2008/09: 36-35-11, 83 pts (4th in Northeast, 11th in East)
Arrived: Pascal LeClaire (CBJ), Alexei Kovalev (MTL), Johanthan Cheechoo (SJ), Milan Michalek (SJ)
Departed: Alex Auld (DAL), Mike Comrie (UFA), Jason Smith (Retired), Brendan Bell (STL), Drew Fata (BOS)
The 08/09 campaign was a dismal one for the Senators as the team fired their second head coach, Craig Hartsburg, in as many years and missed the postseason for the first time since the 1995-96 season. There were, however, a few bright spots near the season’s end as the Sens acquired promising defencemen Chris Campoli from the Islanders and finally solidified their goaltending by acquiring Pascal Leclaire in a trade with Columbus. All seemed well in Ottawa headed into this season until Dany Heatley, the Sens leading scorer since his trade to Ottawa, asked to be traded. Heatley hasn’t made many friends this offseason by demanding a trade and then using his no trade clause to block a trade to Edmonton that GM Bryan Murray had organized. With the prospect of Heatley’s departure, Murray signed free agent winger Alexei Kovalev to take his place. Heatley has finally been shipped out as the Sens received Johnathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek, and a second rounder for the disgruntled winger. If Kovalev can replace the majority of Heatley’s prodcution and Cheechoo and Michalek can provide the Senators with the secondary scoring they badly need the Sens offense will be in good shape. If Leclaire can play like he did in Columbus and Heatley remains on the squad I will not be surprised to see the Sens back in the playoff mix come April.
FANTASY WORTHY FORWARDS
Jason Spezza – Much like the Senators and the rest of The Big 3, Spezza was a disappoint last year with only 73 points in 82 games, tying him for 14th in scoring among NHL centers with Todd White and David Kreji. It will be interesting to see if Spezza can rebound without his buddy Heatley. If he doesnt, expect a 75-80 point season playing along either the aging Alfredsson or Kovalev. Spezza will be highly motivated either way this season as he looks to earn a spot on the Canada Olympic team.
Daniel Alfredsson – Alfredsson turns 37 this December and his ability to prevent and recover fully from injuries is a growing concern. His goal total dropped for 40 to 24 last season. A couple years ago Alfredsson was a top 10 pick. This season I wouldn’t call his name til at least the 3rd round.
Alexei Kovalev – Like Alfredsson, Kovalev turns 36 this season. The problem with Kovalev, and the reason I shy away from him on draft day, is that you never know which player is going to show up to play on gameday. In 07/08 Kovalev was brilliant putting up 84 points in 82 games but just the season before Kovalev managed just 47 points in 73 games and was minus-19. A change of scenery might help.
Keep an eye on: Milan Michalek, Johnathan Cheechoo
DRAFT WORTHY DEFENCEMEN
Chris Campoli – Coming over last season from the Islanders, Campoli will be on the Sens powerplay and with the type of talent they can put on the ice for a man-advantage he is sure to get 40 points (10G, 30 A). He also scored what turned out to be my favourite goals goal in the NHL last season. (see video below)
Filip Kuba – Kuba will also see plenty of time on the Sens powerplay and should have similar numbers to Campoli. Consistency was an issue for Kuba last season. He got off to a hot start with 11 points in 10 games in October, but disappeared from November to February recording a combined 17 points. He added 11 more points in 12 games in March, but had just 1 point in 6 games in April.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Pascal Leclaire – A season with Ken Hitchcock as your coach can do wonders for your stats if you are a goaltender. Under Hitchcock in 2006/07 Leclaire had an outstanding season with 9 shutouts, a 2.25 GAA and a .919 sv%. Sound familiar? Think Steve Mason. It will beinteresteing to see how Leclaire performs in Ottawa where the defence isn’t so tight knit. Leclaire could be the best goalie the Senators franchise has ever seen, but I’m not too quick to jump to that conclusion based on one strong season. In only two of his four seasons has Leclaire had a goals against average under 3.00, one of them being 2.97. That being said, don’t count on Leclaire to be your number one this season.