Monday, October 4, 2010

2010-2011 Ottawa Senators Preview

That "Other" Canadian team

Last Year's Results

44 wins, 32 losses, 6 OTL, 94 points, 11th overall in the league

Team Analysis

The Senators are a team that always seem to be a good middle of the pack playoff contender but lack the depth and identity to go deep in the post-season. The Senators have blended into the NHL landscape in recent years treading water. The question for the Senators this season will be can they find the right mix to make this a franchise defining season and go deep in the playoffs.

The Senators are led up front by former second overall pick Jason Spezza who's developed into one of the best playmaking centers in the game. Spezza has been one of the most consistent point producers since entering the league and absolutely tore up the pre-season with seven points in three games. Playing with Spezza to form one of the finest duos in the league is 37-year old Daniel Alfredsson who also wears the C for the Senators. Alfredsson is an uber-talented winger who plays the smooth Swedish two-way game while still putting up elite offensive numbers at his advanced age. A milestone is nearing for Alfredsson as he's entering the season at 992 career points and should reach the historical marker of 1,000 early this year. Milan Michalek was acquired in a controversial trade with San Jose last off-season and will likely compliment the first line. Michalek is a streaky skill player who's struggled with scoring consistency through his career and had a disappointing season last year. The 25-year old Czech scorer hasn't really found his place on the Senators and is entering the season coming off a torn ACL. Look for Michalek to bounce around the depth chart.

Anchoring the second line is gritty heart and soul player Mike Fisher who's developed into one of the best two-way centers in the game. While Fisher isn't a naturally talented offensive player, he makes up for this with hard work and tenacity. Fisher had a career year offensively last season and remains a player to watch. Playing with Fisher will be veteran Russian scorer Alex Kovalev who's probably the most enigmatic player in the league. Kovalev is the very model for the stereotypical Eastern European winger with a world class skill set but trouble translating his game to the NHL. Kovalev is another player returning from a torn ACL and at 37-years old one has to wonder what he has left in the tank. Likely bouncing between the top two lines will be 24-year old Peter Regin who's become something of a fan favorite in Ottawa. Regin has been in the Coach's doghouse with a lousy pre-season but has the skill to be a factor for the Senators' offense.

The hard-working former 28th overall Nick Foligno absolutely exploded this pre-season and looks to be capitalizing on an opportunity for top six minutes. Foligno has never been considered a premiere offensive talent but seems to be the most likely forward to break out bouncing between the top three lines in Ottawa. Agitating grinder Jarkko Ruutu is a misunderstood genius in the game of hockey. The 35-year old Fin is one of the most infuriating players to play against while displaying a gritty defensive game and a flair for the dramatic. Ruutu is another Senator close to reaching a milestone as he sits at 981 career penalty minutes and will likely eclipse 1,000 career pims early in the season. Role player Chris Kelly is the tool box player for the Senators. Kelly can play any forward position in any role while displaying a consistent two-way game and a surprising scoring touch.

Rounding out the forwards group is gritty pugilist Chris Neil who's one of the more skilled enforcers in the league. Hard working defensive center 22-year old Zack Smith will likely center the fourth line. Depth forward Ryan Shannon finally found a NHL home in Ottawa and will look to bounce around the depth chart playing both wings. Defensive minded Jesse Winchester will likely fill in as the thirteen forward.

Leading the Senators blue line will be recent UFA signee Sergei Gonchar who's consistently been one of the best offensive defensemen in his time in the league. The 36-year old Gonchar is beginning to slow with age but will once again be a top point producing blueliner this year. Gonchar was likely brought in to mentor former 15th overall pick Erik Karlson who's the most likely Senator to breakout. The 20-year old Karlson was impressive in his debut last year and remains one of the most encouraging young blueliners in the league. Karlson already owns a cannon of a shot (recent clocked at 104 m.p.h.) and seems to be poised for a huge offensive season this year.

Moving between Gonchar and Karlson as partners will be lifetime Senator Chris Phillips who's also a former first overall pick. Phillips never lived up to his draft hype but instead blossomed into one of the finest defensive defensemen in the league. Phillips will once again be counted upon to be the Senators shutdown defenseman. 33-year old Filip Kuba has always been one of the finest second tier defensemen in the league and will likely be a fixture on the Senators' second pairing. Kuba is a big bodied minutes eater with an excellent offensive acumen. Unfortunately Kuba broke his leg this pre-season and will likely miss the first month of the season.

Rounding out the defensive core will be surprise Chris Campoli who entered this pre-season playing out of his mind scoring eight points from the backend. Campoli will likely eat minutes on the bottom pairing while contributing his solid puck moving abilities on the second powerplay unit. Likely playing with Campoli is heavyweight pugilist Matt Carkner who exploded into the league with 24 fights last season. Carkner is adequate enough in the defensive zone to allow his main gift of punching people in the face to shine. Former ninth overall pick Brian Lee and depth defensive defenseman David Hale will likely fill in as the seventh and eighth defensemen.

The Senators have a controversy in net without a clear cut number one starter. The Senators will rely upon a 1A/1B system in the hopes that at any given time one of their goalies will be hot. Likely to get the bulk of starts will be former eighth overall pick Pascal Leclaire who hasn't been able to find consistency in the pro game. Leclaire is one of the streakiest goalies in the league and likely get 40 games this season. Competing with Leclaire is 25-year old Brian Elliot who did a respectable job in his 55 games for the Senators last season. Elliot lacks the talent to be a top starter in this league but has the consistency that will make him the Senators best option on most nights.

The Senators quietly have a balanced and hard working team. However the Senators have invested greatly in injury prone, older, and inconsistent players. The challenge for the Senators this season will be to find the right mix of chemistry and to coax strong performances out of it's veterans. Right now the Senators are a bubble playoff team. Look for them to come in somewhere between 15th-20th this year.

BVB's Projected Opening Night Lineup




Player Projections


Milan Michalek - 24 G/25 A 49 P
Jason Spezza - 22 G/59 A 71 P
Daniel Alfredsson - 29 G/41 A 70 P

Nick Foligno - 17 G/21 A 38 P
Mike Fisher - 26 G/30 A 56 P
Alex Kovalev - 19 G/38 A 57 P

Peter Regin - 13 G/23 A 36 P
Chris Kelly - 14 G/19 A 33 P
Ryan Shannon - 7 G/12 A 19 P

Jarkko Ruutu - 10 G/16 A 26 P
Zack Smith - 2 G/7 A 9 P
Chris Neil - 9 G/10 A 19 P


Chris Phillips - 7 G/19 A 26 P
Erik Karlson - 9 G/28 A 37 P
Sergei Gonchar - 14 G/39 A 53 P
Filip Kuba - 4 G/22 A 26 P
Chris Campoli - 2 G/19 A 21 P
Mart Carkner - 0 G/5 A 5 P
Brian Lee - 0 G/6 A 6 P


Brian Elliot - 26-25-5 | 2.71 GAA | .910 Sv%
Pascal Leclaire - 10-13-3 | 3.10 GAA | .897 Sv%

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