Just like starting over for Cheechoo
New Senators forward eager to reclaim his goal scoring touch
|Jonathan Cheechoo smiles as he speaks with the media after his first practice with the Senators on Monday at Scotiabank Place.|
Let's just say it hasn't taken long for anyone involved to consider the possibility that Jason Spezza and Jonathan Cheechoo could very well be destined to make plenty of great music together.
"It's an option, definitely," Senators head coach Cory Clouston said earlier today when it was suggested that Cheechoo might be a good fit on the right side alongside Spezza.
The 29-year-old Cheechoo, who was obtained Saturday along with Milan Michalek in the deal that sent Dany Heatley to the San Jose Sharks, liked the sound of that combination when it was suggested after his first practice as a Senator.
"Playing with a guy like Spezza... he's a special guy, too," said Cheechoo, who won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the National Hockey League's top goal scorer in 2005-06 (with 56 goals) playing alongside Joe Thornton. "It would definitely be exciting to get passes from him."
Count Spezza among those on board with the idea, too.
"It's a good complement to my game, having a guy who likes to shoot the puck and shoot one-timers and goes hard to the net," he said. "Anybody that's watched him play knows that he plays real hard and he's good down low... I just have to build some chemistry with him."
That being said, Clouston is still a long way from setting his line combinations to start the season. Michalek has yet to skate with the Senators – he isn't expected to hit the ice with his new teammates until at least Wednesday – and there are at least 14 forwards in the hunt to land jobs.
As he spoke with the media after his first Senators workout, Cheechoo could barely keep the smiles from breaking out. As shocking as it was to be traded for the first time in his seven-year National Hockey League career, he's enthused about what lies ahead.
"I'm excited about being here," he said. "Maybe it was time to move on. Things happen for a reason and they wanted me here and I'm excited to be here."
Cheechoo has seen has goal total decline from 56 to a career low of 12 in 2008-09. Injuries have slowed him over the previous two season, including a pair of surgeries to fix a sports hernia problem. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson suggested in a radio interview that Cheechoo has 30-goal potential with the Senators this season and the right-winger believes he can contribute at that level.
"For me, it's a matter of coming out and doing the things that made me successful," he said. "I'm not really looking at numbers. It's about making sure I get the chances. I know the goals will come if I get the chances."
"The one thing we liked when we watched some of his games from last season was his work ethic," said Clouston. "He worked very hard and he was committed to both ends of the ice. There were a couple of specific shifts where I thought he put his head down, backchecked hard and finished his checks. He did a lot of the little things well.
"If he can do that and be creative offensively, we'll be really happy."
While his family knew the way to San Jose, Cheechoo's hometown of Moose Factory, Ont., is much closer to the nation's capital. It's still a long haul to Ottawa but he has no doubt they'll make their presence felt at Scotiabank Place.
"(My parents) are really excited now and they can't wait to get down to Ottawa," said Cheechoo, who played his junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League's Belleville Bulls. "Here and Toronto are about the same distance away from my hometown, so this is about as close as you can get. I know in the past few years, when I played around here, I've had quite a few family members come out.
"I'm sure we'll be getting that quite a lot here."
Around the boards
With defenceman Chris Campoli already owning the No. 14 he wore in San Jose, Cheechoo will sport No. 41 with the Senators ... The roster-cutting began Monday afternoon, with nine players – defencemen Paul Baier, Mat Robinson, Craig Schira and Kyle Wharton and forwards Jason Bailey, Keegan Dansereau, Kaspars Daugavins, Matt Lowry and Brandon Svendsen – assigned to the Binghamton Senators training camp, which opens Wednesday. That leaves 46 players (six goaltenders, 12 defencemen and 28 forwards) still in camp here.