After practice on Friday, Jason Spezza discussed the points of emphasis in the systems play under new head coach Sheldon Keefe.
How did you find the first practice Sheldon has run here?
Spezza: We were just going over some of the stuff we talked about yesterday. Very up-tempo. A lot of touches on the puck. We played a little game that involved us kind of moving off the puck. He was really detailed in his explanations.
How would you describe the emotions of this week?
Spezza: it has been an emotional week for sure. It is difficult when you are losing like we were. Going through coaching changes is never easy as players. You take a lot of responsibility for that. And then the excitement of Sheldon coming in and the emotion of the game yesterday — we were excited to play. We felt like we did a lot of good things. To get a win is definitely a relief for us and something we can build off of.
Is it a new lease for you to an extent — maybe a more regular spot in the lineup going forward?
Spezza: Daily, you are trying to earn your spot and earn your job. I feel like the system fits how I play. Now I have to go and be a good, solid contributor. But definitely I am excited about the opportunity ahead and I want to be a contributor to the team. I’ve always just been looking for a role here and looking to be a part of a really good club.
Systems wise, what is that fit for you?
Spezza: I think there is as little more emphasis on controlling the puck and puck possession. That is something that is a strength of my game, and something I can do even better once I get into the mode of it. Just being responsible, I have played similar to this before in the past and had success. I’m just looking forward to growing.
I really enjoyed the detail Sheldon has behind. People might think there is a lot of motion out there and a lot movement, but for every movement, there is an explanation for where you are moving. I think that is where our game will evolve as a team. It is not uncontrolled. It is controlled movement. It is constantly filling in for each other. It is getting under the puck. It is a lot more technical than maybe it looks like. I think as we evolve, you’ll see that more and more.
There seemed to be puck support as well rather than one guy going in and everyone remaining stationary. Do you see it that way?
Spezza: A big emphasis is going to be on us working away from the puck. I think it is a lot more onus on the guys that don’t have the puck to work to get toward the good ice, and then to allow the guy who has the puck to make the little plays. It is a big job for the other four guys that don’t have the puck, and it is poise and patience for the guy who does have the puck to know that someone is going to work to get open. That is going to be something that we will grow into here as we get better at it.
Does it remind you of other teams you’ve played on?
Spezza: Yeah. I don’t want to get into comparisons, but it feels natural to me and I’ve played this way in the past.
What is the key to success for that system to do well in this league?
Spezza: It’s all five guys being on the same page, and it is puck support and filling for each other. You don’t want to leave a guy where he is in a bad spot. I think the success is n the guys off the puck moving. We are talking offense.
The success when you don’t have it is tracking through the middle of the ice and protecting the middle, and then flexing out after that, and not giving up anything through the middle of the ice. At times, we will probably play in our end a little bit, but you try to keep them to the outside. We’ve seen talk of the Islanders and how they’re playing — sometimes you have to kind of be comfortable playing in your d-zone and letting teams be on the outside, and just not letting them come on the inside. There is a lot of emphasis on puck support and playing with the puck, but once you turn the puck over, the emphasis is to get through the middle as quick as possible, retreat, and flex out from there.