CFN – The Ottawa Senators had another good season as they continue to win while rebuilding. Coach Paul Maclean won the Jack Adams which is a tribute to a coaching unit that somehow found a way to keep winning while losing huge gaps of playing time by their best players including Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, and goalie Craig Anderson.
I have to admit that I wasn’t a Bryan Murray fan, but the old guy has grasped the new NHL and got results. I don’t think any team has maximized their individual players talents as much as the Senators have nor developed NHL players better recently. It’s not just about throwing kids into the fire; but choosing the right ones.
The Ben Bishop trade highlights a bit of cap era greatness. Snatched up for a 2nd in 2012, it gave Ottawa more time to develop Robin Lehner, but also gave them an asset. That asset landed them Cory Conacher and a 4th this year Great asset management for the Sens. On some teams Conacher would get top six minutes as the gritty forward even added 3 goals in the playoffs.
The Sens are actually ahead of the Habs and Leafs in many senses. They have a number one centre up the middle. They have a bonafide star defenseman in Erik Karlsson and they have Cup caliber goalie under $5M per year. The pantry is stocked with interesting prospects and trade chips too.
Murray has rumbled that he wants to acquire some front line talent which he has to as you can’t bottle value and it’s time for the Sens to move up the ladder.
Jason Spezza; out this year with back issues, he is their star. Their horse and their guy. Coming back and trying to help in the playoffs was huge for the team. He has two more years at 7M, and it should be interesting what happens as we get closer to contract time. It purely will be up to him whether he tries for a cash grab and leaves the only team he’s played for or gives Ottawa a long time home team discount.
Milan Michalek is only 28. I know. It feels like he’s been around forever. When he’s not injured he’s a sniper. The problem is that he’s injured a lot. He’s going into his contract year. Chances are that Mr. Murray won’t resign him and let him get off to a hot start before consider trading him at peak value.
Kyle Turris was another smart pick up. He was forced into a number one centre role this year with the Spezza injury and helped hold the team together. With his long term contract at a reasonable $3.5M per season he his locked in as the Sens 2nd line centre and should see his talents blossom. Don’t be surprised to see a 60+ point season out of Mr. Turris.
Chris Neil is the heart and soul of this team. He’s the savvy vet that will lay it on the line no matter what. He is the the type of player than eventually ends up with his name on Lord Stanley’s cup. Ottawa needs a bit more meat though to not overuse Chris, especially as he’s getting older.
Daniel Alfredsson will be back for at least one more year. Alfie showed he still had some gas in the tank and some of the kids, in particular Jakob Silfverberg can use his help as they mature. 10 points in 10 playoff games shows he still has fire in his belly.
Zack Smith; 97 hits in 48 games. Big Saskatchewan centre that his coach seems to love. Good 3rd line centre locked up at a cap friendly $1.9M.
Jakob Silfverberg is the heir apparent to Captain Alfredsson. The big enough Swede should come into his own this season or next. He showed some real sparks in the Habs series. Not sure if he’s 1st line, but should be good enough to be top six.
Colin Greening makes playing against the Sens not as much fun as other teams. Hits, hits, hits, and some offense too. Mika Zibenajad may never win a scoring title, but so far he’s falling into that prototype that the Sens like to develop. Big, hard hitting players that won’t let you do much with the puck.
It looks like the Sens think that Patrick Wiercioch can eat up some of the minutes they lost when they decided to let Sergei Gonchar leave. While he’s taken some steps forward this season is showtime depending on what he signs for as he’s RFA.
Chris Phillips had a pretty good short season. He’s getting up there in years and wear and tear; but is adjusting and as a “Lifer” on the Sens will still fill a role and provide veteran leadership, even as his roles diminish.
Marc Methot compliments Karlsson well. He had a great playoff run. Like many of the Sens players, hits everything that moves.
JG Pageau will have to prove that his playoffs against Montreal were no fluke. Not sure how he fits into the Sens system unless there are drastic changes or injuries. Will be hard to fit in as a Centre if Spezza is back, and with Conacher the small scoring winger slot is filled.
Jared Cowan should be fully recovered from his hip injury which is what Ottawa needs. The 1st rounder really has started to evolve. Fits in next to Spezza better than Methot.
Craig Anderson has two years left on his contract with a $3.1M hit. He’s at the top of the goalie food chain right now. When Ottawa decides to trade him the return should be handsome. Of course Ottawa may not end up trading him. Robin Lehner is part of Team Sweden in Ottawa. Bryan Murray will be in a pickle as Lehner will get offer sheeted if he’s not resigned. The leverage and pressure will be on Ottawa.
Bryan Murray has positioned his team well. Not a powerhouse but certainly in a great position for a small cap team. A great mix of veterans and youth; sandpaper and talent with enough star power to get through a series, and enough depth to get to the series to start with.
He’s also shown a shrewdness to go after the parts that make the sum of his team greater than the individuals while having patience with some of his star future talents like Robin Lehner.
Michalek Spezza Alfredsson
Conacher Turris Silfverberg
Greening Smith Neil/Pageau
? ? ? (too many options)
On the Farm:
Cody Ceci is developing and should be an offensive force. Should spend the year at the Bing and if he can maintain that near point per game pace should be in Ottawa for a taste next year.
21 year old Buddy Robinson may have the stuff that Power Forwards are made of. The 6’5 winger notched 4 points in a 6 game stint with the Sens AHL team last year after playing in College.
Matt Puempel seems to score about 35 goals in 5o or so games in the OHL. The question will be can he do that with the Bing?
Mark Stone put up some gaudy scoring numbers in the WHL. His first season in the AHL was promising. If he can his his WHL ratios this season he just might have a good shot at getting a taste with the Sens this season.
GM Bryan Murray has a lot of options. He has a cupboard full to pull off a trade or two and add the pieces he needs to advance.
Needs? Danny Briere would be a really nice fit for the Sens. They need more scoring in the top six; especially with a Play Off pedigree. Ottawa is in terrific cap shape right now, but as more NHL teams catch up and figure it out they will lose that advantage. Asset management will be the key for the Sens. Can Bryan Murray take his riches and add the right pieces without bankrupting the team?
What do you think Sens fans? You can post your comments below.