TORONTO — In another sign that new Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean has brought a fresh approach to the job, Bobby Butler took a seat Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Butler, scored 10 goals and 11 assists in 36 games with the Senators last season and was seen as a rising star within the organization when the year ended. He spent a good portion of the final two months of the 2010-11 campaign as Jason Spezza’s right winger.
Butler didn’t have a strong training camp, losing the top line spot to newcomer Nikita Filatov. In Friday’s season opening 5-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, he played on a fourth line alongside Zack Smith and Erik Condra, seeing only 6:28 of ice time.
On Saturday, MacLean lifted him in favour of Zenon Konopka, who was the chosen healthy scratch on Friday.
“It’s not working for him,” MacLean said before the game. “He’s still a young player and he’s still learning. He had success last year and he’s going through a period right now where he’s not having success, so we wanted to make sure that we instill good work habits and practice habits.
“That’s the way it turns around. You come every day. You work hard and do things right. We want to make sure he gets the kind of work and coaching he needs to make sure that he is a consistent player.”
MacLean says it’s not a matter of Butler arriving in training camp believing he had a prominent position sewn up. Rather, he says there has been a sharp “learning curve” for him in trying to adapt to a new coaching staff with new ideas. While attempting to soak up additional defensive responsibilities, Butler has lost his confidence offensively, according to the coach.
“He has been very diligent about doing things without the puck and has kind of lost his way with the puck,” MacLean said.
The Konopka for Butler change was the lone move from Friday, but MacLean acknowledges he thought long and hard about allowing defenceman David Rundblad to make his NHL regular season debut against Toronto. There were numerous candidates to come out following Friday’s sloppy defensive display.
“In David’s case, we really wanted to make sure he’s working on his defensive game and get him to a place where he’s comfortable before we put him into a game.”
MACLEAN THINKING OF WINNIPEG: The Senators coach, once a scoring star for the former Winnipeg Jets franchise, is pumped about the official kick-off for the new Jets franchise in Winnipeg Sunday. His son, David, a Phoenix Coyotes scout, will be at the opening game. “I’m excited that Winnipeg is in the league, for the fans of the city. The job that Mark Chipman and Truth North has done to bring the NHL back, and the perseverence they’ve shown to do that, I think it’s a great credit to them. It’s going to be great for the league.”