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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Northeast Division Preview: Ottawa Senators

by Louis Moustakas

With the offseason quietly winding down and summer transactions mostly behind us, it seems like the perfect time to contemplate the moves made by Montreal and its various division rivals. Over five parts, we will take a look at each team and venture a guess at where they will finish in 2011-12. Today, we take a look at a rival just down the 417, the Ottawa Senators.

Last season: 32-40-10, 74 points (fifth place Northeast, 13th place East)

Additions: Alex Auld, G; Tim Conboy, D; Nikita Filatov, LW; Zenon Konopka, C; Mike McKenna, G; Mark Parrish, RW

Subtractions: Cody Bass, C; Andre Benoit, D; Ryan Keller, RW; Alex Kovalev, RW; Pascal Leclaire, G;Curtis McElhinney, G; Ryan Shannon, RW; Derek Smith, D; Roman Wick, RW

Last season saw the Senators contend with a group of underwhelming veterans and unproven youth. Netminders Pascale Leclaire, when healthy and Brian Elliot were mediocre at best. Offensively, the Russian duo of Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Gonchar were especially disappointing, each providing a paltry 27 points. Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson produced at fairly respectable paces, but all missed considerable time due to injuries. In the end, youth such as Nick Foligno, Peter Regin, Erik Condra, Bobby Butler, Zack Smith and Colin Greening were asked to carry an important portion of the offensive load.

At the onset of 2011-12, a youth movement is clearly underway in the Capital. The aforementioned Condra, Bobby Butler, Zack Smith and Colin Greening have all been granted one-way contracts and will join the likes of Erik Karlsson, Nikita Filatov and Stephane Da Costa in Ottawa.

The above group of youngsters is intriguing and certainly possesses great potential, but like Edmonton out west, will be prone to many of the mistakes that come with inexperience. In addition, with the recent losses of Chris Campoli, Mike Fisher, Jarko Ruutu, Ryan Shannon, Chris Kelly and, yes, even Alexei Kovalev, they will not be protected by an experienced veteran core. Chris Phillips and Daniel Alfredsson are solid players, but their age is visibly catching up to them.

Craig Anderson was excellent upon his arrival in Ottawa, but he remains a question mark. Prior to his move, he posted a pedestrian .897 save percentage in Colorado and, except for the 2009-10 campaign, has little experience as a starter. Regardless, it is likely that he will at least provide more stable goaltending than the duo of Leclaire and Elliot.

The Senators should be high-energy and difficult to play against, but they do not look to be a winning team. Not yet.

Prediction: 5th in the Northeast Division.

What do you think? Where will the Senators finish next season?



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Louis is an editor at HabsWorld.net and has been writing about Canadiens and NHL hockey since 2009. Louis was born in Chicago but grew up in Quebec City where he earned Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Université Laval. He currently lives in Ottawa and works for the Coaching Association of Canada. He can be reached at l.moustakas@habsworld.net.

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