When Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray made his moves to rebuild the team, it was the hope of the organization to give younger, less experienced players a chance to play. With the trades of four veterans leading up to the end of the season, some of those AHL’ers got their chance at an everyday NHL role. Based on the late season play of Colin Greening, Eric Condra, Zach Smith and Bobby Butler those players will all have a spot with the Sens this fall. The belief at the end of 2011 was there would be open spots in Ottawa. It seems most of the open positions are no longer… open.
Players will have to show they can play. And the new coaching staff will have to decide who plays where. One player who will always have has role defined on this team is Jason Spezza. Over the last few years it felt like players wanted out of Ottawa or that guys weren’t living up to their potential. Spezza has put to rest any notion he doesn’t want to be a Senator and he proved this past season he has what it takes to lead this team after Daniel Alfredsson. Now they need to find the right pieces to put around him.
Alfredsson is and always will be the best of what this organization has produced. However he is rounding the bend towards the inevitable end of his career. He is turning 39 this year and while he has remained fairly healthy (playing in 70 or more games in eight straight years until 2010-11, when he played in only 54 games), he is coming off back surgery. He should be good for a point a game when he can play, but he can’t carry a team at this stage.
Other forwards expected to play top-six minutes are Milan Michalek, Butler, and Peter Regin. Both Michalek and Regin need to remain healthy, but more importantly show they can contribute regularly. Newly acquired Nikita Filatov, Stephane Da Costa and Greening will also battle to show they belong.
The bottom six will comprise of new and old faces. Nick Foligno is better than your average third liner but hasn’t been consistent enough to be an everyday second line player. Chris Neil gives maximum effort at all times and will drop the mitts. Jesse Winchester is a perfect fourth line guy, plays his role, is cheap and doesn’t rock the boat. Condra has the ability to score some goals but may not see the quality minutes with Spezza or Alfredsson. He will become a consistent 15 goal scorer who plays at both ends of the ice as well as the PK. Zenon Konopka was signed to add some grit and take important face offs. Smith will center one of the lines. The Sens love how he plays.
2011 first round pick Mika Zibanejad, 2007 first round pick Jim O’Brien and Jakob Silfverberg, if he comes over from Sweden, have an outside chance of making the roster this season.
At this point the Sens don’t seem to be looking to add to their forward group. There is some good talent, enough to compete. Ottawa isn’t in a position to challenge the top teams in the league right now. So for the time being some players will be given an opportunity to show what they can do while others may be moved to contending teams. The rebuild is in motion up front.