KANATA, Ont. – The morning after the day the Ottawa Senators traded away the most talented player in franchise history signalled a time to replace tears with sweat.
An intense first official day on the ice at training camp opened the new leadership group’s eyes to the abundance of young talent in the farm system, and prompted head coach Guy Boucher to boast that this is the best crop of "real prospects" he’s seen since he got the job in 2016.
If they were lamenting anything, it was the loss of chicken Parm–gobbling sparkplug Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who tore his right Achilles during training Thursday and is staring at a six-month recovery.
The message was clear and consistent: Forget the past. The future is now. We’re pushing ahead, fast.
"It feels like everything is resolved now, and we can move forward," Matt Duchene said.
"With all due respect to Karl, I don’t think that [trade] took the wind out of our sails because everyone expected it at some point. We knew it could be any day from the start of the summer on. But losing Pageau, that one was a kick for us."
Pageau memorably scored eight times during the Sens’ remarkable playoff run in 2017 and was coming off the best summer of his life. He felt in peak condition, eager to seize the role of second-line centre and further establish himself as a leader.
Tierney, whom Duchene hopes can score 20, and Zack Smith are the best candidates to slide into the top six, in that order.
"Every player felt it yesterday, knowing he was going to get surgery," Boucher said. "It’s devastating for him and yesterday for the group. But today is a new day where you got to reload, and he’d be the first guy to tell all of us to get going because there’s not much time before the season starts."
Even though he knew it was inevitable, the club’s best winger, Mark Stone, described the Karlsson trade as a "shock to the system," and defenceman Mark Borowiecki texted his former captain right away.
"He was really good to me with some off-ice stuff that I dealt with, and I just wanted to let him know it was something I’d never forget," Borowiecki said.
The big guy agreed that had Karlsson not been dealt before puck drop, the uncertainty might’ve been a distraction, and he scoffed at the notion that Karlsson’s move west will sour training camp.
"That’s a great way to suck the life out of the locker room right away," Borowiecki said. "We’re not going to sit around and drag our lips and mope and feel sorry for ourselves."
Much like down the road in Montreal, the Senators enter 2018-19 embracing the underdog role. That’s the identity they’ll try to forge over the next few days, weeks, months. But in losing Pageau, the Sens lose five feet, 10 inches of pesky.
"We won’t lie. He’s one of the most popular players on our team," Boucher said. "A heart-and-soul guy."
Borowiecki popped into the trainer’s room Thursday after Pageau injured himself.
"He was pretty emotional, so I kind of gave him a hug and talked to him after. It sucks," Borowiecki said. "As much as this is a job for us, it’s your passion too. You love the game; you love being around the guys. It’s just a bad way to start and I really feel for him."
Stone simply shook his head but remembered to hold it high.
"That’s terrible. You never want to see anybody get hurt, let alone in fitness testing," Stone said.
"I have no doubt in my mind that that little guy is going to come back better."
Thank you Ottawa for making this my home. All my love to the fans, community and former teammates. You will be dearly missed. On to the next chapter now. Shark nation I’m coming for you.
— Erik Karlsson (@ErikKarlsson65) September 14, 2018