Welcome to Part 3 of my series attempting to find Eastern Conference clubs that Ottawa can and should be better than. This stems from the fact that The Hockey News predicts Ottawa will finish dead last in the Conference.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
The Islanders finished a point back of the Senators last season. Incoming Islanders include Brian Rolston and Marty Reasoner up front and finally the appearance of Evgeni Nabokov in the Islanders net. But perhaps the biggest influence will be the return of Mark Streit, who missed the entire 2010-11 season with rotator cuff and labrum injuries. The Islanders leader plans on a return this fall to continue what had been a career on the upswing. John Tavares will be one year better in his third season, and Michael Grabner will be looking to prove that his success last season wasn’t a fluke. In the grand scheme of things, the Islanders on paper didn’t get much better.
CAN THE SENATORS FINISH BETTER THAN THE ISLANDERS? If they don’t, the season will be considered a colossal failure.
WILL THEY? Most certainly.
NEW YORK RANGERS
Nineteen points separated Ottawa and the Rangers last season. The Rangers made a big splash by inking Brad Richards to a multi-year contract. Was that enough to put the Rangers into the elite class? They have the goaltending in place, and a defensive unit that is without a top end offensive star but a bunch of solid players. Up front, Marian Gaborik should combine with Richards to excel, as long as they can find the chemistry. The Rangers sunk a lot of money into Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan, and it is now up to them to prove they are worth it.
CAN THE SENATORS FINISH BETTER THAN THE RANGERS? Although I wouldn’t place them in the elite clasee, the Rangers should be on the upper edge of the pack that will be fighting for playoff spots. There spot should be assured, and they should be higher than the Senators.
WILL THEY? Not likely.
The Flyers were among the elite last season, finishing 32 points ahead of the Senators. It will be a new look Flyers team that takes the ice this year, with a new goalie (Ilya Bryzgalov) and a new look offence. Gone are Richards and Carter, replaced by youth in Brayden Schenn, Jaromir Jagr, Jakob Voracek and perhaps Sean Couturier. Is it enough to replace two top level, in their prime talents with young and old? That remains to be seen, but the Flyers still have the likes of Briere, Giroux, Hartnell and an emerging Van Reimsdyk to rely on. The Flyers will still be among the elite in the Conference.
CAN THE SENATORS FINISH BETTER THAN THE FLYERS? In a word, NO.
Nine teams down, five to go. Then I will wrap it up, but if you have been following along you know that there are a number of teams the Senators should finish ahead of, and also a few that they should battle with for positioning. Check back next time for the Penguins, Leafs and Lightning!
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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