(Sports Network) - Taken as a whole, the 2013 free agent market offered little
in surprises or exciting moments. The one exception came when Daniel
Alfredsson did the unthinkable and traded in his Ottawa Senators' sweater for
the one bearing the famous "winged wheel."
On July 5, the hockey world was shocked to learn Alfredsson agreed to a one-
year, $5.5 million with the Detroit Red Wings, ending an affiliation with
Ottawa that began way back in 1994, when the Swede was taken in the sixth
round of the draft.
For nearly two decades, the man known as "Alfie" was the face of the
franchise, a player who exuded class both on and off the ice. He had served as
the team captain for over a decade and it seemed like the 40-year-old
Alfredsson was destined to be an Ottawa lifer, not unlike Joe Sakic was with
the Quebec/Colorado franchise.
Ottawa's brass claims it would've done whatever it took to retain Alfredsson's
services for the upcoming season, but the winger admitted his move to Detroit
was motivated by his desire to finally win a Stanley Cup. The thing is, even
without Alfredsson, the Senators don't seem to be that far behind the Red
Wings in terms of contending for a Cup.
The fact that Detroit is moving West-to-East, conference wise, to join the
newly-formed Atlantic Division, which includes Ottawa, should make for some
interesting regular-season battles. To his credit, Alfredsson has already said
he expects an icy reception when the teams meet in Ottawa for the first time
Although Senators general manager Bryan Murray seemed genuinely shocked by
Alfredsson's decision, he reacted quickly by landing power forward Bobby Ryan
from Anaheim on the same day his captain made the decision to head across the
border into Michigan. There is little doubt Ryan, who is a four-time 30-goal
scorer at the ripe age of 26, offers more production than Alfredsson at this
stage of his career, but will the Senators be able to replace his leadership?
Jason Spezza has the unenviable task of replacing Alfredsson as captain, but
in light of how his predecessor left Ottawa, the new leader will have Canada's
capital city firmly in his corner as he takes on the role.
Along with the Boston Bruins, the Senators and Red Wings figure to be the main
combatants for the Atlantic's three automatic playoff bids, and with the
drama surrounding two of those teams this summer it should be fun to watch how
this storyline plays out.
FORWARDS - The Senators relied heavily on team defense and goaltending to earn
their second straight trip to the postseason last spring. The formula worked
in Ottawa's dominant opening-round win over Montreal, but the Sens simply
didn't have enough firepower to hang with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the
Eastern Conference semifinals.
While stopping the other team from scoring will still be a priority, the Sens
hope Ryan's goal-scoring ability will make them a little more dangerous on the
offensive side of things. It shouldn't be too hard to improve the offense,
however, because Ottawa finished 27th in the NHL last season with an average
of only 2.33 goals per game.
Ottawa is obviously expecting big things from Ryan, who cost the Senators not
only a first-round pick in 2014 but also a pair of top-flight forward
prospects in forward Jakob Silfverberg and Stefan Noesen.
Although the 2013 lockout-shortened season made reaching 30 goals for a fifth
straight season a tough proposition for Ryan, his 11-goal output in 46 games
was disappointing nonetheless. Still, the American winger has managed to
record 30 goals in every NHL season in which he played in 64 or more games.
Spezza figures to center the top line along with Ryan and left winger Milan
Michalek. The new captain is looking for a bounce-back season in 2013-14 after
a back injury caused him to miss all but eight games during the regular season
and playoffs combined. Spezza had one of his finest NHL campaigns in 2011-12
when he had 84 points on 34 goals and 50 assists. He had five points (2G, 3A)
in five regular-season contests last season and one assist in three playoff
Michalek is another guy who has battled injuries during his time in Ottawa.
Last season was no different as the 28-year-old Czech played in only 23 games
while recording four goals and 10 assists.
