The 2012-13 season was a mixed bag for Penguins defenseman Simon Despres. After spending the first four months of the season at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the NHL lockout, Despres was in and out of the lineup at the NHL level for a variety of reasons.
There were high points such as his breakaway goal against all-world Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in a 3-0 road win Jan. 31. There were low points as well such as being out of position for two early goals by the Islanders in Game 3 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal series May 5.
Entering the 2013-14 season Despres seems primed to claim a full-time NHL job but with the return of Rob Scuderi as well as competition from the likes of incumbents such as Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland and Robert Bortuzzo, Despres will have to earn it.
Yesterday, following an informal workout at Southpointe, Despres talked about his future:
Do you view this as your best chance to claim a full-time NHL job?
"Yeah definitely. I want to help the team win some games and be in the lineup every day. Whatever my role is, I wan to help the team the best I can."
After last season, management said it viewed you as a top four-caliber defenseman. How much of a boost is that?
"They can say what they said but it’s up for me to perform and do the job. It won’t be given to me. There’s a lot of good defensemen in this organization. But for them to say that, it’s good for the confidence. But it’s not going to be handed to me."
How do you view last season considering you were in and out of the lineup?
"I learned a lot. Just from being around the team the whole [season]. Practicing with the team the whole year, you learn from the good players up here. I’m a better player from last year, that’s for sure."
What did you learn last season?
"Last year, for me, I learned a lot from playing good positionally, reading the play, maturing as a player and watching the other defenseman. I learned a lot from last year [from playing] and from watching upstairs [in the press box]. … To be a defenseman at the NHL level, there’s so much you have to learn. It’s a learning process. Reading the play, puck retrievals. Learning when to hit. Being smart."
How much work have you done with assistant coach Todd Reirden?
"He’s a great coach. He’s helped me a lot. He’s a very positive guy. I watched a lot of video with him last [season]. I talked to him this summer too. He’s helped me progress to where I am right now. I’m still learning from him."
(Photo: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)