The Ottawa Senators are coming into the upcoming season with a lot of question marks. Will Craig Hartsburg be effective behind the bench? Will the Sens dressing room shape up its act, or will it continue to be an underground drug lair and pregame destination before hitting the Ottawa Market area on Saturday nights? Will Gerber last the season in net, or will Alex Auld be needed to come in and form a platoon system? Is Mike Fisher actually a second line centre, and can he build upon his relatively injury-free 2007-2008 season? Will Antoine Vermette finally turn into the two-way forward the Sens envisioned he could be? Can Alffy bounce back from his late season injuries? Will Heatley go back to his usual 50-50 self? Will Dean Brown lose the 50 pounds he gained this off-season while eating Beavertails at the Canal?
With hindsight being 20/20, the Patrick Eaves and Joe Corvo for Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore trade doesn’t look that hot right now, with Stillman and Commodore both cashing in elsewhere on the open market. Stillman’s second line scoring will be missed, not to mention Corvo’s powerplay quarterbacking capabilities. New forward Jarkko Ruutu should add a nice sandpaper element and bring a positive attitude into the dressing room, but won’t really add that much on the score sheet. Big things are eventually expected from forward Nick Foligno, but this year seems a bit premature.
As of now, here are how the forward lines shape up:
While the Sens do have some speed on their checking lines with Kelly, McAmmond, Donovan, and even Ruutu, it seems once again that the Cash, Money, Pizza line or whatever you call it is the Sens’ only hope for another run at a Northeast Division title.
Things don’t look that rosy on D either. Gone are Wendy Redden and Commodore, and most recently Meszaros. That may mean some serious time for the raw Brian Lee. Let’s not forget the acquisition of Gator. Although he his getting up in age, no one is tougher that Jason Smith in front of their own net. Here is how the D looks:
Laurence Nycholat may also see some action if required, or for goodness sakes Luke Richardson could be brought back! I’ve been told the newly acquired Kuba will man the point on the PP, which could be a disaster waiting to happen. This is the first year in a while the Sens do not have an offensive, 25 minute man on the blueline. Is Igor Kravchuk still available?
In goal, Gerber should get the bulk of the load early, but if he falters, look for Auld to get some time until one of them takes control.
Ceiling: If all the stars align, meaning division favourite Montreal falters, Ottawa could take the Northeast Division crown.
Floor: A more pessimistic scenario would see the Sens finish 2nd to the Habs in their division, and be close to the improving Bruins in the standings. Look for a 5th place finish in the Eastern Conference and a patchwork playoff beard by Heatley.