Silver Nuggets: Is playing a substitute for training camp?

Kevin C. Cox - Getty Images

The Ottawa Senators biggest stars are playing over in Europe, but is that the same as a structured training camp? And what about the guys who are left without any place to learn Ottawa's system?

User kyle.johansen.336 pointed out the other day that this will be the second straight season Kyle Turris has missed a training camp. This is an astute observation I feel bears more discussing. We saw how missing camp affected Turris last year--in six games with the Phoenix Coyotes, he had no points and was minus-2. Of course Turris was "training on his own," but that's a far cry from being in game shape, and everyone knows it.

Now Turris misses another training camp, but at least this time he'll be playing hockey games, even if it's in Finland. So, outside of the issue of conditioning, is there reason to be displeased about this? Turris only got to play in 56 games under the tutelage of the team's coaching staff, and though he clearly matured as the season went along, that's not even a full season's worth of experience.

Turris plays a crucial role for the Ottawa Senators. As the center of the second line, it's his job to take some pressure off of Jason Spezza's line, and as we saw in the playoffs, it was also his job to try to shut down opposing teams' top lines whenever head coach Paul MacLean could get that matchup. Is 56 games enough for Turris to confidently play MacLean's system in all situations? Certainly not.

Consider as well that Turris was likely going to have a new linemate on his wing. Whether it's Guillaume Latendresse, Mark Stone, Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad doesn't matter--none of those players have any real experience with MacLean's system, and no experience playing alongside Turris or right wing Daniel Alfredsson. Most of those players, including Turris, are thankfully getting playing time in some league--but none of them are getting playing time with their future linemates, and not in MacLean's system.

And what about players like Marc Methot, Latendresse, Mike Lundin, or Mark Borowiecki, who have no experience in playing Paul MacLean's system? We know from history there's going to be a learning curve for players learning this scheme--the team was hammered in its first six games of the season last year, being outscored 30-16--and that was with a training camp under their belts!

Expectations of Methot are high. Most feel he's going to be playing alongside Erik Karlsson, who had an outstanding season alongside Filip Kuba last year. Methot's first game with the Senators will not only be his first chance to absorb MacLean's coaching ideas, but also his first chance to build any chemistry with Karlsson, and (at least as of this writing) his first game conditioning test. The ongoing lockout stacks the deck against him from the start.

And the situation is even more dire for a guy like Lundin. Expected to battle Borowiecki for the final defensive spot, Lundin will be coming in with a severe disadvantage in almost all areas. While Borowiecki is playing valuable minutes in Binghamton with a head coach, Luke Richardson, who understands what MacLean is trying to do, Lundin is doing his best to merely keep in shape. He's going to enter this battle at a disadvantage with conditioning and coaching.

Meanwhile, the team's presumed starting goaltending tandem, Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop, aren't even playing at all, though Bishop might play in the AHL at some point. In the meantime, we know Anderson is a player who excels when he gets into a rhythm through lots of playing time. Right now he's just scrimmaging with some teammates. That's about as far from game experience as you can get.

Sens fans should count their blessings that so many of the team's important players have found someplace to play while what can only be described as a stupid dispute over stupid principles drags on, but some of us probably can't help but worry that the expectations set by last year's team are going to be let down early as the team takes time to come together.

Or maybe just being in game shape will be enough since the majority are returning to an unchanged system, and they'll carry their teammates as they learn.

Ottawa Senators Headlines

  • Wayne Scanlan talks about how playing in Binghamton could really benefit Ottawa's young players. That's a silver lining, sure, but most of those guys would still be in Binghamton if there weren't a lockout. (Citizen)
  • Milan Michalek is almost back to full health and headed back the Czech League. The players skating need more bodies, so show up and Chris Kelly will teach you how to shoot it into the goalie's chest. (Citzen)
  • Here's actual news without sarcasm: How are the Sens players in Europe performing? (Citizen, again)
  • Here's Nichols reminiscing about Domink Hasek, who recently retired for serious when it became obvious no one was really going to be interested in a 47-year-old hockey player not named Howe. (6th Sens)

League Headlines

  • Sidney Crosby is hoping there's a "great idea" out of the latest negotiations. I have a great idea: start negotiations before the fucking deadline is a month away. (TSN)
  • Over at Puck Daddy, Wysh wonders if players will still promote the league after this latest lockout. Well, they still love hockey, right...? (PD)
  • And just in case you thought negotiations meant progress, Donald Fehr threatened to go after the salary cap if the lockout drags on. Great. (Toronto Star)


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