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Rant Sports NHL 30 in 30: Ottawa Senators Preview

Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE

 

As Rant Sports’ 30 teams in 30 days preview series rolls along, today Jon Reid takes a look at the Ottawa Senators.

 

2011-2012 Season Recap

To say that the Ottawa Senators were the over-achievers of the Eastern Conference last season would be an understatement.

Experts had the Sens pegged as the worst team in the conference, led by an aging Daniel Alfredsson and having very little around him besides Jason Spezza.

By the end of the year, the Sens had one of the league’s top scorers (Spezza), the top young defenseman around and Norris Trophy winner (Erik Karlsson) and found themselves occupying the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

They then went on to put the conference champion New York Rangers to the ultimate test, taking the Rangers to seven games and even leading them three games to two at one point in the first round.

The emergence of Karlsson, neminder Craig Anderson and two-way forward extraordinaire Colin Greening, along with one of the top prospect pools in the league has Sens fans looking forward to the future excitedly and with good reason.

 

Offseason Additions

This offseason wasn’t a particularly noteworthy one for Sens GM Bryan Murray and his front office team.

Despite being open with their desire to land stud winger Rick Nash, that trade was never in the cards as Nash was not willing to wash his no-trade clause to head to the Canadian capital.

Murray did, however, add a few pieces this offseason, bringing defenseman Marc Methot back to his hometown and picking up depth defenseman Mike Lundin, as well as adding agitator Guillaume Latendresse.

It appears as though Murray will rely on his current roster and up-and-coming prospects like Mika Zibanejad, Mark Stone and Jakob Silfverberg to continue to improve his Sens squad.

 

Offseason Departures

With players like Methot and Lundin coming to Ottawa, it was all but guaranteed that defenseman Filip Kuba and his bloated salary would not be back in the nation’s capital in 2012-2013.

Tough guys Zenon Konopka and Matt Carkner are also on their way out of town, presumably to make room for the prospects mentioned above.

The most important piece of last year’s team that’s heading out of town is Nick Foligno, who will now be suiting up for the Columbus Blue Jackets, as part of the Marc Methot deal.

 

The X-Factor

Without a doubt, the success of the Ottawa Senators in 2012-2013 will hinge on two key players: Craig Anderson and Jason Spezza.

Despite the additions of Mike Lundin and Marc Methot on the blue line, the Sens will still have a lot to prove defensively, as they gave up a lot of shots against last year.

If Anderson cannot duplicate his success on the back end, the Sens may be in for a long year.

As for Spezza, he was the offense last season for Ottawa.

While Milan Michalek may have notched well over 30 goals, don’t think that Spezza’s incredible passing ability wasn’t one of the major reasons for his success (Michalek had never scored more than 30 in any other season of his career).

Throw in the fact that Spezza was one of the league’s top point-getters last year and you’ve got a major problem if he doesn’t step up again or goes down with an injury.

 

Next Breakout Talent

After defenseman Erik Karlsson put himself on the map last year with one of the best offensive seasons ever by a defenseman, who should Sens fans look to in 2012-2013 to potentially emerge as their next superstar?

While the popular answer in Ottawa may be top prospect Mika Zibanejad, I’d be more inclined to say that Kyle Turris is the player to watch in Ottawa this season.

After coming into his own last season once he was dealt to the Senators, Turris was a force in the postseason where he showed why he taken with the third overall pick in 2007.

The Sens will need him to step up this season and provide some depth scoring behind Spezza and the top line.

 

2012-2013 Season Outlook

As of right now, the Ottawa Senators are still an enigma.

It remains to be seen whether they are a true contender or whether they will revert to being the team everyone expected them to be.

If Jason Spezza and Craig Anderson can stay healthy, Daniel Alfredsson can be as effective as he has been over the past few years even at his age and the Sens can have even one or two of their prospects step up and have solid seasons, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them jump as high as sixth or seventh in the Eastern Conference.

While some Sens fans feel they may see their team contend for the division title in 2012-2013, there is still quite a gap between Ottawa and Boston in terms of talent.

Look for the Sens to improve a little bit this year and continue to cause problems for the higher seeds in the East come playoff time.