It has been more than 130 days since the Ottawa Senators last played a meaningful hockey game. The scene was the Consol Energy Centre in Pittsburgh and the result was not so kind to the Sens that night.
A lot has changed since Game 5 of the Conference Semi-final including the level of expectation around this hockey team. As we get set to drop the puck on the 2013/2014 NHL season, the Sens have gone from lovable underdog, to legitimate threat in the revamped Eastern Conference.
The face of the franchise, Daniel Alfredsson, is gone. For the first time in 17 seasons, the Senators will start a season without Alfredsson on their roster. And while he will be missed, this team certainly won’t sit around talking about how much they miss their former Captain.
The torch has been passed into the more than capable hands of Captain Jason Spezza. On the heels of an injury riddled season, Spezza is eager to not only prove that he can stay healthy, but that he can lead this club to heights Alfredsson never could.
There are new faces in Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur that add a dimension to the offence that wasn’t there last season. Young players like Turris, Pageau, Conacher, Da Costa Wiercioch and Cowen are ready to be everyday reliable NHL hockey players. Veterans like Methot, Phillips, Michalek and Neil provide leadership on one the youngest rosters league wide. Role players like Condra, Smith, Greening, Corvo, Kassian and Gryba each bring something unique to the roster. In goal, the Senators boast one of the best tandems in all of the NHL in the form of Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner.
And on the blueline they have a Norris Trophy winner and one of the best players in all of hockey in Erik Karlsson.
One wrinkle to the Sens line up as it looks like Eric Gryba will take the place of Joe Corvo on the third defence pairing. Corvo was on that paring all week but it appears the Head Coach has had a chance of heart. Here is how Paul MacLean lined his team up at the morning skate.
It was a dramatic off season in the Nation’s Capital but this team and this fan base is eager to put that in the rear-view and focus on what should be one of the most exciting seasons in the history of this franchise.
The league is as competitive as ever but there’s no reason to believe our Senators can’t be the last team left standing on that summer night about eight and a half months from now. Let’s drop the puck and get it started.
GO. SENS. GO.