OTTAWA – Despite a 113-day lockout, Paul MacLean believes every one of his players should arrive in camp ready to play.
The Ottawa Senators coach is eagerly awaiting the official announcement for training camp to open, but says he and his coaching staff has been working on plans for months.
“We’ve been patiently waiting like everyone else,” MacLean said. “We were ready to go September 15th for training camp and we’re ready to go now. We’re just looking forward to getting going.”
It’s anticipated teams will have a one-week camp to prepare for the season. With such a tight time frame, MacLean says he expects to have less than 30 players in camp.
The Senators biggest question mark appears to be on the blue-line. MacLean has just four veterans at his disposal—Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson and Marc Methot, who will be making his Ottawa debut after being acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Nick Foligno.
The Senators will be forced to play without Jared Cowen, who suffered a season-ending injury while playing with the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators. In addition the Senators are missing Mike Lundin who fractured a finger while playing in Sweden. There is no current timetable for his return.
The absences will create opportunity for a number of young players currently in Binghamton.
“There is a bit of a concern there (on defence),” MacLean said. “The comforting thing is the team playing in Binghamton has a lot of players there playing well and having strong seasons right now and that depth is going to be important as we move forward.”
MacLean knows he will be dealing with players at different conditioning levels considering some were playing overseas during the lockout while others opted to stay closer to home, but he feels ultimately there shouldn’t be much difference.
“These guys are all professionals and I think the expectation that we have with our group is that they’re going to be ready to go,” MacLean said. “I think the important thing is to get up and get running and get everybody going and the ability to play a lot of people and not have a short bench where you’re over-playing people. It’s going to be really important to have a good balance and be able to use everybody is what our focus is going to be.”
In fact, 40-year-old captain Daniel Alfredsson feels the shortened season could work in his favour.
“If I could choose I would play 48 or 50 games every year,” Alfredsson said. “Not just because I’m older, but because I think it would make for better hockey and a better product overall. For me selfishly it’s not a bad thing.”
Alfredsson has maintained his conditioning throughout the lockout, and is confident that his groin and hip flexors will be able to handle the intensity of camp.
Prior to this season Alfredsson had been contemplating retirement, but he’s now saying he won’t make any decisions on his future until after this season.
He wouldn’t rule out another year.
“If everything goes well and I’m having fun out there and I feel like I contribute then we’ll see what happens,” he said.
MacLean realizes the schedule could be a factor for Alfredsson, as well as a number of players, and says “players have to be cognizant that sometimes they might have to miss a game so they can continue to play.”
With little to no room for error MacLean says he won’t hesitate to overhaul his lineup to change the dynamic, and that includes his goaltender.
Craig Anderson will start the season as the team’s number one goaltender, but should he falter Ben Bishop, who is likely to be given the back-up role seeing as he has a guaranteed NHL contract, will be given an opportunity. The Senators also have the luxury of calling up Robin Lehner, who has been having a great season in Binghamton.
“The best guy is going to play no matter who that is,” MacLean said. “The best players are going to play.”
MacLean is aware of fan apathy, but he’s hopeful that a solid product on the ice will help draw some people back.
“We’re really looking forward to showing our loyal fans here in Ottawa what an appreciation we have for them by coming out of the gate and really playing,” he said.
Notes: Senators president Cyril Leeder said 35 staff members have been hired back and those on shortened work-weeks will return to a full five-day schedule. The team also anticipates hiring an additional 25 people. … The team will also be announcing a number of initiatives in the coming days in an effort to help draw fans back.