As the Ottawa Senators clean out their lockers and have their exit meetings, the task of continuing to build a winner continues for GM Bryan Murray and the rest of the Hockey Operations staff.
There is a solid foundation in place, but there are questions that need to be addressed:
1. Alfredsson’s Status – Daniel Alfredsson and whether he returns for another season is a big one. The face of the franchise will take some time to make his decision, but with just a little over a month until free agency opens, he can’t wait too long so that plans are in place.
2. Goaltending Questions – Not a bad question, but how will the goaltending duties be split next season? Robin Lehner is pushing Anderson for playing time, and Anderson would have been a Vezina nominee with more games played. A good problem to have, but one that needs to be addressed so that the Senators can get the maximum performance from the masked men.
3. Defensive Depth – With Sergei Gonchar a pending UFA, there will be a hole in the top 4. After Erik Karlsson, Marc Methot and Jared Cowen, there is question marks. Patrick Wiercioch should have been the 4th, but he has failed to gain the trust of Paul MacLean based on the way the Senators used him. Andre Benoit, Chris Phillips, Eric Gryba and Mark Borowiecki are all 5-6 guys at this point in their respective careers. Cody Ceci might be a top 4, but not for a couple of years.
4. Forwards: Who will stay and who will go – Whether or not Alfredsson returns, there will still be questions up front. Will Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanajad parlay this season’s experience into becoming legitimate top 6 forwards? After Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris, the top two lines need to be more effective for the Senators to be truly competitive. The long-term future looks good, but the immediate future has question marks.
5. Health - Major injuries to Karlsson, Spezza and Michalek have to be concerining. Karlsson should simply need some time to recover and he should get back to 100% next season. Spezza’s back and Michalek’s knee are ongoing, chronic injuries that will always be in the back of people’s mind and could flare up at any time. Hopefully their respective surgeries were successful, and with some rest and rehab they will be stronger than ever.
So while 2013 would have to be considered a success, there are a number of questions looming large for the Senators to build on that success. We will examine those questions and some potential answers in the coming days and weeks.