Sens Seek Quick Turnaround

The Dany Heatley era has come to an end for the Ottawa Senators and it could not come soon enough for the franchise.

It was a trying summer for the team and GM Bryan Murray as they had to deal with a player who made it clear he wanted out. But wanting out was not the problem. It was the reasons for it, the lack of ice time, the lack of importance on the team, that were most bothersome to the Sens.


It was an unfair judgement of the team and the coaching staff and getting rid of a me-first player could pay huge dividends despite the lost production and goal scoring he provided.

One of the biggest problems in Ottawa has been the culture around the team. They’ve been relatively successful for the last 12 years and what came of it is an arrogant attitude that had no merit since they have never won anything. Heatley is the prime example of that and his removal may do more good than harm to that dressing room.

With 4 coaches in 2 years, a shift in the GM post, goalie controversies and other significant departures due to cap considerations, this was the last thing they needed. Sure, they may have not gotten maximum value for Heatley but hopefully they will be a better “team”.

Of course much will hinge on their goaltending, their new players delivering after and off-year and some newfound stability behind the bench.

Coaching

Cory Clouston has not even coached a full season yet he is already under the gun. Branded a star killer with the Heatley fiasco, he also has to be weary of the fact the team has fired their coach in each of the last two years.

The team did show some improvement when he came in and there is hope that the success carries over. He will have more depth to work with as the team struggled to find support scoring beyond their big line.

Clouston got his team to attack more than Hartsburg and that seemed to suit the talented they had much better. He’ll have lots of offensive talent to work with like Alfredsson, Spezza and Kovalev and the team might be back to being one of the upper echelon offensive teams. They were suprisingly 8th worst offensively last year.

Goaltending has done in the two coaches fired the last two years. That may unfortunately do Clouston in again if he doesnt get any.

Lineup:
C: Spezza, Fisher, Kelly,
RW: Alfredsson, Kovalev, Cheechoo, Neil, Donovan, Shannon
LW: Michalek, Foligno, Ruutu, Winchester
D: Campoli, Kuba, Lee, Phillips, Volchenkov, Picard, Schubert
G: Leclaire

Forward

Despite no Heatley, there is still plenty of skill around.

Alfredsson and Spezza will once again be the stars of the team and need to pick things up after a rather bland season by their standards. Alfie the captain is a terrific player but has not led them anywhere of substance. Here, he simply needs to try and lead them back to the playoffs. He is not getting any younger and he has been injury prone the last few years. The team will lean on his again this year but how much longer can they?

Spezza was the fan’s favorite person to blame until the Heatley situation came about. It will be interesting to see how he fares without his buddy around. He can put up big numbers and everyone is hoping that Spezza is all grown up and can raise his game to the next level.

Newcomers Kovalev, Michalek and Cheechoo provide solid depth. Cheechoo was a former 50 goal scorer and while he may not reach that level again, certainly close to 30 goals is not outrageous. He brings a different look in that he is willing to go into traffic to score. Michalek is a very quick, highly skilled forward who may benefit being one of the top 2-3 forwards on the team rather than 5-6th best as he was in San Jose. More responsibility hopefully = more production.

Kovalev is the enigma. He probably has the best hands in the game. Problem is how fast will the fans turn on him when he takes his usual few nights off during the week. He is a motivated player however after being dismissed by the Habs, the team he wanted to play for.

There are some good role players in Ottawa such as Fisher, Kelly, Ruutu and Neil. Fisher will be asked to produce more offence and in the system, he might. Neil is back after almost leaving via free agency and gives them sandpaper. Kelly is hoping to provide some more support scoring after a couple of down years.

The team hopes that the depth will help a player like Foligno who didnt really produce as much, but didnt have the players to help him either.

After going with a one line attack for the better part of a couple of years, the team should have the kind of depth they need to at least challenge for one of the final few playoff spots.

Defence

The blueline is an unspectacular group that has a strong shutdown pair in Phillips and Volchenkov, a couple of offensive talents in Kuba and Campoli plus a fresh faced rookie whom the team hopes will be their best blueliner for years to come.

