I: Thanks for meeting with us Randy. To start off, I just wanted to grab your thoughts as to who surprised you the most at the Rookie Tournament?
Randy Lee: I know these players well, so I wasn't surprised as much. I was more surprised in the newer guys because I don't do amateur scouting. For me, I think both Thomas Chabot and Gabriel Gagne were really good. But the guys who stood out and made an impression on Bryan and the coaches were Max McCormick, Tobias Lindberg, Matt O'Connor, and Travis Ewanyk. Travis is the guy we got in the trade for Eric Gryba, he's really feisty, he won face-offs, he was in peoples' faces, he did a really good job. We just tell them that you have to paint a picture of who you are so management gets to know definitively what type of player you are, and those guys did that.
I: There has been some talk about Wikstrand's future based on his relationship with the Swedish league and whether or not he will go down to Binghamton. Are there any developments on Wikstrand seeing as there could be a potential spot for him with the injury to Chris Phillips?
RL: With Phillips getting injured, there's definitely a spot open to anyone. It could be Mikael Wikstrand, Michael Kostka, Freddie Claesson, Ben Harpur. He was a signed player last year, but under that agreement if he didn't make the NHL he had to go back to Sweden. But we knew he wasn't going to make the team last year, but this is his second year - he's our property, he'll come to our camp and if he doesn't make our team we will assign him to Binghamton and that's his obligation.
M: Going into training camp, who are you counting on to improve most over last season?
RL: A lot of those young guys are going to challenge for a spot. Buddy Robinson was going to until he got hurt. New first-year guys like Tobias Lindberg, Nick Paul, Ben Harpur are going to really push for spots. I'd expect returning guys like Shane Prince, Matt Puempel, Dave Dziurzynski, and you never know who else to push for spots. Every training camp you have someone who is a big surprise who pushes themselves beyond and hopefully we can reward them, have them stay longer at camp, get into more games, and make our decisions difficult.
I: There has been some recent talk about Shane Prince not being waiver-exempt this year, how much does that factor into the roster decisions?
RL: It does, because when you invest in a player, you definitely don't want to lose him for nothing if you don't have to. If it comes down to a tie, it becomes more of a consideration because you don't want to lose him. If someone else wins the job outright, then that's his and you need to take the risk and players have to play. But he was very strong last season, he had a really great season, he was an all-star last year and very deserving of that and I think he's going to push hard this year.
I: I just wanted your thoughts on Colin Greening, as there have been plenty of people ripping on him after such a rough season. Does he feel motivated this year to try and earn a spot on the roster?
RL: Dave Cameron challenged him in the off-season by saying "You have to come back, you have to define your role, and you have to play that role and prove to guys that you deserve a spot." He had a pretty good season a couple years ago scoring 17 goals and for whatever reason it went off track. He's a quality guy, he always trains hard, he's a good professional off the ice, so there is no reason why he can't get his game back. He's a big physical specimen who can skate so he is perfectly suited for the NHL.
I: Do you think he is just in a funk or is it a lack of confidence?
RL: It could have been. I think the coaching change could be good for him. I think that for whatever reason it just didn't work with Paul. It's a new season, it's a new coach, he's got to prove that he can be an everyday player here.
I: One last question for you. This will be Dave Cameron's first training camp, how do you think that will differ from Paul Maclean's camp?
RL: I just think we're going to skate a bit more. Dave's a very organized guy, he's got a new coach in Andre Tourigny who will add a lot to the staff. Dave's a very anal guy, very meticulous, and it will be organized from top to bottom. We have eight preseason games, so he will give lots of guys lots of shots.
M: Heading into training camp, who are you hoping to surprise you the most?
Pierre Dorion: Well surprises are usually names that you don't expect. Might be someone you don't have pencilled into the team, or someone who you don't think will get an exhibition game. Players like that are usually the younger players who have been through rookie camp and you're just going to keep around for a few days. I don't really have any specific names in terms of surprises, we know we are going to have players that will battle for spots once training camp settles and once the preseason games start.
M: Where on the ice do you see the most opportunity?
PD: I think on defence we have the most opportunity. Right now we have six returning defencemen plus Chris Phillips. Eric Gryba is gone, we had eight last year and Phillips won't play for the first few months, so there will definitely be one or two spots depending on how many Dave wants.
