Ottawa - Oct. 6, 2011 - The Ottawa Senators begin their 20th season of the modern ear tomorrow night in Detroit against the Red Wings in the first of back to back games which continues Saturday night in Toronto. The Senators are in the midst of a youth movement and patience by the team, media and fan base are what’s needed.
Players playing hockey in a Canadian market are heavily scrutinized by both the press and the fan base. Even being in a smaller Canadian market there is more pressure than playing in the U.S. In order for a team to satisfy its fan base, the team must either sell winning or sell hope. Fans either want to see the team winning or want to see that the team is moving in the right direction and improving. In the Senators case they are selling hope. Last year they sold neither.
The Senators have went the route of the youth movement trading some of their more experienced, high salary players for some young prospects and draft picks, while allowing the likes of Bobby Butler and Zack Smith and others the opportunity to play in the NHL. The move seemed to have paid some dividends last season as the Senators went 15-10-0-2 over their last 27 games. Once the Senators season ended many of the players who got NHL experience were sent down to Binghamton for the playoffs and led the farm team to the Calder Cup trophy.
The Senators now have a stock of good young talent which will slowly move its way into the main roster over the next 2-3 years. On defense, Jared Cowen (6-5, 226) will be the cornerstone of the defence for years to come. Both David Rundblad and Patrick Wiercioch are almost ready to play in the NHL, with Rundblad getting his chance this year because of the injury to Matt Carkner. The Senators already have Erik Karlsson who is just 21 and has plenty of upside and Brian Lee who was the Senators most improved defensemen last year.
Up front Mika Zibanejad will get a nine game tryout this year. There is a huge upside to Zibanejad and he should be an excellent professional hockey player once he develops. Nikita Filitov may also be a steal for the Senators and at 21, still has a strong upside according to most scouts. So the cupboard is stacked. The Senators just need some time to grow and patience will be the key for this season and the next.
So how do the Senators win games this year? Well, there really is only one blueprint the Senators can follow to win games this year. First, the Senators need sound goaltending. Success in the NHL often starts from the goal line out and the Senators are no exception. Craig Anderson will have to play like he did last year for the Senators (11-5-1 GAA 2.05, 2SO) and will need to steal some games.
Secondly, the defence will have to be solid and eliminate or at least limit the great scoring chances they gave up too many times last year. Both Philip Kuba and Sergei Gonchar will have to show an improvement over their poor play.
Thirdly, the Senators will have to out work teams by installing a lunch bucket effort and attitude. Short on talent the Senators need to outwork their opposition and employ a hard forechecking style. They need to make teams work for their victories.
Finally, the Senators will have to take advantage of the chances that they get. The Senators finished 29th in league scoring last season. So goals may be hard to come by meaning that the Senators need to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them.
Most hockey experts have the Senators finishing somewhere around 14th-15th place in the Eastern Conference which is at the bottom. My personal thought is that the Senators will do much better than that. Craig Anderson is a solid NHL goaltender and he should steal a few games for the Senators. If the Senators get the goaltending they expect and if they can play a sound defensive style, then they‘ll have a much better season than people think. Will they make the playoffs? My answer is NO; however they are headed in the right direction. Patience is what is needed by Senators fans.
Thanks to everyone who posted comments last week in relation to my article.
Here is the best response which I thought I’d answer this time:
“I don’t think the Senators stand much of a chance of winning this year, although they are headed in the right direction.”- Gordon Campbell
Thanks for the comments. Remember if you’d like to make a comment and possibly end up in this article e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org