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Troy Mann

Offseason moves give Coach Mann reason to smile

September 12, 2022

Even the hectic preparations for the upcoming season couldn’t take the jovial smile off Belleville Senators Head Coach Troy Mann’s face, while he recapped the offseason moves during an informal media session with team reporters last week. Mann is convinced that the headline deals transacted by the parent club will have spin-off benefits in the Friendly City.

It’s hard not to be in good spirits these days. The optimism around the organization is at an all-time high after an impressive offseason that saw the acquisitions of NHL All-Stars, including Claude Giroux, Alex Debrincat, and Cam Talbot. These veterans will join an impressive roster of young talent who made major strides last season. Many of the top prospects and young stars that will define the future of the franchise have spent significant time developing their craft in Belleville.

“Obviously, the plan was put in place to build a winning team around a core over a certain number of years, and since I’ve been here, they’ve always talked about and have been doing that. It seems like after three years that this was the appropriate time to add to the core, and they now have those key guys under long-term contracts and have made some key additions. It should be fun, and from the AHL perspective, it maybe keeps some guys here a little bit longer, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you look at teams like the Washington Capitals, or Tampa Bay Lightning, they’ve always tried to maybe “overcook” their prospects to some degree. I’m not saying we’re going to have prospects “overcooked,” but let’s face it, if you look at the roster, there’s not a lot of wiggle room in Ottawa, and you’re going to have to beat someone out of a job or start the season here. Our message in Belleville is never going to change, it’s all about our standards, and it’s all about making playoffs here.”

During the summer, the franchise made moves to help augment their organization depth in Belleville. Specifically, they re-signed Dillon Heatherington, Rourke Chartier, Jake Lucchini, Scott Sabourin, Xavier Bernard, Matthew Wedman and Logan Flodell. At the same time, they acquired defencemen Kristain Rubins, Jacob Larsson and goaltender Antoine Bibeau in free agency. These players can compete for spots at NHL training camp. However, Mann and his staff are confident that many of them will return and take on leadership duties in Belleville. Their contributions will be critical as many veterans have departed in other offseason moves.

“Typically, you’re going to see greater than fifty percent turnover in the American Hockey League, between free agency and graduations. But from our perspective, it’s going to be more of a change in the veterans, and our team will be very similar to last year in terms of the prospect base. Dillon Heatherington is back, you’ve got Jake Lucchini returning and Rourke Chartier, who are all staples in the organization, but we’ve lost Michael Del Zotto, captain Logan Shaw,  (Alternates) Andrew Aggozino, Colby Williams and Zac Leslie too. That’s a big part of our leadership group that’s gone. Now we need new guys to step up and also the younger guys that are going into their third year, to step up, but from a talent perspective, our lineup is pretty solid.”

“Our message is never going to change. It’s all about the standards, getting better and making the playoffs.”

Undoubtedly the AHL Senators have put themselves in a strong position heading into their sixth season. Their bench boss is convinced that the players and talent are in place.