With yesterday’s launch, the countdown to the Ottawa Senators 20th Season in the NHL is officially on. In just 46 days, the Sens will take on the rival Leafs in the team’s first preseason game.
With that in mind, it’s time to start thinking about some of the more interesting story lines heading into next season. There will be a number of exciting things going on off the ice, but the on-ice product proves to be just as interesting.
Obviously there are countless story lines heading in to the coming season but this is just a quick list of what I’ll be watching for this season. What do you think? Anything missing? What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming season?
- The Beginning of the Paul MacLean Era
After years under Mike Babcock in Detroit and Anaheim, MacLean finally gets to call the shots with the Sens. He has promised an up-tempo game with an emphasis on puck possession. It should make for a far more entertaining product on the ice. It’s not fair to blame Clouston for all of the team’s struggles last season but he should certainly shoulder some of the blame. MacLean is an excellent communicator but demands a lot of his players. Will be interesting to see how that translates with the Sens.
- The Continued Progression of Jason Spezza
While the team has struggled the past two seasons, Jason Spezza has continued to grow as a hockey player. Down the stretch, with mostly young guys in the line up, we saw Spezza take it to another level. He is a leader on this team and a future Captain in my opinion. I expect that Spezza will continue that progression under MacLean, which should translate into a big season in Ottawa.
- The Debut of Jared Cowen and David Rundblad
While some fans may disagree, everything I have heard indicates that both Cowen and Rundblad will start with the big team. There are obviously going to be some growing pains for both players but I think both can have an impact in their first season. Cowen will get time on the PK and Rundblad should be a fixture on the power play. How quickly these two players adjust will go a long way towards deciding what kind of season this is for the Sens.
- The Development of Erik Karlsson
Development is going to be a word we hear a lot this year with so many young guys expected to be regulars in the line up. Erik Karlsson is one of the players I expect to take it to another level this season. Coming off an All Star Season that saw him register 45 points, I think we can expect more from Karlsson this year. Karlsson should easily eclipse the 50 point mark this season and will be vital to the team’s power play. There is still work to be done on his defensive game though (was a -30 last year) and I think we’ll see improvements on that end this season.
- Veteran Rebound
As much as this is a rebuilding year for the Sens, the play of some veteran players will go a long way towards deciding what kind of season this is in Ottawa. On the back end, Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar are both coming off sub-par seasons and will be relied on heavily this season. Alfredsson is coming off a 54 game season and off-season back surgery. If he is healthy and contributing, the Sens could flirt with a playoff spot. He is expected to be on the ice for the first time since his surgery next week.
I have received the next entry in the SensChirp Search. The article has more of a Binghamton Senators approach and looks at Robin Lehner and what winning MVP could mean for his career. The writer has taken a little bit more of a statistical approach which I think will be popular with readers.
Just working on getting a little bit of editing done on that piece and will have it up on the site in the near future.