Buffalo Sabres head coach Phil Housley walked into the press conference room with a smile and greeted the media with a cheery, “Hi guys.”
From the second you walk into KeyBank Center you get the feeling something has changed. This is going to be different.
It almost has to be, right?
The 2018-19 Buffalo Sabres training camp officially got underway when players reported to the arena Thursday morning.
“I think first you want to create something. You want to create something in camp,” said center Jack Eichel.
“You want to create a culture. You want to create a new identity as a group…There’s a lot of new people in here. There’s a new mindset. There’s a new standard. I think you’re gonna see a different group of guys.”
Step one, change the mindset. How? By ripping down the walls and talking honestly with each other.
“I think everyone kind of took a long, hard look in the mirror. Got a chance to clear their head over summer and come back with a positive mindset. A fresh mindset. You get excited for the season again,” said Zach Bogosian.
Bogosian continued as he revealed how open talks helped clear the air.
“I also think the guys who have been together the last few years have broke down the barriers and had some conversations we haven’t had in the past,” he said. “That’s something that obviously is gonna be good for us as a group.”
The removal of the negativity from the locker room was not an overnight process.
Eichel credited GM Jason Botterill for creating an open forum where problems could be addressed and attacked in a positive manner.
“There’s always gonna be excuses. We’re professional complainers,” Eichel joked.
After a good laugh Eichel got back to business and relayed his thoughts.
“I think that he’s done a lot of communicating with us in terms of seeing our side of things and trying to figure out what management can do. Coaches can do, to make our relationship better,” Eichel said. “He’s done a wonderful job. That’s one of the things I feel more confident now then I’ve ever been, is that open line of communication. You feel like if you have something bothering you, you can get it off your chest.”
While the combination of first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin and arrival of new faces like Carter Hutton, Jeff Skinner and Conor Sheary, who won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh, have optimism at its highest in years and all begins with a winning attitude. Judging by the words of Housley and returning players, the first few steps of that winning attitude seems to have taken place.
“I just feel a different vibe,” said Housley. “I see a maturity in Jack and with our leadership group being able to speak their hearts to each other, and open up and feel vulnerable and not have all these defensive mechanisms come up and that’s part of the change.”
Housley also stressed that a strong start is key, as is this group’s ability to handle adversity throughout the course of a long season.
The Sabres will hit the ice Friday morning at HarborCenter as the team will once again utilize both rinks throughout camp.
Friday session one 9:45am-10:20am at the New Wave Energy Rink. Then 10:25-11:15am at KeyBank Rink.
Session two will go 11:45am-12:20pm then 12:25-1:15.