The Senators had their fewest points last year since 1996 — their fourth year in the league. Sadly, it looks like the record could be short standing this time because it is not hard to imagine this team being even worse than last year.
This team was built through the draft and came as close to the pinnacle as losing the finals in 2007 to Anaheim. The window has slammed shut in recent years, though, as they failed to keep their talent on board, and they didn’t restock the cupboards effectively. The atmosphere around the team seems stale at best, and perhaps even toxic. It’s hard to be terribly optimistic — at least in the short term.
Ottawa Senators Offseason Moves
Senators management has either given up hope or they like their team more than I do. For a team that struggled like they did last year, they did surprisingly little in the offseason.
The most notable additions were two very talented but grossly underachieving forwards. Zenon Konopka is a guy who just can’t mentally handle playing at the highest level. In the AHL he has been very effective -- 269 points in 350 games. That offensive competence totally disappears totally disappears in the NHL, though — he has managed just 22 points in 195 career games. If a coach — or maybe a shrink — could ever get through to him he would be very valuable at a bargain price.
Nikita Filatov is even more of an enigma. He was the sixth overall pick in 2008 and has tremendous natural talent. His time in Columbus was a total disaster, though — so bad that they were willing to trade him away for a third rounder after just three years and 44 NHL games. He’s obviously brilliantly talented, but so disinterested in playing intensely that it’s almost as if he is mentally incompetent. Again, high upside, but a very low chance of success.
2011-12 Ottawa Senators NHL Outlook
There is undeniably talent on this team. Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, and Sergei Gonchar have all been truly elite players at times. They certainly didn’t show it last year, though. All three were hit hard by injuries, and Alfredsson and Gonchar in particular were just a shadow of their former selves. All three need to be much better this year to get this team back on track. Alfredsson is 38 and Gonchar is 37, so there is no guarantee that they will be able to bounce back.
Goaltender is a position of concern this year. After acquiring him late last year from Colorado, the team will be relying heavily on Craig Anderson. Two seasons ago Anderson was brilliant for the Avs, playing 71 games and saving the team many times. While it was a great year he certainly couldn’t carry it forward. Last year with Colorado he just wasn’t very good at all. He was much better with Ottawa, but consistency is an issue with the guy, and I don’t trust him.
David Rundblad is a very interesting guy to keep an eye on. The 20-year-old defenseman, drafted 17th overall by the Blues is 2009, has spent the last three years playing against men in the Swedish Elite League. While the first two years were solid, he really exploded last year. He had 50 points in 55 games, and was reportedly very impressive. If he can make a smooth transition to the NHL this year then he could be a big boost for the defensive corps. He may have to start the season in the minors, but if he does well he’ll be back in Ottawa soon.
Another young Swede is even more exciting. Forward Mika Zibanejad was the sixth overall pick in the most recent draft. He’s just 18, but he has had a very strong camp, and should get every chance to contribute this year. He’s young and will take time to grow into himself as an NHLer, but a team without a lot of expectations is a good place for a youngster to get experience and develop as a player.
2011-12 Ottawa Senators Schedule
Mike Fisher was a popular guy with the team before getting traded to Nashville — perhaps at his own urging since that’s where his wife, Carrie Underwood, lives. It was a controversial move that fired up emotions. On Feb. 9 he returns to Ottawa for the first time since the deal. The response of the crowd will be very interesting to see.
Ottawa Senators NHL Futures Odds (from Bodog)
The oddsmakers are about as optimistic about this team as I am — they are set at 75/1 for Stanley Cup odds. Only the Islanders, at 80/1, face longer NHL odds. They are 40/1 to win the Eastern Conference.
2011-12 Ottawa Senators Predictions
I’ve covered this ground already — I really don’t like the chances of this team this year. They just aren’t good.
They are in the awkward transition between an aging old guard and a reasonably promising future, and that’s not a fun place to be for fans. I don’t like the coaching, I don’t like the depth, and there are holes a mile wide. It would count as a major, major shock if they broke through and made the playoffs in the very tough Eastern Conference.
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