The Buffalo Sabres started training camp today in the official opening of the 2016-17 NHL season. Click here for a full schedule - all practices are at the HarborCenter and open to the public.
Various players were made available to the media for interviews after the morning sessions - Kyle Okposo, Evander Kane, Brian Gionta, Tyler Ennis.
The free agency signing spoke about playing on a rebuilding team -
"I think there’s a lot of room to improve and the upside of this team is extremely high. I’ve been through a rebuild before early in my career and have seen it come to kind of a fruition you can say. And there is light at the end of the tunnel and for this team I think it could come a lot quicker than my experiences with the Islanders just because of how talented the group is and how hard we work. So I’m really looking forward to that.
"I think with the contract, you can’t really look at it and say ‘Oh I have to play a different way because I signed a seven-year contract.’ You can’t do that. That’s when your game starts to falter. You start to do things that aren’t yourself. I’m just going to go out there and play my game, do the things I know how to do.
"With me being a new person coming into a new situation, I’m not going to be a vocal, rah-rah kind of guy. I’m more of a quiet guy who tries to lead by example. If I see something that needs to be said, I’ll say it. I’m not afraid to say it. That’s just part of gaining the trust of your teammates and building up that reputation of just a good guy.”
He also commented on the Phil Kessel snark that has taken over after Team USA’s exit from the World Cup of Hockey.
"Phil is obviously a tremendous player and he had an awesome playoffs and he’s had a great career. I thought that in 2014 when they were in Sochi that he was one of the best American forwards on the team so I think he’s earned that right to say what he said. Me being in a little bit different situation, I don’t think I have. I wish those guys would have had a different result obviously, but they picked the team that they thought was going to be the best and that’s their decision.
"Would I like to be there? Of course I would. Of course I wanted to be there and I wanted to make that team. I wanted to try and help those guys out but that wasn’t the case so I just keep playing my game and maybe next time."
The controversial forward was asked about his legal woes, of course.
“These situations are what they are. They happen to athletes or people in a position such as myself. Those are things you just have to deal with and kind of come with the territory. In saying that, you have to be a little more aware and kind of put yourself on a higher pedestal than you maybe think you are.
“Off the ice, these things unfortunately happen more often than not. They’re only becoming more and more relevant every day if you look around the other sports. For me, it’s just trying to stay out of that kind of stuff, kind of picking my spots better.
“I’ve been focused on hockey all summer. I haven’t really put too much thought or emphasis on the other stuff. I’ve just kind of narrowed my focus and focused on hockey and my training, and I’m feeling pretty good about that.
“I turned 25 on Aug. 2, so I’m getting older, I’m maturing just as everybody else. I think every year, every day you mature as a person and as a player. That’s kind of the product of the work ethic to your craft, and for me that’s something I’ve done my entire life and have continued to do throughout the summer.
“I’m just focused on this season and trying to have the best season of my career so far. It’s not about necessarily proving to everybody else. It’s kind of proving more so to myself, knowing what I’m capable of and just kind of executing that and putting that on display.”
The captain spoke yesterday, before the beginning of camp.
“Everything around training camp is prepping for the opening of the season so getting yourself mentally, physically ready for that opening night here against Montreal is how I approach it.
“For sure, it evolves. You find things that work and what doesn’t work. As you get older you’re having to take care of your body a lot more than you used to when you were younger. Back then, you could take off certain things, but you really have to stay on top of mobility exercises, things like that, making sure you’re ready and fresh to go.
“Building off of how we finished last year, that’s exciting. Knowing what type of team we can be when we play, I think the challenge is trying to pick up where we left off last year.
“We were playing on top of teams. We were pressuring them hard. We controlled lots of plays. There were lots of times in games where we were controlling the play, stuff like that. We were playing a fast-paced, up-tempo game overall. Getting wins, so obviously we got rewarded for it.”
He also commented on Kane, who he felt ‘was maturing’.
"I would hope that he wants to stay a little more low profile around things. I think on the ice he can give us a certain dimension that we need and that we want for a teammate to come in and work hard the way he does and play the game hard. Hopefully, he’s still maturing as an individual off the ice.
"Whenever you represent a team, you want to represent it to the best character and have those character guys. You’re representing the logo, and that’s what everybody has to have in mind no matter what you’re doing."
Isn’t this factoid interesting, and kinda’ scary too (see tweet below).
Tyler Ennis, still looking young at age 26, is now the longest-tenured Sabres player. Arrived in 2009-10. pic.twitter.com/wtLlkJ8Ymh— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) September 22, 2016
Here’s what he said about starting a new season healthy -
“I feel great. The body feels really good, I feel strong, put on a lot of muscle so I’m ready to go. I think making sure I take care of my body a little better, I trained harder, I took a little more time on the little things.
“Last year was frustrating and it’s a clean slate and I’m ready to go again and treat it like a fresh brand new year and get back to where I was two years ago.
“I love being in Buffalo and all I want to do is win a championship for this city.
“The last half of (last) season everyone came together and found the structure and we really didn’t give up many chances. Defensively we were sound and now we’ve added some offensive pieces and I think the mindset has changed from a rebuilding long process to a lot of good pieces that are jelling together and it’s time to change the mindset into a playoff team.
“I need to be an offensive guy that can put the puck in the net with the same kind of production that I’m used to. Our mindset now is playoffs. we’re looking to compete and be a real threat. We're not rebuilding anymore."