It was a tale of two summers for the Ottawa Senators organization and their fans.
After losing out in the first round to the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, fans and media alike were somewhat surprised to hear their star centre might be moved. General Manager Bryan Murray mentioned he and Jason Spezza had discussed the possibility of exploring a trade before his no-trade clause kicked in. Of course having dealt with the Dany Heatley fiasco the summer before, fans here in the nations capital had to wonder if there was a curse hanging over Scotiabank Place.
But after a sweaty July 1 both sides laid to rest any notion that a trade was ever close and on top of that Spezza was looking forward to being an Ottawa Senator for years to come. While yours truly heard a different story — one that contradicts what was said publicly — that’s in the past now so let’s focus on the future.
The only other the business Murray had to take care of was signing Chris Campoli and Peter Regin before arbitration. And both were signed to contracts which fit into the Sens pay structure. Now I am not implying that Murray spent the summer at the cottage or sitting at his desk with his feet up, but it must have been a good feeling knowing there were few distractions or major dealings to take care of. And that is something Sens fans can appreciate.
It is always great to see hockey even if it’s the rookies.
And after watching former GM John Muckler do his best to handcuff this franchise, a restocked farm system is a welcome sight. A few kids were missing as they are still in Europe but you could see four or five kids who have a chance in the near future.
Goalie Robin Lehner has the tools and will be looked upon as the future in nets. Top prospects Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen both looked impressive on defense, but so did Eric Gryba. A physical smart blueliner, Gryba may have opened some eyes with his play.
Up front Mike Hoffman and Bobby Butler showed they have the ability to play all facets of the game and can be counted on to score. Both will get a look at the big camp but will probably spend the majority of the season in the AHL. Butler might be more ready but the Sens have 12 forwards on one way deals so it might take a few games into the year to see if he can crack the squad.
All-Star Game 2012
This organization has shown in the last few years the ability to put on a great event. The NHL has awarded the city two drafts in the last five years and combined with the Ottawa 67’s had the most successful World Junior tournament ever.
So when word started leaking out a year ago that an All-Star Game was in the works, the only issue which stood in the way was a convention centre. Since the congress centre downtown will be completed next year, problem solved.
Team President Cyril Leeder and the organization will have many events planned during the four days with an outdoor event on the Canal during Winterlude being a strong possibility.
The Senators opens camp tomorrow with physicals and check ins. Saturday the players hit the ice.
The Sens have twelve forwards and six blueliners on one way deals. Training camp may not be formality but the staff have a good idea going into the next few weeks who will be on the roster. It is up to guys like Butler, Roman Wick, Kaspars Daugavins, Wiercioch, Cowen and Zach Smith to impress, be it for the start if the season or down the road.