As I pointed out yesterday, The Hockey News predicts that Ottawa will finish in the basement of the Eastern Conference. In order to provide contradictory evidence, over the next few days I will look at each team in the conference to determine if Ottawa can be better than them. Not necessarily to predict standings yet, but rather to see just how many clubs Ottawa could finish ahead of.
In alphabetical order, today I will look at the Bruins, Sabres and Hurricanes.
It would obviously be a stretch to argue that the Senators could be better than the Bruins this season. The Bruins finished 29 points ahead of the Senators and went on to win the Stanley Cup. They might not be able to repeat as Champions, but there in no reason to expect a big drop-off in their production. Put Benoit Pouliot in for Michael Ryder and Joe Corvo in for Tomas Kaberle and you have a very similar roster. Tyler Seguin will be able to step in for Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand is ready to step into a prime role.
CAN OTTAWA FINISH HIGHER THAN BOSTON? Not a chance this season.
The Sabres finished 22 points ahead of the Senators last season, and they revamped the roster in the off-season. They signed Ville Lieno and Christian Ehrhoff to huge contracts, while trading for Robin Regehr and Ales Kotalik. A healthy Derek Roy will improve the offense and the combination of Ryan Miller and Jonas Enroth is one of the league’s best duos between the pipes. Not having to wonder how many games Tim Connolly will be able to play is another benefit going into the season, but they will miss him providing depth down the middle.
CAN OTTAWA FINISH HIGHER THAN BUFFALO? They could, but it is unlikely that they will be able to overtake the rival Sabres. If all goes well for the Senators, Buffalo will be one among a group of 5 or 6 teams that are battling for a playoff spot with.
WILL THEY? This one is a coin flip
The ‘Canes continue to be led by Captain Eric Staal and sophomore sensation Jeff Skinner. The addition of under-acheiving Alex Ponikarovsky could help the offense but could also be a colossal failure. Ditto for the addition of Tomas Kaberle, who needs a complete reversal from his play down the stretch to give Carolina what it expects. Cam Ward will be backed up by either Brian Boucher or Justin Peters, but will again see a bulk of the action. Finishing 17 points ahead of the Senators last season, I don’t think the Canes will see much improvement on their positioning of last season.
CAN OTTAWA FINISH HIGHER THAN CAROLINA? Yes, they can. The Canes are one club that Ottawa will overtake in this resurgent season.
WILL THEY? I firmly believe so.
So in the first day of my examination of who the Senators could finish ahead of, I already found one and maybe two teams that fit the category. Tomorrow – Florida, Montreal and New Jersey.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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