Just listened to the fans conference call with Melnyk, Murray, LeClaire and Leeder - no real surprises and nothing dramatic happened, which is entirely what you'd expect I guess. Worth noticing that I got my invite 10 minutes after the call started so there may be other stuff out there.
BM was asked about the changing shape of the Eastern Conference - said Toronto want to be the toughest team in the league and you'll have to deal with that. Montreal have got quicker and more active but he doubts they will score more goals than last year. Boston are the same as last year with a great defence and even though Pittsburgh have lost a couple of players they have a good young core. The one team that surprised him are Tampa and he believes they will be much more competitive although he does wonder how they'll work with 28 or so one way contracts. He didn't go as far as to say the balance of power had shifted but that it was much more comparable now.
He said Ottawa has to get better and he believes they will be a very competitive hockey team and that they will "build on the fact they were much better organised in the 2nd half of last year". Clouston "lead the way", Believes they will score more goals and will be much better on the powerplay with Kovalev. He would like one more big body on the blueline but expects it to be better and more mobile than last year. Importantly he said that the goaltending is in better shape than it has been for many years with the devlopment of Elliott and the signing of PLC. There is "no doubt" in BM's mind that the team is playoff bound.
LeClaire was asked about his general fitness, said he'd been skating for about a month and whilst it felt weird for the first couple of weeks being in pads again he feels very good and is "pretty close to perfect". Had a good summer workout and is excited and ready to go.
The only Ottawa player from last year that had a question specifically about him was A Train. Caller was concerned that he's a UFA at the end of the year and with all the new dmen coming up does this mean the end of A Train as a Senator. Murray loves the A Train. He is a physical, good character and is a good guy in the room even though he doesn't say an awful lot and he loves Ottawa. In a cap world harsh decisions need to be made but they are looking at moving forward with A Train beyond the end of the season and they believe that is what Volchenkov wants as well. Just because we have a load of good dmen coming through doesn't mean the end of anyone because you can't have too many.
Speaking of good young dmen, Erik Karlsson will be given every chance to make the big team this year. Murray's belief is that he'll be at worst very close to the team. Karlsson has bulked up from 158 to 172 pounds but is never going to be a big player but he will be excellent on the powerplay and plays bigger than his size in terms of his shot - a fact PLC confirms. If Karlsson doesn't make the Sens roster it has been agreed that he will do whatever the Senators thinks is best for him, whether that is Bingo or Sweden. It's likely to be Bingo because Murray believes he'll be on the team or one of the first call ups. Leclaire said that in the practices that he has had with Karlsoon he comes across as very calm and confident and is always in control. Murray commented that the farm system is much stronger than it was 2 or 3 years ago and that there are 4 or 5 players slated to be in Bingo this year that can step in and help the big team if the need arises but he wouldn't name names. The important thing is that he and Clouston both believe that the best players will be the ones called on first.
One caller mentioned players that he felt we missed out on in free agency. He specifically mentioned Moen, Bertuzzi and Boynton as players that are cap friendly and could have helped. Murray ignored the later two but said that he liked Moen and always had done, he looked at him a year or so ago but he was tied up with the Ducks so they signed Ruutu who is a similar player. Murray admitted that after the signing of Kovalev and with being unable to move Heatley his hands are to a degree tied until he makes a couple of other moves because they are over the cap. He did bemoan the lack of flexibility but did say that he didn't want to make big changes from last year's roster. Apparently no GM likes big front loaded contracts but that's the world we live in. Same with NTC's,a lot of the time, if you don't offer them you don't get the player.
There was a quick mention about the coaching changes, impressed by the new HC of Bingo should be a hardworking coach. The new assistant Lauer was hired partly because Clouston feels very comfortable working with him and feels that he will compliment him well. Luke Richardson will be doing some work with the young defencemen but is currently coaching a girls team (i had no idea Wilson had been sacked in Toronto).
Cyril Leeder spoke a bit about a few things, apparently the parking situation is going to be much better this year and has been the number one non hockey related thing on the agenda this off season. Also they are looking at a new scoreboard within the next 5 years and when it becomes a fans priority it will become an organisation priority. He likes the new scoreboard in Montreal. Las Vegas has the Hockey Awards on a 3year contract, Ottawa will look to getr involved in the negotitaions next time round, but more energy is being put to trying to get an All Star game.
PLC was aksed what he is looking forward to any particular games. Obviously the CBJ game and he is looking forward to playing in Montreal but his focus is the Rangers game first up and then the first home game. He's not so focused on particular individual games he just wnats to get back playing again. He's changed his shirt number because it'a new team and a new start and went for 33 because of Patrick Roy.
That was about it. No real questions about Heatley although the conversation about NTC's started with a mention of disgruntled players. I decided not to go into too much detail regarding the question about George Parros' moustache, but they did say I don't think it's as bad as that dude's porntache from the underground - don't know what that meant.