K: There has been discussion among fans as to whether or not it would be beneficial for Curtis Lazar to play top-six minutes in the AHL vs bottom-six minutes in the NHL. Just wondering if there is any possibility of that happening?
PD: No, I can't see that happening. Curtis was an integral part of our team last year. I think him, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Erik Condra were a great line together, they meshed well and could play against anyone. Curtis can only improve by playing in the best league. I think what we want from Curtis is more offensive production, but we can't forget that he was a 19-year-old playing in the toughest league to play. So we'd like to see a bit more offensive output, but I think playing at this level would be most beneficial for him.
I: Let's say if Chris Wideman, Mikael Wikstrand, or Fredrik Claesson aren't able to take over one of the open spots on the blueline, would you consider looking externally for that via trade?
PD: We've drafted and developed those guys, so we're looking at those guys first to be able to grab the one or two spots on defence. If, over the course of training camp, we feel that those guys can't have a chance, we also have Michael Kostka and Thomas Chabot who was their best defenceman at Rookie Camp. All those guys would definitely be guys we'd look at before we look externally, but we always have to give a chance to those we've drafted and developed.
K: There hasn't be much discussion about Eric O'Dell, but looking at his numbers, he has pretty solid numbers in the AHL, do you think he has a shot to crack the lineup?
PD: I think he does. I think he's one of those guys at the 4-position that we are looking at. We signed him to be more than a depth guy, depending on what Dave wants to do in terms of centermen as Eric is a better centerman than winger. We have four centermen right now, but Zack Smith can also play the wing, so if he makes an impression he is going to get his fair chance through the games to show what he can do.
I: Open ended question for you, what are you expecting out of Mike Hoffman this year?
PD: Hopefully more than 27 goals! It would be great if Mike could replicate what he did last year. We think that Mike has the speed and the shot of someone who could score 30 goals in this league. We hope that he continues more on the path where he was in December-January than what he showed at the end of the year. He started getting a lot more attention as the year went on because of his goal-scoring ability. He was matched up more often with better defencemen than he was early in the year.
M: There has been a lot of discussion about Hoffman's minutes, he was on third or fourth line when a lot of people thought he should be top-six, what do you expect him to do to get to that next level?
PD: Good question. We looked at that because we had his arbitration process. His point production doesn't really change that much whether he plays 17 minutes a game or 10 minutes a game, so for Mike it's more about generating chances 5-on-5 with his speed. He did play sparingly on the powerplay, but maybe if he shows he can be a bit more consistent, Dave will give him a chance to play. Whatever Dave decides is usually best for our players.
I: Any idea how Bobby Ryan is feeling coming into this season as he ended last season in quite the slump, do you think he'll come in a lot more motivated this year?
PD: He always comes in hot! I think with Bobby there's more of an adjustment period. Prior to Ottawa, he played his whole career in Anaheim. He didn't really have the end of the season that we wanted for him, and that he wanted for himself. But I think that it's a learning experience and there are bigger and better things to come from Bobby.
K: There's a lot of news about analytics experts being hired around the league like mathematicians, bloggers, etc. Do the Sens currently employ anyone for analytics?
PD: Yes we do. We have an independent gentleman who we use. Our management side has used him and our coaches have used him as well. A lot of people publicize what they do with hockey analytics, we like to keep it all in-house. We have someone who we think is very capable of giving us really good information in terms of hockey analytics. We don't always agree with what he's saying, which is good because it's a totally different perspective than what we are used to dealing with. I think it opens our eyes and it makes us think about how we do things. I think it's a tool we use to make ourselves better.
Quick hits from the media availability:
- Buddy Robinson will not be ready for camp after blocking a shot in the rookie tournament.
- Mikael Wikstrand was also hurt in the rookie tournament, but will be ready for main camp.
- The Senators expect to have an announcement about Daniel Alfredsson's role in the organization before the end of training camp
- After training camp, the Binghamton Senators will take on the Carleton Ravens hockey team before heading down to Binghamton
- The Club Bell seats sound like the coolest place to watch a game featuring all-inclusive food and beverages, comfortable seating in the 100-level, cell phone chargers, private entrance, and one-way valet parking. The addition of the new section will decrease the capacity of the Canadian Tire Centre from 19,153 to 18,694. Unfortunately, tickets start at $10,000 per season seat, so the seats are mainly for the corporate crowd.
Thanks to Kevin and Mike for helping out with the interviews.