Let’s keep this whole positivity thing going.
The mood around the Ottawa Senators hasn’t been great lately. But for all the doom and gloom, there are still things to look forward to next season. Nobody is going to slap the Stanley Cup Contender label on this team next year but there’s reason to believe they’ll be in the mix for a playoff spot when the dust settles in April 2015.
Here’s a list of eight (ya 8!) things I am looking forward to next season.
Craig Anderson in a Contract Year- Robin Lehner is going to play a bigger role this season but he’s going to have to earn it. Craig Anderson is coming off a down year and should be motivated and ready to return to the form he showed during the lockout shortened season. I don’t think it will be here in Ottawa but Anderson will be eager to earn another big contract in free agency. I’m expecting a big bounce back year from Andy.
A Healthy Bobby Ryan- It’s a little scary in some ways but maybe we’ll be seeing Bobby Ryan in a contract year too? Ryan battled through a sports hernia injury from November on last season and didn’t really show what he is capable of over a full season. And he still put up 23 goals and 48 points. If he can stay healthy, there’s no reason to believe Ryan won’t break the 30 goal mark this year.
Curtis Lazar- Right now the forward group looks a little crowded but the way management talks about him, it sounds like a foregone conclusion that Curtis Lazar will be in the lineup on opening night. Fresh off his “Hardest Worker” award at Development Camp, Lazar is eager to make a strong impression at training camp. The hype around Lazar may be a little out of hand right now but I can’t wait to see what the kid can do against NHL competition.
Jared Cowen’s Bounce Back Season- Last season was as bad as it could get for Jared Cowen. The team gave him every opportunity to work through his struggles but it just wasn’t getting better for Cowen. Management and Coaches believe he’ll get better. Being healthy and participating in training camp will be a great way for Cowen to start the year and should help him get off on the right foot. I know it’s not a popular opinion but I still believe Cowen can be a quality top four defenceman. He’ll get back on track this season.
14/15/25 become a fourth line- I look at the depth chart and see a pretty clear top three centres in Turris, Zibanejad and Legwand. Zack Smith is this team’s fourth line centre and should be used that way this coming season. Paul MacLean was clear that cutting back on penalties will be a focus for this team next season. One obvious way to do that is to rely less on that trio of Greening-Smith-Neil. With that said, I do feel like that can be an effective line, if they play a little less. Hoping the Head Coach sees it the same way.
Increased role for Mika Zibanejad- Losing Spezza will hurt this team offensively. But with Spezza leaving, that just means more time for Mika Zibanejad to develop into a legitimate first or second line centre. Zibanejad put up 33 points in 69 games last season and showed signs that he’s ready to take on a bigger role. He’ll have every opportunity to do that this season. When asked about Kyle Turris as the number one centre, Sens GM Bryan Murray was quick to point to Zibanejad as a candidate for that spot. Zibanejad is good. We’ll find out just how good he is this season.
Mark Stone Becomes a Full time NHLer- Every time Mark Stone has appeared at the NHL level he has impressed. It started in that playoff game against the New York Rangers a couple seasons ago and most recently down the stretch last season when he saw time on a line with MacArthur and Turris. Mark Stone is an NHLer at this point and all signs point to him being a damn good one. He dominated at the development camp and is ready to carry that over to the main camp this season. There’s a spot there for the taking in the team’s top six. This is Stone’s chance to seize it.
Erik Karlsson at 100%- During most of last season, any time someone asked Karlsson about his Achilles, he still hinted that it wasn’t 100%. More than a year after the injury, he was still having some lingering effects that limited his mobility and caused him to be tentative at times. Also, he had 74 points. For the first time since the injury, Karlsson isn’t rehabbing. He’s training. I think we’ll see EK65 at this best next season. It was awfully nice of PK and Duncan to look after Erik’s trophy for the last couple years though.
So there’s eight things I’m looking forward to next season. Add to the list, won’t you?