2008-09: 36-35-11 (11th in the East – Out of Playoffs)
TSN Pre-season Power Ranking: 24
General Manager: Bryan Murray (3rd Season)
Head Coach: Cory Clouston (2nd Season)
What They Did In The Off-season:
In the Senators' case, it might be more apt to call this, "What They Did Not Do In The Off-season," because everything surrounding the Sens revolves around the team's inability to trade disgruntled sniper Dany Heatley. While the team was able to sign the enigmatic Alex Kovalev and re-sign both Chris Neil and Brian Elliott, Ottawa will be unable to truly move forward until Heatley is shipped out of town.
GM Bryan Murray thought he found a suitor in the Edmonton Oilers, but Heatley scrapped the deal despite the Oilers' attempts to woo the two-time 50 goal scorer. Rumoured three-way deals involving the Sharks, Canadiens and Wild never materialized and Heatley will likely be forced to report to camp - run by Clouston, the very coach that Heatley publicly criticized. Should this transpire it will be a very interesting season in the nation's capital.
Biggest Issue Facing The Team:
Until the situation is resolved, the Heatley non-trade is going to hang over the team like a dark cloud. Even if he does show up at training camp, what type of mood will he be in? How will his teammates deal with a player who has acted as though his concerns are more important than those of the team? And perhaps most importantly, how will Clouston deal professionally with a player who has already undermined his authority and questioned his abilities as a head coach?
Make no mistake about it - the franchise realizes how valuable an asset that a perennial All-Star like Heatley is. That being said, you can excuse them for not panicking and making a move that will return them nickels-on-the dollar for their investment. While it's unlikely that they will be able to acquire a player as talented as Heatley, the team sees this as an opportunity to jump start the rebuilding process and wants to make sure they get it right.
The Senators do have one factor working in their favour - Heatley will likely be motivated to perform this season to ensure himself a spot on the Canadian Olympic team. "The Heater" has been one of Canada's top players at the International level for the last five years and saves some of his best performances for the world stage.
Competition for a spot on Canada's very exclusive roster will be fierce and Heatley cannot afford to miss any time or sulk through the first month. Otherwise, he'll be doing what so many others will come February – watch the Olympic hockey tournament from the comfort of his couch.
Player to watch:
The Senators made possibly their most important pick-up at the trade deadline last season when they brought in Pascal Leclaire with the hope that he would take over the No. 1 netminder's spot this season.
In a town that eats starting goaltenders alive, Leclaire is seen in some circles as a potential savior. It might be a lot to ask of a player who has a grand total of one season in the NHL as an unquestioned starter under his belt. Granted, in that one year (2007-08) Leclaire was excellent on a sub-par Blue Jackets team that saw him post All-Star type numbers that included nine shutouts, a 2.25 goals against average to go along with a .919 save percentage.
The problem is that Leclaire has a difficult time remaining healthy. Losing 48 man-games to an ankle injury last season is one thing, but Leclaire is constantly harassed by smaller, niggling injuries that sideline him just long enough to make consistency a real issue. If the Sens are to be without Heatley's scoring punch, they will be more dependent than ever on goaltending to keep them in games. A lack of consistency in this department will doom them to another disappointing season, something that fans in Ottawa can certainly do without.
Scott Cullen's Fantasy Take:
Uncertainty is the order of the day when it comes to evaluating the Ottawa Senators' fantasy prospects for 2009-2010, but as long as Dany Heatley is part of the team, the Sens should be relatively appealing.
While last year's 39-goal, 72-point season (to say nothing of his minus-11 rating) represented Heatley's lowest level of production in four seasons with Ottawa, there are only two other players -- Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk -- who have more than Heatley's 180 goals over the last four seasons. Given his dissatisfaction with the franchise, there is an obvious element of risk in taking Heatley, but it's difficult to fathom him being completely unproductive.