Sensational at the Draft

The Ottawa Senators have gone a significantly different route than their provincial rivals. It wasnt as much by choice as it was by necessity. Small Market franchises have had to live and die by the draft as it was the biggest channel to acquire talented players. It was impossible for a team, that neared bankruptcy to go out an spend spend spend. the team had to draft well, nurture it’s talent and build within. The Sens have done that the last 10 years or at least after Randy Sexton left. This year the team hopes to bask in the fruits of their labour by winning the Stanley Cup.Free Agents

The Sens have shied away from free agency but this season it brought the team 2 key ingredients towards their cup run. The Sens like other small markets have to spend wisely if they are going to dip into free agency as a team and market like theirs cannot afford to be saddled with any albatross contracts. They also need the funds to keep their own players signed.

Brian McGrattan – Unheralded free agent signing that has given the team the tough presence it has always lacked.

Dominik Hasek – Been one of the league’s top netminders. If he goes, so go the Sens. He was an absolute bargain signing at 1.5 million.

Trade:

The Sens have drafted well, but have done an excellent job acquiring young talent via trade. It has allowed them to incorporate these players into their nucleus that they hope to keep together for years. John Muckler has been a bit more agressive than his predacessors in his effort to find the right mix to overcome their complacent playoff performances.

Zdeno Chara – Big Chara was acquired in one of the biggest heists of a trade in the last few seasons. Yashin is a top talent but to get Chara AND Spezza for him was huge. Chara has proven to be one of the league’s top 5 blueliners combining physical defence with solid offence.

Wade Redden – There isnt really anything fancy to Redden’s game. He just puts the points on the board and plays solid defence. He is a steady consistent performer. It turned out to be a great trade to acquire a player who actually wanted to be there and get rid of one who didnt (Berard).

Dany Heatley – In terms of talent, the deal of Heatley for Hossa is relatively even. But Heatley has made a great impact in Ottawa. The deciding factor on who will win this deal in the end will come during the playoffs. Hossa was often invisible and simply put, Heatley has to deliver then. His great stats in the regular season mean nothing if he doesnt. Hossa gave Ottawa the same kind of scoring in the regular year. it’s the second season that counts for the Sens.

Peter Schaefer – You could say his acquisition for Sami Salo worked out for both teams as the Sens needed LW depth. Pretty solid two-way player who really needs to shoot the puck more.

Brian Smolinski – Hinesight is 20/20 but this was a bad deal for Ottawa. He was supposedly acquired to help them in the playoffs. But he was yet another soft player who disappeared when it mattered most. And he’s pretty consistent in that regard. To give up a top youngster like Tim Gleason was I think a bit much. They could have done better.

Vaclav Varada – you can look at Varada 2 ways. The Sens either gave away a top prospect for him, or he was acquired for someone who went to 3 teams before playing an NHL game.

Brian Pothier – originally acquired for MacEachern as a cost cutting move, Pothier has turned into a decent 3rd pair blueliner.

Draft:

The Sens are one of the best when it comes to the draft. Whether it be in the first round or the middle rounds they seem to find their guy. Sure, the team initially had the first pick 4 times in their first 5 years of existence but lately have found gems in the late first round and have stocked themselves plenty with solid prospects. It not only has allowed them to field a relatively young team as of late, but also has allowed them to use some of those assets in trades for late season help.

Daniel Alfredsson – how many superlatives can i use to describe Alfie. 133rd pick in ’94 was the ultimate steal. gone is the krusty the klown hair and the flapping gums and here is a man very serious on winning the cup. A very different player this year and it shows on the ice. sure the points are somewhat the same, but he seems to be having a bigger impact now than ever before.

Mike Fisher – finally healthy and productive this year. brings many elements to the team. good faceoff guy, fast, can score, hit, play smart defence.

Chris Phillips – only 1st overall pick left in Ottawa is a rock on D and a real warrior.

Jason Spezza - part 2 of the Yashin trade is already better than Alexei. He’ll win the Art Ross one day.

Chris Kelly – 94th pick in 1999 has turned into a solid role forward and PK guy.

Antoine Vermette – speedster who is being broken in slowly by Ottawa. scoring star in junior.

Andrei Mezsaros – huge surprise this season as he is still very young. getting better every shift. looking like another late 1st round steal for Ottawa.

Anton Volchenkov – hard hitting take no prisoners defenceman add plenty of jam to the Sens.

Ray Emery – up and down goalie who has shown glimpses of his talent in net, but also shown his inconsistency. not trustworthy yet to carry full load.

Martin Havlat – ultra speedy and talented. But often injured, undisciplined and invisible come playoff time. Was a steal at 26th overall and is currently missed as he was the Sens 2nd line.

Chris Neil – 4th line tough guy at first has improved his talents and become a reliable 3rd liner.

Christoph Schubert – mid round pick has turned into a very versatile player for Ottawa

Top Prospects

On the Farm:

Patrick Eaves – the human yo-yo been up and down from Ottawa several times. Provided the Sens with the speed and offence lost with the Havlat injury.

Phil Novak - Very good offensive dman who is averaging almost a point a game on the farm.

Kelly Guard – Won the starting job in Binghamton.

Brandon Bochenski – Hasnt looked out of place in the NHL. Going to have to play more consistent at both ends if he wants to stick.

Tomas Malec – decent skilled blueliner around for depth only.

Around the World

Brian Lee – One of the few on team USA who met expectations at the WJC. pretty solid for a freshman.

Kyrill Lyamin – was a leader and best blueliner on the silver medal Russian team at the WJC.

Alex Kaigorodov - productive player in the Russian League who may not bother to come overseas.

Ilya Zubov - displayed some sick skills at the WJC. could be eventually a 4th round steal.

Igor Mirnov - skilled forward who probably will stay in Europe.

A few years of hard work may finally pay off this spring with a Stanley Cup for the Sens. It will be a difficult road, but this squad this year seems to have most of the ingredients to get the job done. They can thank a very astute scouting staff and management for putting together a plan to ac*****ulate young assets and nurture them with an idea of getting something good out of the fruits of their labour. We are seeing that this year with a solid mix of young veterans and raw rookies. The Sens have been good at this for a while, however it is all for not if there is no Stanley Cup when it is all said and done. Though the team is still young, the window of opportunity may not be as large as some think. All teams need to have a sense of urgency when it comes to winning and that can really be felt this year in the nations capital. The management and the staff have done a great job to date. It is now up to the players to finally deliver.