2013-2014 Training Camp: Day 1
Players reported for camp today and most spent it taking care of various chores: a gauntlet of paperwork, photos and media inquiries. The only players scheduled to hit the ice for a (private) practice were those from the recently completed rookie camp squad.
Amid all of the bustle, Bolt Prospects was able to catch up with some of the staff and players. Here are some takeaways and select quotes:
Yzerman talked at length about the competition for open roster spots but also made sure to state that, for those that make the club, the battle will become about minutes during the course of the season.
"We have young players pushing veterans for ice time, trying to get an increased role whether it be in goal, on the blueline or up front," Yzerman said.
Yzerman made it clear he found it advantageous that a number of young players were experiencing an NHL training camp with a coach they've already played for in a different league.
"They know each other, they trust each other, they've had good success together" he said. "They understand what he wants."
Yzerman also let it be known, in no uncertain terms, that he thinks the team has plenty of veterans to help lead the way; that the team isn't poised to become too rookie-laden.
"The reality is some guys have played in the American League a couple years. It's time for them to move up to the NHL. It's not like we're going to throw a bunch of kids out to the lions."
Cooper fielded questions on a variety of topics as he held court for the first time this season. Like a seasoned ringmaster, the Lightning's charismatic coach was entertaining even as he swiftly crafted responses.
The obligatory beginning-of-the-year-optimism was there but there's no reason to doubt Cooper was anything but sincere as he spoke effusively about a "new era" stemming from the youth movement that is underway.
Cooper boasted of the evident "influx of talent coming into the organization," citing the success of the squad that won the rookie tournament hosted by the Florida Panthers last weekend before wryly noting it was just two summers ago that his "gracefully"-led rookie squad was subjected to an "0-3 shellacking." He scoffed at the notion this coming infusion of young blood might mean the Lightning are in the midst of a rebuild:
"If you finish in the bottom-half of the standings, you're 'rebuilding' and if you finish in the top-half of the standings, you're 'reloading', Cooper explained. "It all kind of means the same thing."
"We've built from the ground up," Cooper added.
Cooper suggested those who'd played with him in Norfolk and Syracuse have a bit of an advantage coming into camp that they would not have under other circumstances.
"Usually these kids come in kind of wide-eyed and nervous. This group of guys coming in aren't like that. They've got this twinkle in their eye like they're going to make this team," Cooper said, adding that this confidence probably stems from knowing him and having shared success with him.
With this group of ambitious youngsters and an "invigorated" bunch of veterans, Cooper, like Yzerman, stressed the level of competition for the open roster spots and how some decisions will be particularly difficult, talk that sounds anything but hollow when considering the mixture of experience this roster is likely to have in comparison to seasons past.
Asked if the young additions would have a chance to increase their role, Cooper pointed out that there's a lot of variables to consider but, in particular, injuries will almost surely occur and should provide opportunities.
On the possibility of mentoring Jonathan Drouin:
"You just try and make him comfortable. I think I was really fortunate to come to this organization with a lot of veteran guys here who made it easier for me to feel comfortable and play my game. You know, when you're a high draft pick there's a lot of expectations and pressure and you put the most pressure on yourself to perform, so it's nice when you have some veteran guys that take the time to talk to you or help you out.
I'm hoping we can help him and just make him feel comfortable. We all know the player that he can be and the skills that he has. You don't really know what to expect coming into your first pro camp. For me, it was an eye-opener to see those veteran guys, see how hard they worked, what they did to be a true pro. Marty was a guy I looked up to and he's still around and going strong, so he's got him too but I like to think of myself as a guy that he can count on."
On camping with a coach he's quite familiar with:
"It's nice to know the coach as well as we know him but we expect this camp's going to be pretty tough. The last two years he's run us pretty hard."
Thoughts on Cooper's approach to handling players:
"He's always sort of on your case but it's a good sort of motivation. He's going to push you really hard to make you a better player. He doesn't have any favorites. If you're playing well, he might lay off you."
On some of his competition:
"There's a lot of good young guys from Syracuse trying to fight for spots here and there's obviously not enough for all of us. We're best friends and family but right now we're competing for a job. Once you get on the ice, it's your career and we've got to fight for it."
Playing center vs. playing wing:
"I'd be all for [switching to wing] if that was what the team needed. It would be a learning curve for me; I haven't played wing in a long time. But like anything, I think you can learn and the good thing about being up here is you have such good players around you, even if you do make a mistake you have people around to help out."
On getting the chance to play alongside Drouin in the rookie tournament:
"We just had fun. It was like I knew where he was going to be. He was amazing."
On what he's trying to accomplish starting out his pro career:
"In the rookie tournament, I tried to score but at the same time I was trying to play good defensively because Coach thinks it is most important to know how to play in the defensive zone. I had improvement there last year. That's where I am concentrating."