Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Ottawa Senators are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Senators!
2009-10: 44-32-6 (5th in East, Eliminated in conference QF by Penguins)
General Manager: Bryan Murray (4th Season)
Head Coach: Cory Clouston (3rd Season)
What they did in the off-season:
The Sens got the ball rolling this off-season by cutting ties with former Rocket Richard Trophy winner Jonathan Cheechoo, placing the veteran on waivers then buying out the final two years on his contract. At the Draft, Ottawa shocked many by trading their first round pick for Swedish defence prospect David Runblad. The Senators then made a big splash in the free agent pool by signing veteran blue-liner Sergei Gonchar to a three-year, $16.5 million deal. What they gained in offense from the back end, they lost in defensive responsibility as shutdown defenders Anton Volchenkov and Andy Sutton were allowed to walk in free agency. Matt Cullen also left for greener pastures in Minnesota while the Sens locked up youngsters Jesse Winchester, Nick Foligno, Peter Regin and Chris Campoli. David Hale was also added for some insurance on the blue line. There was also plenty of rejoicing in the Capital region this summer as Mike Fisher tied the knot with country singing sensation Carrie Underwood in a much publicized wedding. The Sens closed out their summer with more good news when they learned that the city of Ottawa would be playing host to the 2012 NHL All-Star game.
Biggest issue facing the team:
The addition of Gonchar as well as the continued maturity of sophomore Erik Karlsson means that the Sens have as much offensive punch from their back end as they have had at any point in franchise history. That being said the loss of shot-blockers Volchenkov and Sutton will certainly be felt by Senators netminders Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott. While the team has a history of being responsible defensively, Chris Phillips will be under a great deal of pressure to lead the once formidable defence corps into the future. Not helping matters is that perennially injured blueliner Filip Kuba suffered a broken leg on the first day of training camp and will be out for up to six weeks. That will put even more pressure on younger players to fill his spot on the team. It should be a battle between Brian Lee and possibly Jared Cowen or Patrick Weircioch to see who gets Kuba's minutes. If the team struggles in their own end in the early going then it will be interesting to see how the goaltending tandem responds. It appears that Sens' brass still believe in Leclaire and will give him every chance to succeed, however he will need to stay healthy and put forth a consistent effort every night.
Speaking of health, it has to be a major concern that veterans Daniel Alfredsson, Alex Kovalev, Milan Michalek and Kuba have all undergone major surgical procedures over the past six months. The Sens need a fully healthy lineup if they hope to compete for the playoffs this season.
Player to watch:
Tired of being the fans' whipping boy, Jason Spezza made headlines this summer by going public with his general unhappiness. While he never directly demanded a trade, Spezza's name was floated throughout the summer in plenty of trade speculation. Although Spezza says that he remains happy in Ottawa, it is not yet known how fans in the Nation's Capital will react to the 27-year old who is coming off a sub-par by his elite standards season that saw him miss 20 games with an MCL injury. Spezza will need to get out of the gate quickly to get the supporters back on his side. Should he get off to a slow start then look for trade speculation to heat up once again.