Like anxious fans across the hockey landscape, Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf is raring to go for the 2016-17 campaign.
“I’m coming back to Ottawa within the week. I can’t wait,” Phaneuf relayed during an appearance on TSN 1200 Monday afternoon. “Last year, getting traded and not having a full season… when you come in and you get traded mid-season, there’s a lot that happens. You’re moving your house. You’re moving everything into a new city, so there’s a lot of things that are new to you.
“But the guys are incredible. The organization, the city – everyone welcomed me with open arms. It was a real good transition for me, but I’m excited about having a full season in Ottawa and starting right from Day One from training camp. I think there’s lots of value in being together.
“…I know from guys trickling into town now, guys are excited. Guys are coming in early and getting ready for training camp.”
Phaneuf agrees with the notion that general manager Pierre Dorion’s off-season changes create more of a ‘right now’ feel to this season in terms of having a winning mentality.
“I’m very optimistic,” Phaneuf said. “I think you look at the moves that Pierre made. He brings in Brassard. Obviously Mika was a very talented young player, but you bring in Brassard. He’s a little bit older. A little bit more experienced. He produces. Look at the numbers that he puts up. So that was a very big addition.
“I think the one that gets overlooked a lot is Kelly. You bring him in. He’s an experienced guy. He’s won. He’s very good defensively. He can kill penalties. So we definitely had a real good summer in additions, that’s for sure.
“I’m excited to get going. I really like our team. There’s going to be a lot of work that’s got to be put in, but I like the team that we have. We’ll obviously start in training camp, and continue to build throughout training camp, and try to get off to a real good start. Because we’ve got the players that can do it. We want to start right from Day One of camp. There’s a new coaching staff, so that’s a fresh start for everyone. So with that comes excitement, and I can’t wait to get going.”
The defenseman indicated he’s had ‘some real good conversations’ with new head coach Guy Boucher.
“He’s definitely passionate,” said Phaneuf. “I think that would be the one word from my meetings with him is that he’s passionate. He loves the game. He’s very detailed in his systems and his structure of the way that he has his teams play. He’s going to come in from Day One of camp and that’s what he’s going to demand. So it’s our job to learn those systems and play to his structure.
“But I know that he’s a passionate guy. He’s got lots of energy. That’s a guy you want to work for. He comes to the rink every day, he’s got energy, he brings that, and that’s contagious.”
Phaneuf was asked if he could pinpoint any reasons behind last year’s second half inconsistencies for the Senators.
“Well, to be honest with you, it doesn’t really do much good for me to sit here and talk about last year. Last year is done,” he answered bluntly. “The bottom line is we didn’t finish where we wanted to finish. We finished outside of the playoffs, so that means there’s lots of work to do this year.
“We know that. We’re well-aware of that. We’ve got to come into camp with a little bit of a chip, knowing that we did not do what we wanted to do, and we fell short of our goal of being a playoff team. It gives you a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.
“There’s lots of work that’s got to be done. But I really like our team. I think that we definitely underachieved last year. Everyone was very vocal about that at the end of the year. That’s on us as players. You see the changes that happened in the off-season – that falls back on us as players also. When there’s coaching changes and stuff like that in this business, that means that we didn’t get the job done.
“It’s a new fresh start for everyone, and I think last year is done. But we expect a lot more out of our team.”
Phaneuf seems likely to be partnered on the blueline again with Cody Ceci, who was recently inked to a two-year, $5.6 million contract as a restricted free agent.
“That was a big signing for the team because he’s a big part of our team at a young age,” said Phaneuf. “I really enjoyed playing with him. He’s a very smart player. He can skate extremely well. He sees the ice well, and he moves the puck – for a big guy, he can really get up in the play, and he knows when to jump. I think he’s just scratching the surface of where he’s at as a player. He’s playing big minutes against top guys already, at his age.
“He goes over to the world championships. He wins there. That’s great experience. I had an opportunity to play in a few different world championships. You learn a lot, because you go and you play with a lot of really talented players, and you kind of just take little things from each guy. I think overall, that would be a real big learning tool for him, is seeing guys over there. The way he played and performed, he had a great tournament. He’ll build off that.
“But I know that I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him. I really enjoyed playing with him, and we want to have a good year together, that’s for sure.”
Source: TSN 1200/ Transcript: Nichols