Life without Alfie sinks in in the Nation's Capital
Joe Corvo, Clarke MacArthur, Bobby Ryan.
Daniel Alfredsson, Andre Benoit, Sergei Gonchar, Hugh Jessiman, Guillaume Latendresse, Mike Lundin, Peter Regin, Jakob Silfverberg.
Last year: Injuries were the story of the season for the Senators. They were plentiful and they were significant. The team that took the ice to open the season against Winnipeg last January lost a staggering 134 man-games to injury, including lengthy spells on the sideline for stars Jason Spezza (43 regular season and seven playoff games), Erik Karlsson (31 regular season games), Milan Michalek (25 regular season games) and Craig Anderson (18 regular season games).
Still, the Sens made the playoffs thanks to a team commitment to defend and stingy goaltending. While Ottawa routinely found it difficult to get pucks into the net - only scoring three or more goals a game 21 times - they only conceded three or more goals 14 times and limited the opposition to just a single goal or fewer 21 times.
Ottawa’s improbable playoff run even included a series victory as they dispatched the Habs in an emotionally charged five-game series, which featured a controversial hit by Eric Gryba on Montreal’s Lars Eller.
The Sens ran out of gas in the second round, even with the return of Spezza, when the team was eliminated in five games by the Penguins.
This Year: You might have heard that Daniel Alfredsson is no longer a Senator.
In the messiest divorce since Tiger and Elin, the former captain decided to sign with the Red Wings after 17 seasons in the nation’s capital. The move was made with a great deal of acrimony, as both Murray and owner Eugene Melnyk openly spoke of their displeasure with the handling of Alfredsson’s exit by both the player and his agent J.P. Barry.
From The Insider
Check out TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie's take on the Ottawa Senators.
To fill the void left by the face of the franchise, Murray made a massive splash in the trade market through the acquisition of four-time 30-goal scorer Bobby Ryan from Anaheim. The price for the talented 26-year-old was a hefty one, though, costing the Senators arguably their top prospect in Jakob Silfverberg, as well as 2011 first-rounder Stefan Noesen and a first in 2014.
Murray also entered the free agent market in procuring the services of a player from their provincial rivals. Clarke MacArthur heads to Kanata to join the Sens after three seasons with the Maple Leafs. The Sens hope that Ryan and MacArthur can inject some life into a flagging offence that was fourth-worst in the NHL.
With Sergei Gonchar headed to Dallas, Murray turned to a familiar face in Joe Corvo to bolster his blue line corps. Corvo spent two seasons in Ottawa and was a part of the team that went to the 2007 Stanley Cup Final.
The Long and the Short – How will a full 82-game slate affect the Senators' performance after a shortened season?
With their long-serving talisman in the Motor City, the Senators will need some of their veteran players to take over the mantle of team leader left by the Swede. If that leadership vacuum can be filled effectively and quickly, talk of Alfredsson and his less than ideal departure won’t hang around the club for any longer than it should.
While replacing Alfredsson’s leadership will be key, so will staying healthy. Since many of the Senators’ injuries last season were of the freakish variety, nothing can truly be done to take preventative measures in the future. But the club will be hoping that the spate of awful luck that befell them last year will have come and gone already.
On the Books – What off-season moves did the Sens make to get themselves back in cap shape?
With Jared Cowen signed, the Sens currently have just north of $8 million in cap space available but with various reports over the summer that owner Melnyk and the club are dealing with financial woes, it’s unlikely that any more salary will be brought on in the immediate future.
It’s in the coming seasons where money will need to be spent. Chris Phillips and Milan Michalek will be free agents next summer, while Conacher, Lehner, Gryba and O’Brien come to the end of their rookie deals.
The following summer, all of Spezza, Ryan and Anderson are unrestricted.
If there is truth to the whispers of financial problems, the way the Senators spend money over the next few years will be a fascinating story to watch.
Long Division – A look at the intriguing possibilities ahead for the Sens after realignment.
In realignment, the Sens retain their divisional foes in the Leafs, Canadiens, Sabres and Bruins and welcome the two Florida clubs. Of course, there is one other team in the new Atlantic Division and it just had to be Alfredsson’s Red Wings.
In the past few seasons, we’ve seen long-serving captains from Canadian teams move on in Mats Sundin’s exit from Toronto and Jarome Iginla leaving the Flames at last year’s trade deadline. Even though Sundin’s protracted departure from the Leafs created some enmity, it pales in comparison to the harsh words the Sens’ brass had over Alfredsson’s departure.
Still, never has there been a better-loved player since the Senators were resurrected in 1992.
Will all of the great memories that Alfie left the city with be enough to outweigh the way he exited from the Sens? Mark Sunday, Dec. 1 (on TSN) on your calendar – the day Alfredsson returns to Ottawa. It’s going to be a doozy.
Fantasy - Scott Cullen's Player to Watch
Patrick Wiercioch, D - With Sergei Gonchar moving on to Dallas, there is an opportunity on the Senators' blueline for someone to step into a bigger role and as one of the few capable puck-movers on the back end, Wiercioch could be the one to see a bump in minutes and responsibility.
As a rookie last season, Wiercioch scored 10 of his 19 points on the power play and he played fewer than 16 minutes per game. More time on the PP and a few more minutes per game could give him a shot at a nice offensive boost in his second NHL campaign.
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Pressing Question: Who fills Alfredsson’s void?
For the first time in 18 years, Daniel Alfredsson won’t be an Ottawa Senator. Who will step up in his absence to lead?
It’s the most pressing of several questions surrounding the club heading into 2013-14 and each of them surrounds potential 'next generation leaders.'
Sens fans will be eager to see how Bobby Ryan will respond to being under the microscope for the first time in his NHL career and whether young netminder Robin Lehner can push Craig Anderson in the net?
Spezza and Karlsson will be leaned on to shepherd the club out of the Alfredsson era and – as he has the past couple years – MacLean’s leadership behind the bench will be crucial.
Despite rampant injuries, the Sens managed to make the playoffs and even win a round. If any or all of these scenarios play out can they move on from the “Age of Alfie” and build on last year’s success?
- Ottawa Senators Preview by Mike Beauvais, TSN.ca