. We beat Philly, we beat Tampa, we beat some good teams. That gave guys confidence that they belong in the league.
"It doesn't matter if a lot of people don't know who these guys are. They have lots of time to make names for themselves. We can be a good team and compete with some of the best teams. And then for them to go and win (the Calder Cup) ... the chemistry that they'll get there, hopefully it'll carry over to our room and we can make it a really cohesive team. I think that'll be the biggest thing, just the camaraderie and the chemistry. They've won together and (they've shown) they know how to win together."