Ottawa Senators: Impressions, Concerns and Questions

After what seemed like a never ending exhibition schedule The Ottawa Senators announced their final roster yesterday and will be practicing as a 22 man roster to begin their quest. Their were some real highs and lows during the lengthy training camp and none lower than the shocking decision to demote expected pencil in, Mika Zabinejad; For more on Zibanejad read Jared’s post: Mika Zibanejad To Binghamton- Good, Bad or Necessary Decision?

Sept 29, 2013; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) controls the puck in the first period against the New York Islanders at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a look at the most likely starting line-up for the Senators:

Forwards:

1.Milan Michalek-Jason Spezza-Bobby Ryan

2.Clarke MacArthur-Kyle Turris-Cory Conacher

3.Colin Greening-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Erik Condra

4.Zack Smith-Stephane Da Costa-Chris Neil

Extra: Matt Kassian

Defense:

1.Marc Methot-Erik Karlsson

2.Jared Cowen-Patrick Wiercioch

3.Chris Phillips-Joe Corvo

Extra: Eric Gryba

Goalies:

1.Craig Anderson

2.Robin Lehner

Impressions:

  • Cory Conacher- After finishing off an impressive rookie season last year on a bit of a low note, some people believed Conacher would have a tough time cracking The Senators line-up. Conacher did more than just crack the line-up, he won a 4 man battle for the top 6 wing position. Conacher posted 4 goals/1 assists/+1 in just 5 games played during the pre season and was arguably The Senators best player.
  • Line 2- Heading into the exhibition schedule one of the biggest concerns/questions was around the second line. After the exhibition schedule the second line is less concerning than the first and was by far the most impressive. As mentioned Conacher will play to the right of Turris and MacArthur to start the year.  This line appeared to have instant chemistry along with great speed and an excellent cycle down low.
  • Bobby Ryan- Despite being fat and completely out of shape (haha) Ryan showed a high caliber scoring touch notching two beautiful goals on “nothing plays”.
  • Jean-Gabriel Pageau- The little guy defied the odds again; Many people (myself included) looked at this roster before heading into the pre season and noticed that their was just no room for Pageau. Pageau looked at this roster and probably noticed the same thing. The 5’8 Centre, once again exposed his underrated value and forced the coaching staff to take notice and make changes accordingly.
  • Da Costa- The Senators reported telling Da Costa to “wake up” if he wants to become a regular NHL’er. Da Costa certainly took that the right way coming into camp with an added 10 pounds of muscle and forced The Sens to keep him on the team out of camp.
  • Erik Karlsson- EK looked very casual with the puck at times but is clearly The Senators cream of the crop; Karlsson quietly notched 5 assists in 4 games played and created many opportunities off of his patent solo breakout.
  • Patrick Wiercioch- Wiercioch looked very good in the contests that he was a part of; Wiercioch’s first pass was extraordinary at times, creating break- aways and odd man rush’s in The Senators favour. Wiercioch also looked good to the right of Karlsson on the man advantage.

Concerns/Questions:

  • Injuries- This is the obvious #1 concern heading into the regular season. The Senators appear to have made it through the exhibition contests without sustaining any injuries that will prevent any player from starting the year healthy however, Spezza missed the ladder stages of camp with a minor groin injury and Anderson and Gryba both had some maintenance days as well.
  • Preparedness- The Senators were the luck struck winners of a split squad contest in the last game(s) of the exhibition schedule. This along with precautionary measures taken with Spezza didn’t allow the team to have much of a “test run” to sort out systems and develop chemistry within their new line combinations. The Sens will use the days leading up to the season opener on October 4 against The Buffalo Sabres, to try to work everything out. On top of all of this The Sens will begin the season with a 6 game road trip.
  • DJ-Z-BAD- Some suggested that it was Zibanejad’s off-ice hobbies that found him demoted to Binghamton to start this years campaign. Like the decision or not, Zibanejad will have to “turn the tables” to return to the big “club”.
  • Top line- On paper this line had everyone excited about their potential in 13/14 however, with Spezza out in the exhibition schedule this line only had a small amount of time together and in that time certainly did not live up to the expectations. Between over passing and not recovering pucks nearly enough in the offensive zone this line looked unenthused to be playing in these meaningless games. That being said, their potential is still incredibly high if they can find the magic.
  • Goaltending- Beginning camp most had the Senators tandem of Anderson/Lehner as the Leagues best duo. That could certainly still be the case but neither ended the pre season on a high note, surrendering 9 goals between the two, to The Islanders in the split squad contest.
  • Sour Taste- While I always encourage people to not read too much into the records/scores of the pre season, The Sens left their fans with a bit of a sour taste after getting dominated by both Islander squads to cap off the pre season with a .500 record at 4&4.
  • Identity Crisis- Last year injuries caused The Sens to re shape their identity, which to the credit of Paul Maclean, The Sens did beautifully. The #PeskySens were the hard working defensive minded team that forced the opposition to work for their chances. This season a healthy, more powerful Sens squad will face much higher expectations and will take no one by surprise. With that in mind how will their identity take shape? It seems The Sens marketing team wants them to be #Fearless, however coach Maclean hasn’t bought in as he has many times went on record claiming to be “scared to death”.
  • Leadership- I was debating on whether or not I even wanted to include this point but, it seems to be a popular question surrounding this years Sens. I personally don’t think leadership will be a concern but many do and for the obvious reason that I wish to not expand on as it’s already been overexamined. If the Sens do struggle I don’t believe that leadership will be any part of the issue.

Did the Pre Season leave you concerned about The Senators heading into the season?

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Topics: Erik Karlsson, Mika Zibanejad, Ottawa Senators, Season Preview

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