The Ottawa Senators lost two-thirds of its top line when Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky departed in the summer. But this team is still capable of surprising and overachieving. Still, it would seem everything would need to go right in order for that to happen, so THN predicts Ottawa to finish seventh in the Atlantic Division.
2013-14 record: 37-31-14
Acquisitions: David Legwand, Alex Chiasson, Nicholas Paul, Carter Camper, Aaron Johnson
Departures: Ales Hemsky, Jason Spezza
Top five fantasy players: Erik Karlsson, Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris, Clarke MacArthur, Milan Michalek
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: There was a time when the Senators had a handful of point-per-game producers and a team goal differential in the triple digits. These are not those Senators. This version of the Sens is a hard-working group that wills and overachieves its way to success. If you’re looking for The Little Engine That Could, these are your guys. With a collection of good-but-not-great forwards, the Sens’ collective firepower will be challenged, but could quietly surprise.
And from the net out, things don’t look too bad. The Senators have managed to get both Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner under long-term contract extensions, which gives them some stability and security in goal. Lehner is ready to push for the No. 1 job in Ottawa, but Anderson will be eager to re-establish himself as the top man and competition in the net isn’t usually a bad thing.
Led by the prolific Erik Karlsson, who singlehandedly elevates the offensive fortunes of the team, the defense corps has high-end offensive talent and reasonable depth.
Bust: A team that wasn’t nearly good enough to make the playoffs lost two-thirds of its top line when Jason Spezza was granted his trade request and Ales Hemsky joined Spezza in Dallas as a free agent. The Senators will be on their third captain in three years and there are grumblings about how coach Paul MacLean has handled his charges.
With Spezza gone, so is his point-per-game offense. Stepping in to the void is Kyle Turris, who had a stellar 2013-14, but can he duplicate it going against the top centers in the league? Mika Zibanejad and David Legwand will compete for the No. 2 center role. Unless Zibanejad takes a sudden leap forward, neither player is suited to the job.
If the Sens experience success, they’ll have to improve their putrid defensive play and goaltending. Only three teams were worse defensively last season. At times, it looked as though they were clueless in their own end and a sag in Anderson’s play didn’t help.
Bottom Line: There is enormous pressure on the Senators to improve and be a playoff contender. Because ownership has come up with a case of the shorts, it’s being done on a budget and it’s important to note the Senators are the only Canadian team whose attendance figures are dependent on the quality of the on-ice product. Without much firepower, there are simply too many deficiencies on this team to consider it a post-season contender.
Prospect To Watch: Curtis Lazar, the 17th overall pick from the 2013 draft, will be at Ottawa’s rookie camp in London a week from now where he’ll start his quest to crack the NHL roster. Lazar, a 6-foot, 200-pound sniper, scored 41 goals and 76 points in 58 games last season for the Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings. His natural scoring ability won’t make up for the heavy losses of Spezza and Hemsky, but it would add some needed pop to the roster.
THN’s Prediction for 2014-15: Seventh in Atlantic Division
Contributors: Ken Campbell, Rory Boylen