Welcome back to Puck Drop: NHL Preview 2013-14, where our hockey department gives you a detailed look at each team from around the NHL leading to the start of his hockey season. Check back often as new teams are added to our Puck Drop page. Today we take a look at the 2013-14 Ottawa Senators.
Here’s how it is. The Ottawa Senators weathered the worst string of injuries of any team in the National Hockey League last season. They lost their big three, not for one or two games, but for huge lengths of time. The big three I speak of? Goaltender Craig Anderson, super stud defenseman Erik Karlsson, and silky scoring machine Jason Spezza. They were replaced by guys that no one outside of Ottawa had ever heard of. While some players like Mika Zibanejad, had the pedigree of a high draft pick, others like Colin Greening and Zach Smith were called upon to take the mantle of this thinned out roster of non-houshold names, coached by Paul MacLean.
These unlikely heroes took their club back to the playoffs, and in an unlikely outcome, upset the mighty Montreal Canadiens. The series was not without drama, some of which is outlined here. As high as the Sens were coming out of that series , these Senators were no match for the Penguins, and their fearless leader Daniel Alfredsson even openly admitted it. Even the unlikely return of Karlsson couldn’t prevent the outcome that knocked the Sens into the offseason.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or in a place without internet, TV, or other access to hockey media, you already know what I’m about to say. After spending his entire career on the Ottawa Senators, longtime captain and leader Daniel Alfredsson left the Canadian capitol and signed a contract with the Detroit Red Wings. Despite the outcry of public grief that even deafened the sound of tears from Newark, NJ, in reference to Ilya Kovalchuk’s departure, Alfredsson’s exit leaves Ottawa in a better place than most probably can see on the surface. Then, out of the blue, Anaheim traded Bobby Ryan to the Sens for Jakob Silvferberg and Stefan Noesen. By no means has Ryan been brought in to replace Alfredsson, however it bolsters the offense of a squad that has been known for its stifling defense and deep goaltending.
The Sens also lost their top scoring defenceman from last season as they were unable to reach a deal with Sergei Gonchar. However, rather than watch the defender leave with no return as an unrestricted free agent, the Senators were able to turn Gonchar into a late round draft pick in a trade with the Dallas Stars.
Other moves of note: Joe Corvo, after ripping the media in the Ottawa area, returned unexpectedly to the Senators on a one year contract. Clarke MacArthur, who scored 20 goals in his last two full seasons, was stolen away from the rival Maple Leafs, also to bring some offense to the Senators game. All in all, it can be said that the Senators did extremely well this offseason.
What to Watch
This could also be called the “Life Without Alfie” section. Here’s truth. It was either going to be a trade for Ryan or signing Alfie. Bobby Ryan is 26, and Alfredsson is 41. Ryan hasn’t even hit the peak of his career, and Alfie, as talented and legendary as he is, is at the end of his career. He has maybe one more season in him before he retires as one of the classiest players in NHL history and an easy choice for a first ballot hall of famer. Ryan is their future. Alfie’s departure is their past. It should be interesting to see what happens when the legendary Swede returns to
Soctia Bank… I mean, Canadian Tire Centre in December.
Also, remember that this team handily dispatched a Montreal Canadiens team that many thought would go much further than they actually did. That was done without some of their most important players. We have yet to see what this team can really do when it has all pistons firing. Anderson is a top flight goalie and will be looking to prove that he can take the mantle of netminding for the US national team in Sochi. Spezza will be returning with a fire in his belly to prove that he can help carry a team without living in Alfie’s shadow. Spezza, by the way, has recently been named the Sens’ captain, the heir to the Ottawa hockey throne vacated by his longtime team mate.
It will be interesting to see if a line of Milan Michalek, Spezza, and Ryan can find chemistry. If they do, they have the talent to be almost as good as the famous “Pizza line” of Spezza, Alfredsson, and Dany Heatley that the Senators had about five years ago. A real top notch offensive line would make the Senators incredibly feared around the league.
Erik Karlsson also will have something to prove, since this potentially will be his first full season after winning the Norris Trophy in 2012. Karlsson came back exceptionally quickly from a torn achilles that many thought ended the star defenders’ season. He came back for a couple of late season games, and the playoffs, and while he was a boost to the Senators; he also was clearly playing at less than 100%. A return to his Norris winning form is vital to the success of the Senators in this new season.
Another storyline to watch will be what defenceman lands beside Karlsson on the Senators first unit powerplay. The competition appears to be between a girzzled vet in Corvo, and young second year NHLer Patrick Weircoch. The youngster, Weircoch, was good in his first full season in the NHL last year, and the Sens will surely want to see him step forward; however general manager Bryan Murray has made a contingency play just incase a sophmore slump hits.
Who to Watch
There is tons of meat here to make the Senators a compelling storyline, in general. But, if there is one player that everyone will want to watch it will be Bobby Ryan. In Ryan’s first five seasons in the NHL, he has netted over 30 goals in four out of five. Ryan was the odd man out in the cap lottery that became the Ducks last season. There was only so much Anaheim was going to be able to swing, and Bob Murray got the best deal he could for the talented winger. The Ducks loss is definitely the Sens gain, and you can look for Ryan to tear it up in his new division and new jersey.
This season finds the Sens right back in the same role that they’ve played so very well the last two seasons. The are the epitome of the underdog, cornered and angry enough to bite. Look for the Senators to make the playoffs as a wild card, and spoil some big games for the giants in their division.
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Main photo credit: bridgetds via photopin cc