'We have to build an identity'

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

The Senators are looking for a new identity, but given a third of the roster was turned over by GM Bryan Murray after last spring's disastrous finish, simple name tags would have been a good start on the first day of camp.

"Identity" was the buzz word yesterday as the Senators were poked, prodded and tested during physicals and fitness testing and asked to project what all the changes wrought by Murray -- including a new coach for the third straight season -- will bring.

"We have to build an identity. We like the pieces that are here and depth we have," said new coach Craig Hartsburg. "On paper, it doesn't really matter. It's the identity we build and how quick we build it. We've got skill, we've got some guys who can play a hard game. We want to combine that. We want to be a team that plays with character and discipline and a relentless work ethic."

Gone from last year's team are goaltender Ray Emery, defencemen Andrej Meszaros, Wade Redden, Lawrence Nycholat and Mike Commodore and forwards Brian McGrattan, Randy Robitaille, Martin Lapointe and Cory Stillman.

In are goaltender Alex Auld, defencemen Jason Smith, Filip Kuba, Brendan Bell and Alexandre Picard and forwards Jarkko Ruutu, Brad Isbister and Ryan Shannon.

WERE IN FREE FALL

Hartsburg was brought in this summer after Murray finished last season behind the bench following the firing of former assistant-turned-coach John Paddock at the end of February. The Senators were in free fall and Emery's chronic lateness became a recurring sideshow.

"We want to be a good team. We've got some great players, but now it's about being a good team," said Hartsburg, who was to have a meeting with the players last night to tell them what was expected of them this season. "People sacrifice in some areas and people doing things maybe they don't like to do, but enjoying it even though they don't like it. That's how you become a tight group."

The Senators will be on the ice this morning for the first time and won't have much time to start finding that identity. They play their first pre-season game Saturday night here, the first of a home-and-home with the Rangers. Both clubs are getting an early jump on the pre-season as they will travel to Europe in 10 days to open the regular season, the Senators in Stockholm against the Penguins Oct. 4 and the Rangers in Prague against the Lightning the same day.

After last year's sizzling start, followed by a spectacular decline and a first-round sweep at the hands of the Penguins, the Senators are simply looking to become a tougher team to play against. They slipped into the bottom third of the league last year in GAA and played without much focus or purpose on too many nights.

"Craig's like me. We want guys who show up, work hard and pursue the puck," said Murray, who added the Senators should benefit from being a deeper organization with more reserves on their AHL farm club capable of playing at the NHL level, if needed.

LOOKING TO FIND WAY

"We've kinda gone from a skilled team three years ago to more of a hard-working disciplined team two years ago to losing our way last year. I'd like to find our way again."

"Everybody is going to know their job, whatever their job might be," said winger Dany Heatley, who is asking for the challenge of more responsibility and perhaps more of a chance to kill penalties. "This is our first big coaching change. We were all familiar with Bryan and John. We're excited about a big change and a little bit of a different outlook on things."


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