Robert Slaney's goal heading into this off-season is not to work on one specific part of his game, but to perfect all aspects of his game as he prepares to enter training camp with the Montréal Canadiens.
"You can always get better in different areas," said the 24-year-old Upper Island Cove native.
Slaney, who resides in St. John's during the off-season, noted he would like to see improvement in his foot speed.
"I think that if I improve my speed and general strength by the end of the summer I'll be doing OK," he said.
Prior to starting his training program, Slaney took a couple of weeks off once his season ended with the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Canadiens' American Hockey League affiliate, on April 15.
"I have a little vacation planned for June and then I'll get back at it," he said.
The full training schedule has not started for Slaney.
He is slated to begin a regime with highly touted St. John's trainer Bob Thompson, who has helped current National Hockey League players Ryan Clowe and Teddy Purcell.
"While I've been waiting for him to get going, I've been doing a little bit on my own," he said.
Slaney, who got dealt to the original six franchise on Feb. 17 as a part of a deal between the Canadiens and Nashville Predators for defenceman Hal Gill, will have the opportunity to pick the brains of current pro players this off-season. Newfoundland and Labrador currently has six players with professional experience who regularly return to this province at some point during the summer
Although the option is there, he doesn't think he'll take the opportunity to pick their brains prior to the beginning of training camp.
"I train with those guys and I talk a little bit of hockey with those guys, but for the most part, when they come home, they just get away from the game for a bit," said Slaney.
Slaney signed his first professional contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009 after four successful seasons with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He has played in a total of 73 AHL games with the Toronto Marlies, Milwaukee Admirals and Hamilton Bulldogs and 114 games in the East Coast Hockey League with the Reading Royals and Cincinnati Cyclones.
Feeling no pressure
For Slaney, there is no added pressure to entering training camp with a new club.
"I always enter every training camp like it's my last," he said.
When camp opens in early September, Slaney will be going through his third such experience.
"I've been to training camps before and I know what to expect," he said.
It is this train of thought that allows him to focus on getting better this off-season, rather than on unnecessary pressure.
"I'm not going to hold any pressure over my head when there is nothing there," he said.
New club, similar feeling
Slaney had nothing but good things to say about the organization that he now finds himself in.
"Montreal is a first class organizaton," he said.
In fact, Slaney said there are similarities between Montreal and Toronto.
He said both clubs treat their players with respect and professionalism.
"Everything was about the player and ran so professionally, to make sure you were happy in every aspect, and not just hockey," said Slaney.
From nutritionists to sports psychologists, all were made available to the third-year pro.
When he was moved along with Blake Geoffrion to Montreal, Slaney said he was given an expanded role from the one he was used to when splitting time between the Milwaukee Admirals and Cincinnati Cyclones.
"After I got traded to Montreal, I felt like I had a little bit more of a role and a little bit more of an opportunity," he said.
He felt like he took advantage of it during his time there, registering three goals and one assist in 21 games with the Bulldogs.
"The coaches seemed to like me and put me in different situations," said Slaney. "It did a lot for my confidence and helped my game."
The move to Hamilton meant not only a bigger role for the NHL hopeful, but also the chance to play professionally in his home province. On March 13, Slaney got the opportunity to play in St. John's, making the most of it with a third period marker - his first AHL goal.
"That was certainly something special," said Slaney.
Making it more special was the opportunity to do it in front of family and friends.
"Everybody was pretty excited," he said.