Phillips and Volchenkov are key to helping the team improve defensively. They were not as strong as in previous years but Volchenkov was still sacrificing himself with blocking shots. He is one of the best in the league at that.

Kuba had 40 points to lead the blueline but had just 14 at even strength. That is where Campoli come in as he is better suited to moving the puck and joining the rush with his solid skating ability. Lee as well as Picard are a couple of other younger blueliners the team is hoping will make some improvements to their game.

The key may be Karlsson. He is the type of player they are looking for and need from the backend. He has terrific offensive potential and loads of skill. He was named the best defenceman at the WJC. It is definitely too much to ask for him to lead the way already but he should at least be of some help in the transiton game.

Goal

As Leclaire goes, so go the Sens. The team paid a high price to get this oft-injured netminder and are hoping he can regain the form showed 2 years ago where he was one of the NHL’s shutout leaders.

The talent is obviuosly there. He wasnt a top 10 pick for nothing. The problem has been his durability and they need him to be healthy to finally give the team the dominant goalie they’ve actually never had in their history.

Its not that desolete if he does not succeed as the team will have young Elliott as backup. He fared well when the team gave up on Martin Gerber and was basically the number 1 man for the last half of the season.

Special Teams

The Sens on special teams were not terrible, but not great either.

With the talent they have they should be able to put together a decent PP. With both Aflie and Kovalev they have a couple of players who can both create for themselves and for others. With Spezza they have an elite passer and with Kuba, they have a big shot from the point. Its all about how well they can gel as a unit. Kovalev up high will give a different look as a scorer with Alfredsson excelling down low.

They have some solid players for the PK, but its all up to Leclaire. Inconsistent goaltending at times did the Sens in, especially giving up untimely PP goals. Leclaire, when healthy, can be a real difference maker.

Fisher is a top penalty killer and faceoff man and should again be on the lead unit for Ottawa. Kelly, Donovan and Ruutu along with the duo of Phillips and Volchenkov give the Sens plenty of options. Even Alfredsson will kill penalties giving them a player opponents will need to be weary of as he would be dangerous shorthanded.

Depth
F: Hamel, Hennessy, Weller, Bass, St Pierre, Keller, Yablonski
D: Smith, Carkner, Kudelka, Kinrade, Bannister
G: Brodeur

What’s Left
Payroll: 54.4
UFA: Isbister, Glass
RFA:

Draft Picks

R1/9 J. Cowen (D)
R2/39 J. Silfverberg (W)
R2/46 R. Lehner (G)
R4/100 C. Wideman (D)
R
5/130 M. Hoffman (C)
R5/146 J. Costello (LW)
R6/160 C. Cowick (LW)
R7/190 B. Peltz (LW)
R7/191 M. Sdao (D )

After landing Karlsson in 08, they solidified their D even further with the selection of Cowen. A projected top 5 pick to start the year, Cowen slipped but only due to missing half the year to injury. His combination of size and mobility to go with an excellent all around game could make him a relative steal at 9th overall. Him and Karlsson could be the big duo on D that could lead the team for a decade. He would be the tough, stay-at-home type of the 2 but does have a bit of offensive potential. The Sens love his potential leadership capability and his extensive CHL playoff experience.

Top Prospects:
F: Jim O’Brien, Alexander Nikulin, Ilya Zubov, Peter Regin, Colin Greening, Zack Smith
D: Kaspars Daugavins, Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch, Mattias Karlsson
G: Brian Elliott

Their 2 top prospects in Elliott and Karlsson could play big roles with the squad. The Sens are slowly, but surely creeping back to building up a good cupboard of prospects after a few duds, some trades and some weak drafts. Karlsson may one day be their best player.

With Spezza, Foligno, Michalek, Karlsson, Cowen, Elliott, Leclaire, there is some good young talent around, something that was missing the last couple of years. With some fresh, young faces, hopefully thats the tonic that gets them out of this rut.

Outlook: The Sens have enough talent to be hovering in that battle for one of the last few playoff spots in the East. There may be as many as 6 or 7 teams in the hunt and so there is not much room for error. Clouston has to prove he can be a long term coach for the team. The Sens desperately need the stability. If they get goaltending, that will help as well as its been a sore spot the last couple of years. The old guard still around has much to prove as they’ve been the “leaders” leading Ottawa to failure last year. But the focus will be on the newcomers as they too have something to prove and their contributions will go a long way to helping the Sens get back to the playoffs. They’ve gotten rid of the big distraction. Now, there’s no excuse to not deliver.


