NHL.com's "30 in 30" series examines the Ottawa Senators today, and instead of using potential captain and defenseman Erik Karlsson as its focal point, NHL.com's examination of the Senators' roster, top prospects and the "5 Questions" the team faces slowly but surely navigate toward another key player in center Kyle Turris.
The 25-year-old and former 3rd overall draft pick (by Phoenix, in 2007) tells NHL.com's Sean Farrell that he's ready to step up after the team traded Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars...
"It was something I kind of got to experience two years ago when Spezza was hurt," Turris told NHL.com. "I definitely learned a lot from it. It was a lot more difficult playing against the top [defense] pairings and getting the checking lines every time you go out, but that year I feel was kind of up and down, where I'd have a good couple of games and then a bad couple of games.
"I feel like I'm much more prepared for that kind of role now having gone through that experience and I'll definitely know a bit more of what to expect. I tried to apply that into my game last year even though it was obviously a bit different of a role. But I feel like I'm more prepared, I'm more experienced and I'm more ready and able for that challenge."
And Senators coach Paul MacLean suggests that Turris is poised to assume a leadership role:
Turris played all 82 games for the first time in his NHL career last season and had career highs in goals (26), assists (32) and points (58).
"We don't expect Kyle Turris to be Jason Spezza and get 80 or 90 points," Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said. "Can he do that? Oh yeah, he can probably do that. But that's not the expectation for Kyle. The expectation for Kyle is to come in and be a solid player like he has been, continue to work at his game; the little parts, the faceoffs, the defensive positioning, offensive positioning, really helping make your wingers better players. If he continues to do that he's going to continue to grow as a player and we're going to like the player we have."
MacLean likes the progression he has seen in Turris since the 25-year-old forward was acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes early in the 2011-12 season. Turris had identical numbers in his first two seasons in Ottawa with 12 goals and 17 assists. He appeared in 49 games with the Senators after the trade and played all 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
"We really think Kyle is prepared to continue to grow as a player," MacLean said. "The three years he's been here in Ottawa he's really grown as a player. He's gone from a boy and grown into a man. He's really dedicated himself in the offseason to training and he's been able to train and not rehab, which is a big deal for young players. He's stayed healthy because of the work he does in the summer and he is seeing rewards from that. The work Kyle continues to put into his game, he's going to get out of it."
Farrell also notes that the Senators expect David Legwand to take up some of the leadership slack:
The Senators also signed free-agent forward David Legwand, who spent his first 15 seasons with the Nashville Predators before he was acquired by the Detroit Red Wings last season. When he was an assistant coach with Detroit, MacLean had plenty of opportunities to get to know and appreciate Legwand, a Detroit native who is 23 games shy of the 1,000-game milestone.
"He's an older player (33), brings a veteran player's leadership," MacLean said. "He's played in all situations. He's played in the last minute, killing penalties in the last minute, 5-on-3, 5-on-4. He can play in any situation on the ice and he still has, we believe, enough foot and leg speed to get up and down the rink. We still have some young centers in Kyle Turris, Curtis Lazar, Mika Zibanejad along with Zack Smith that need to continue to learn how to continue to win faceoffs, how to play in the defensive zone, how to play in the offensive zone and be a good centerman. We think David Legwand is really going to help us in a lot of areas with our centermen and he's going to provide that veteran leadership."
But Turris remains the "30 in 30" set of articles' protagonist:
Turris looks forward to getting the opportunity to put into practice solutions to a variety of problems that plagued the team last season.
"It's a combination of getting back to how we know we can play, like we did a couple of years ago," Turris said. "We showed it at times this past year but it wasn't consistent enough, so we need to bring back that consistency and kind of getting back to our pesky ways that we were before. Obviously things that we needed to work on coming out of last year were getting out of our end a bit quicker and more clean. There are lots of things that we've taken into account that we're going to work on moving forward. We'll make those corrections and be back to where we want to be this year."