If health isn't an issue with the first line, the second unit will likely be
centered by Kyle Turris, who led the low-scoring Sens with 29 points (12G,
17A) in 48 games last season. Turris also had 12 goals and 17 assists in a 49-
game run with the Senators in 2011-12, when he came over in a mid-season trade
Newcomer Clarke MacArthur could see action on the second line after signing a
two-year, $6.5 million deal with the Sens this summer. MacArthur, who posted
20 or more goals in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 for Toronto, had eight goals and
12 assists for the Maple Leafs in 40 games last year.
Ottawa may use Cory Conacher as another winger on the second line. Overall,
Conacher had an impressive rookie season in 2013, recording 11 goals and 29
points over 47 games. However, he had 24 points (9G, 15A) in 35 games with
Tampa Bay and just two goals and three assists in 12 contests after coming to
Ottawa in the trade that sent goaltender Ben Bishop to the Lightning.
Conacher did manage to post three goals in eight playoff games for the Sens
and the club is hoping for good things in his first full season in Ottawa.
The Sens would benefit greatly if prospects Mika Zibanejad and Jean-Gabriel
Pageau, who both enter this season as 20 year olds, can break through in
Zibanejad, the sixth overall pick by Ottawa in 2011, showed flashes of
brilliance in 2013, scoring seven goals and adding 13 assists in 42 games.
Pageau, a fourth-round pick in 2011, had two goals and two assists in nine
regular-season games before turning heads with four goals and six points in 10
DEFENSE - Ottawa finished second in the NHL with 2.08 goals per game last
season and the defense is expected to be a strength once again.
Although he's not known as a shutdown guy, Ottawa's Erik Karlsson leads the
way at the back end and is quite possibly the most dynamic offensive
defenseman in the NHL.
The Norris Trophy winner in 2011-12, Karlsson was possibly on his way to
winning the award again before a freak injury caused him to miss over two
months during the regular season. The 23-year-old Swede suffered a laceration
to his left Achilles in mid-February when Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh
Penguins stepped on the back of his leg. Although Karlsson was expected to
miss 4-to-6 months of action due to the injury he was back before the end of
the regular season, returning to the ice a mere 10 weeks after sustaining the
Karlsson had 14 points (6G, 8A) in 17 regular-season games and added one goal
and seven assists during the playoffs. The injury may have led to him
struggling in his own zone during the postseason, but Ottawa expects him to be
at the top of his game heading into 2013-14.
Marc Methot, a steady, stay-at-home blueliner, has proven to be the perfect
partner for the free-wheeling Karlsson. The fact that the 28-year-old
defenseman added two goals and nine assists in way of offense is only a bonus.
Ottawa's depth on defense is hurt a bit by the offseason departure of veteran
Sergei Gonchar, but there is still plenty of reliability on the back end with
Chris Phillips, Jared Cowen and Patrick Wiercioch. Joe Corvo was also re-
signed to provide further depth should the injury bug bite.
GOALTENDING - In addition to losing Karlsson for a big chunk of the season,
the Senators were also forced to play a sizeable stretch of the campaign
without No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson.
Anderson was looking like a strong contender for the Vezina Trophy before an
ankle injury suffered in late February caused him to miss the entire month of
March. All told, the 32-year-old American went 12-9-2 with a 1.69 goals
against average and .941 save percentage in 24 outings during the regular
Although Anderson's GAA skyrocketed to 3.01 during the playoffs, he still
managed to register a solid .918 save percentage over his 10 postseason
With Bishop gone, Robin Lehner is installed as the undisputed backup option in
Ottawa. The 22-year-old Swede is coming off a solid 2013, when he went 5-3-4
with a 2.20 GAA and .936 save percentage.
WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE - Under head coach Paul MacLean the Senators have
proven to be one of the most resilient teams in the NHL. Big injuries to
Karlsson and Anderson last season couldn't manage to derail the team's playoff
push and the loss of Alfredsson shouldn't keep the team from making a third
straight trip to the postseason. In fact, if Ryan is able to take this offense
to the next level it's not a stretch to think of the Sens as a potential
Stanley Cup contender. Although, if a championship run isn't in the cards,
beating Alfredsson and the Red Wings as often as possible would be a solid
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