LONDON, ONT. - Sergei Gonchar can only look back on last season with disappointment and frustration.
After a signing a three-year, $16.5-million deal on July 1, 2010 with the Senators, he turned in a miserable season under a coaching system by Cory Clouston he didn't like.
"Yes I was (disappointed)," said Gonchar after a practice Tuesday at the John Labatt Centre. "I don't think I was the only one. I think everyone else was disappointed.
"We had pretty high expectations going into the season and then everything just went south on us. It was a bad season for me, but as a team we didn't play well either."
As the Senators open a new year Friday against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena, Gonchar returns to a place where he had one of his greatest memories -- winning the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in Game 7 in 2009.
If the Senators are going to have success, they need Gonchar to return to the form that helped the Penguins win the Cup. That was when he played some of his best hockey and was a force to be reckoned with.
Gonchar, 37, is one of the few veterans the Sens have kept in what's become a franchise transformation. He's going to have to be a big contributor if the team has any hope of making the playoffs.
"I'm not hoping (Gonchar can bounce back). I really like knowing instead of hope," said coach Paul MacLean. "I know Sergei is a proud man. He doesn't like to be inconsistent. Neither does Milan Michalek or Filip Kuba.
"They all had their reasons last year. They all struggled with injuries, and I understand. We expect him to be better and we know, as a group, they're all going to be better."
Gonchar said the system used by MacLean should help.
"The system we use now is more like the system we used in Pittsburgh (under coach Dan Bylsma). There's more details and it's more automatic to me. It's more like a habit to me on the ice.
"When you're learning something new, you can start thinking about it when the game is going on. This is more natural to me."
Gonchar said this is a chance for him to get back on track. An area where he has to contribute is on the power play. He was on the first unit Wednesday with Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Nikita Filatov and Michalek.
"We're working hard at it every practice and I think we're getting better and better," said Gonchar. "We're going to continue to work hard so that we can have success through the season.
"You're going to see more penalties at the beginning of the season, so you're going to get more power plays. Those are good chances to score, so it's very important to have a good one. You can create momentum. It's huge nowadays."
Gonchar has been paired with 21-year-old rookie Jared Cowen through camp.
Asked if he felt old beside Cowen, Gonchar smiled.
"You know what's make me feel old?" said Gonchar. "When we play against Montreal and (Mark) Tinordi's son (Jarred) is on the other side. I remember being (a kid) in the locker room (in Washington) and playing with (Mark)."