If there's one thing that can be said about the Ottawa Senators, it's that they are not burdened with high expectations this season.
Not after spectacularly flaming out last season and the subsequent Dany Heatley controversy that led to the trading of the 50-goal man.
The funny thing is, of all the areas of concern with the Senators this season, replacing Heatley's offence may be the easiest to accomplish.
It's true that the Sens no longer have that one big gun, but free agent signee Alexei Kovalev, if he comes to play, can be a difference maker and a clutch scorer. Between them, the Heatley yield of Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo, health permitting, should be good for at least 40 and maybe even 50 goals.
There's certainly more balance to the Sens' attack this season, and that's not a bad thing.
But in order for coach Cory Clouston's team to get into the playoffs, or even think about it, the Sens need a series of events to unfold.
New netminder Pascal Leclaire must remain healthy and play like the bona-fide No. 1 that the Senators think he is. The Sens need youngster Peter Regin to show he's capable of playing in the offensive second line roll. And perhaps most importantly, Anton Volchenkov and Chris Phillips must rediscover their shutdown capabilities and first-round rookie Erik Karlsson has to demonstrate that he's ready for some primetime action.
All of that may be asking a lot. And the defence is now a little top-heavy with puck movers and they could certainly use some more bite than they currently have.
There are a lot of "ifs" there, to be sure, but if the Sens are all pulling in the same direction for Clouston, perhaps they can rediscover their confidence and swagger from their not-so-distant past.
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