OTTAWA - Call it a fresh start for everybody.
The Senators officially kicked off the Paul MacLean era Saturday as 59 players hit the ice at the Bell Sensplex for training camp under the watchful eye of the new coach, who was barking out instructions if he didn’t like what he saw.
While MacLean joked he might “not have a voice” Sunday, there’s plenty of teaching left for him to do before the Senators open the season Oct. 7 against the Red Wings.
And everybody wants to impress the new boss.
“You’re trying to put your best foot forward,” said centre Jason Spezza. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s me, (Daniel Alfredsson), (Mika) Zibanejad or (Stephane) Da Costa, it’s a coach that you don’t know, so you’re trying to make a good impression.
“When you bring in a whole staff and a new coach, I think it creates a bit of excitement. You want to show well yourself. So it puts everybody on an even playing field.”
The difference from past camps was noticeable to the players.
“It was good. It was pretty fast-paced with a lot of skating,” said Alfredsson.
Making his debut as an NHL bench boss, MacLean’s message to the players was simple in a meeting Friday. He wants them to seize the chance to get the Senators back to respectability.
“I told them it’s a great opportunity for us as a group to come together and to work together on a daily basis to get a little it better,” said MacLean. “We’ve got an opportunity here to build a foundation for down the road.
“We’re going to be a team to be reckoned with on a nightly basis and I think that’s a great opportunity for myself, the veterans on this team and the young players on this team. That was my biggest message: The opportunity and how hard it is to be that type of team.”
The opportunity to impress is not lost on the players because with a new coaching staff, nobody knows what any of the lines or defensive pairings will be.
“What creates the excitement is we don’t know what type of team we’re going to be and we have to work towards getting to where we want to be,” said Spezza.
“By having a little bit of not knowing what’s going on and who’s going to be on the team creates the excitement. Maybe in other years, we’ve known what the lineup is going to be and who’s going to play with who. Maybe we’re a little more enthused about how things will shake down for us.”
MacLean was active on Day 1 of camp. He stopped drills when he didn’t like what was being done. He made sure the players understood exactly what he wanted.
Alfredsson said he’ll have a better idea in the next couple of days how MacLean’s approach differs from camps in the past.
“I can’t (say) after one day,” said Alfredsson. “We’ll give it more time. Just talking to (MacLean) and with the meeting we had, it’s pretty clear what he wants us to do and he expects everybody to follow.
“He understands that mistakes are going to be made, but if we’re a good skating team, we can make up for those mistakes and I think that’s why we’re going to skate a lot in camp.”