Top News

Anderson says the Senators' leaders have to be role models for the future stars


Craig Anderson joked about being the last man standing.

After the summer trade of Zack Smith to Chicago for Artem Anisimov, the Ottawa Senators goaltender became the club’s longest serving member.

As he heads into his 19 th season of professional hockey, he has learned a thing or a thousand while stopping a million pucks along the way.

Anderson is enthused about the optimism surrounding the official opening of training camp Thursday, having seen first-hand the potential talent of the 22-and-under gang. It’s a group that includes Thomas Chabot, Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Drake Batherson, Christian Jaros, Max Lajoie, Erik Brannstrom, Logan Brown and Josh Norris.

But Anderson also knows from vast experience that you can’t go from zero to 60 wins — or even 40 wins — overnight. The Senators finished dead last in the NHL in 2018-19, with a 29-47-6 record.

It’s going to take time and it’s going to take the help of established players to allow the youngsters to reach their full potential.

“Guidance is what they need,” the 38-year-old Anderson said Tuesday on what role he and the club’s other veterans play in the progression. “I was once a young guy with no guidance coming in, thinking that you can do this and you can do that, without setting boundaries.

“As I progressed through my career, (I) learned those boundaries. The sooner guys can learn the ways of the world here, with the room and the amount of stuff you need to do off the ice and with the practices, the sooner you can learn what it takes to be a good pro, the better off you’re going to be and you don’t have those hiccups.”

Anderson is doing his part. With his wife, Nicholle, and young sons Jake and Levi, at home in Florida for the start of the school year, he’s once again opening his home up to Lajoie. Anderson also took in Lajoie at the the start of the 2018-19 season, when he enjoyed a stunning start to his NHL career.

“We’ve glued our friendship up a bit,” said Anderson, who owns the Senators franchise record with 191 wins. “He’s starting to make fun of me a little bit more. It’s that negative feedback that makes you feel like you’re a good friend.”

Of course, the Senators no longer have Mark Stone to serve as an ideal leader by example, trading him away to the Vegas Golden Knights last February in the swap that brought Brannstrom to the organization. (A year ago, Stone housed the rookie Tkachuk, a relationship that gave rise to Tkachuk’s infamous “that’s me paying rent” line when he fought Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader following Abdelkader’s high hit on Stone).

Replacing Stone’s leadership qualities is impossible, but new coach D.J. Smith will lean on 38-year-old defenceman Ron Hainsey for some of the guidance that Anderson talked about.

“It’s certainly very fun to be around these young players and to be able to continue, hopefully, to keep up at this point,” said Hainsey, who will likely receive one of the three alternate captain positions. “They bring so much energy every day.”

On the ice, Hainsey is expected to see at least some time as Chabot’s playing partner.

For the relationship between established player and young player to work best, it has to be a two-way street. The older players have to show what the league is all about, but the youngsters have to stay hungry to push for more.

Anderson says there’s probably no better example than in Pittsburgh, where 32-year-old Penguins captain Sidney Crosby sets the tone.

“He’s probably the best player in the world and it’s pretty tough to take a day off if he’s the hardest working guy in that room,” he said. “We have to take our core of premier players who are supposed to be leading the charge and we teach them the right way, to make them the hardest working guys. If they do that on a daily basis, it’s tough for a guy who is on the second or third line to come in and not put in that same effort.”

There’s an irony in all of the above. If the Senators’ kids can eventually rise together to lead the club back to where they can legitimately compete for the Stanley Cup, the 38-year-olds like Anderson and Hainsey will likely be retired by the time it happens.

That is, however, the new normal in an era where younger players are being given more responsibilities at an earlier age.

“It can’t be the way it was 20 years ago,” said Anderson. “But there are two consistencies: hard work and showing up on time. The guys who work the hardest are the guys who get rewarded.”

[email protected]

Twitter: @Citizenwarren

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

Recent Stories