Season Preview 21: Ottawa Senators
The Senators have long been a team that has been considered on the verge of greatness. Their appearance in the Finals two seasons ago seemed to signal their arrival. The fact that they started off on a 15-2-0 streak to begin last season also seemed to signal the arrival of the Sens into that group of teams that are annual Stanley Cup contenders. Then the bottom fell out. Coach John Paddock was fired just before the playoffs, the Senators fell all the way to the 7th seed and seemed in danger of not making the playoffs at all. They were then summarily swept from the playoffs by my Penguins. Then came the offseason. Goalie Ray Emery, the hero of their Finals run, was enough of an off ice distraction that the Senators bought out his contract and he is now playing in the KHL in Russia. Ottawa hired coach Craig Hartsburg to right the ship and on paper, the Senators look to be a team to be reckoned with. However, they know they have a lot to prove.
Probably the player with the most to prove is Martin Gerber, who was named the number one goalie at the end of last season. Gerber had a good season last year (30-18-4, 2 SO, 2.72 GAA, .910 SP) and played well against Pittsburgh in the playoffs. He is expected to play up to 70 games, a load the 34 year old goalie has never carried. He has to prove to himself and the rest of the league that he can play well on a consistent and regular basis.
The Senators brought in Bruins goalie Alex Auld to back Gerber up and push him for the job. Auld is a serviceable back up, who was never been able to prove himself as a starter in Vancouver or Florida. He played OK last season (12-13-5, 2.68 GAA, .907 SP) with struggling Phoenix and Boston teams. However, so far this season, Auld has actually played better than Gerber, sparking a small goalie controversy in Ottawa.
I don't believe the Senators will get off to a rip-roaring start like they did last season, but I expect the team to come together around the middle of the season and play better. GM Brian Murray wouldn't have it any other way. However, I expect another early round playoff exit for the Senators and their frustrated fans.* Read the remainder of this Article in the Premium Content