3 Responses to Sens Seek Quick Turnaround

  1. sensnation says:

    Not bad for an overall outlook but I would disagree with you that the Senators paid a high price for Leclaire.

    They traded Antoine Vermette, who while a good player, will never be more then a second line player.

    In return they get Pascal Leclaire, who albeit injury-prone, is the most talented goaltender this franchise has ever had, and they got a second round pick.

    Considering the market at last year's trade deadline, with the likes of Antropov and Moore (Who had 41 points in 63 games versus Vermette's 28 in 62) getting dealt for nothing more then a couple of second round draft picks, the Leclaire deal was a steal for the Sens.

  2. cam7777 says:

    I only watched one Senators pre-season game, but from what I saw, the team looked a lot livier; the work ethic in that city has definitely changed under Cory Clouston.  Leclaire was also fantastic in net.

    I don't think the Sens paid a price at all to get Leclaire from Columbus.  Vermette put up only 41 points last year, and was espeically brutal in Ottawa.  Stempniak was better in every facet of his game, but he gets crapped on consistently for his meagre 44 point season – and his cap hit is less!  What's shocking is that they got a top-end goalie, and a middle of the pack 2nd round pick for a guy who wasn't doing squat and made almost 3 million dollars.

    Comparitively, the Leafs got only a low 2nd, and a 4th for Antropov, who potted 28 goals, and was sound all around last year, and ultimately ended up being the Rangers best offensive player.  And he was making only 2.05 million.  That deal was an absolute steal for Murray, who was clever enough to market Vermette to a low-budget team that needed to clear a substantial, and somewhat unncecessary salary.

    The problem with the Sens this year though?  Well, Karlsson is still young, and he and Campoli are still going to make a number of mistakes if they are being counted on to bring the offense from the back-end.  Of course, Kuba will soften this blow for them, but he isn't exactly an elite, error-free player himself.  So the defense still needs work, and up-front, the forwards still lack heart.

    They need Spezza to really take control of this team.  They need him to be Michalek's Joe Thornton if they expect his production to stay in the leageu's upper echelons.  Luckily, Fisher looks poised to grab a huge chunk of the team's leadership responsibilites.  He is going to have a comeback season playing with wing with Regin at center and Kovalev opposite him.  Cheechoo needs to find a way to make Foligno and Shannon consistent threats.

    As an organization, the team needs to find a way to dump Kelly, Ruutu, Schubert, Donovan, Picard, and possibly Lee.

  3. muckies says:

    If Leclaire plays a full season up to his ability, the Sens won the trade hands down, landlside. The Sens got dominated n the Heatley tarde, not only having Cheechoo's salary next season, but Cheech on the 3rd line and Kovalev on the 2nd makes 2 weakness points for the Sens outside of the offensive zone. Kovalaev is a first class floater when it comes to back checking, and even thugh e wants to back check and join the rush in the neutral zone, Cheechoo is to slow. I say by game 20 cheechoo is a 4th liner, next season maybe a buy out.

     1. Clouston is a bit of a Mike Keenan, quick results but not every well liked by his former players or managers really. But he gets results, but watch out for that he could burn out his team if they fall out of the race or players like Kovalev go squirly.
    2. Sens do have a funky dressing room, and thta probbaly won;t change. But they are less close then before with al the changes, and thta might be a good thing. They are more chracter driven team now instead of talent and it should gve the team guidance if they hit a rough patch. They won't doubt their talent and lose their confidence like thye did last season, they'll just keep fighting on.
    They are  a  playoff team, but will never run away with games. Close games and the team will gte better as the season gets along as guys like Leclaire, Karlsson, Winchester, Foligon, Spezza and Shannon start t grow into the players they can be.
    Good artcile Nords, but note that Nikulin is a Coyote, M. Karlsson quit the team and Daugavins is a forward with a serious drinking problem. 

Leave a Reply