Post-Karls­son era dawns for Sens

Teammates re­flect on loss of a friend and wait to gauge the on-ice im­pact

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - BRUCE GARRIOCH bgar­rioch@post­media.com Twit­ter: @sun­gar­rioch

Time to move on.

Twenty-four hours af­ter cap­tain Erik Karls­son was dealt to the San Jose Sharks in a block­buster deal Thurs­day af­ter­noon, the Ot­tawa Sen­a­tors hit the ice Fri­day for the first time in train­ing camp at the Bell Sen­splex.

And though they were hardly shocked by the news that the 28-year-old Karls­son had been dealt to the Sharks for two play­ers — cen­tre Chris Tier­ney and blue-liner Dy­lan DeMelo — along with two prospects and a pack­age of draft picks, the Sen­a­tors know it’s go­ing to be a big void to fill.

Ot­tawa play­ers knew the deal was com­ing be­cause it had been spec­u­lated about for nearly eight months, but there’s still an ad­just­ment pe­riod as this full re­build of the or­ga­ni­za­tion shifts into high gear.

Tier­ney and DeMelo were en route to Ot­tawa on Fri­day and are ex­pected to join train­ing camp Satur­day.

“It’s al­ways tough to lose a friend,” al­ter­nate cap­tain Mark Stone said. “I say that ev­ery time some­body gets moved, but guys re­ally are close and you spend ev­ery day with each other. I’ve spent the last four years play­ing with (Karls­son) ev­ery day, so it’s al­ways tough.

“It’s al­ways a shock to the sys­tem when any­body gets traded, no mat­ter who it is. You al­ways ex­pect it, but you never re­ally know how to re­act to it. At the same time, this is the group we have. We’re ex­cited with the group we have and some of the kids out there (in camp Fri­day) were our best play­ers. It’s time to move for­ward.”

Of course, there will be changes on and off the ice with­out Karls­son in the fold. De­fence­man Thomas Chabot is ex­pected to skate with Cody Ceci in the top pair­ing, while many of the blue-lin­ers will see their ice time in­creased be­cause Karls­son played nearly 30 min­utes a night.

Ceci also now oc­cu­pies the stall that used to be­long to Karls­son in the dress­ing room, but it should be noted that many of the play­ers were moved around in the off­sea­son so it’s not like this is a huge rev­e­la­tion.

But make no mis­take, the Sen­a­tors know it’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent with­out him around.

“It’s pro sports,” de­fence­man Mark Borowiecki said. “He’s a guy we all liked and re­spected, and he’s a fan­tas­tic hockey player, the most skilled de­fence­man in the league, but that’s the way it goes some­times. He has ev­ery right to ex­plore what­ever op­tion he wants, but, by the same to­ken, the team has ev­ery right to move an as­set when­ever they want.”

Borowiecki said the club can’t use Karls­son’s de­par­ture as an ex­cuse.

“That’s a great way to suck the life out of a locker-room right away. We’ve got a great group of guys in here. This se­condary lead­er­ship group we have in here, we know that we can do some good things here.

“We’re not go­ing to sit around, drag our lips and mope and feel sorry for our­selves. Are there go­ing to be tough times? For sure, it’s ex­pected. We’ve got some great ideas right now. We’ve had some pos­i­tive meet­ings.

“The true test is go­ing to be, what hap­pens if we go on a five-game slide? I’m not say­ing it will hap­pen, but it might, and how do we re­act as a group? That’s go­ing to be the true test.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion might be in a re­build, but coach Guy Boucher isn’t about to get caught up in that kind of talk.

“That (re­build) is not a word for me. I’m a coach,” Boucher said. “Ev­ery year you build, and that’s where I’m at. That’s what we did (Fri­day) morn­ing, come out and build with the play­ers that we have and all the hope that they bring, and with the con­fi­dence that we can build chem­istry.

“Right now, that’s our fo­cus.” There was a rea­son the Sen­a­tors wanted to get this trade done be­fore camp, and that’s be­cause they didn’t want it to be a dis­trac­tion go­ing into this sea­son. If Karls­son were still here, there would be end­less ques­tions about his fu­ture and his con­tract sit­u­a­tion, so the or­ga­ni­za­tion felt the tim­ing was right.

“It had the po­ten­tial to be a dis­trac­tion and there were a lot of signs of it point­ing in that di­rec­tion,” Borowiecki said. “Now, it’s time for us to move on, and we have to look in­ward here and look at what we have to do to get this thing righted. There’s a bit of a chance here to fo­cus less on (the Karls­son) sit­u­a­tion and more on our­selves.”

Cen­tre Matt Duch­ene felt a dif­fer­ence in the room.

“With all due respect to Karl, I don’t think that (trade) took the wind out of our sails be­cause I think everybody kind of ex­pected it at some point. We knew it was kind of any day from the start of the sum­mer on,” Duch­ene said.

And on Fri­day, the Sen­a­tors started to turn the page.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Mark Stone takes part in train­ing camp drills with the Sen­a­tors in Ot­tawa on Fri­day,

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