When Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray made the announcement of who would start the year with the big club, there weren’t any real surprises.
Some of the rookies who made an impression didn’t do enough to bump a veteran from a spot. Jared Cowen was sent back to junior, while Robin Lehner, Patrick Wiercioch, Mike Hoffman and Bobby Butler will head to the AHL knowing they left an impression with management. There is a good chance that they could all see some time with the big squad.
David Hale stuck around for a few days this week, but was eventually put on waivers and sent to Binghamton. There was a chance he could have been claimed had he been waived when other teams had not set their rosters. He will be the first defenseman called up if there is an injury.
When you head into camp with 20 players on one way deals, the lineup will most likely be set before you hit the ice. Of course not everyone who starts here in Ottawa will remain. Zach Smith, who played 21 games (including six in the playoffs), made the team and could force his way into the lineup on a permanent basis. Which means someone will get moved.
The biggest question mark surrounding the Senators is one that afflicts many, especially in the Eastern Conference. Goaltending.
Who will step up and take over between the pipes? Pascal Leclaire was brought in to shore up the net, but injuries and inconsistent play limited his effectiveness. Brian Elliot stepped in and played well enough to lead the team to a fifth spot in the East, but faltered when they needed him the most. One of them will need to take over.
The defense is under going a transition. There will be more emphasis on moving the puck and going forward. Sergei Gonchar signed a three year deal, meaning longtime Senator Anton Volchenkov was not retained. Erik Karlsson put up 26 points and was a point a game in the playoffs, and has the look of a number one defenseman. A slow pre season is nothing to worry about. Filip Kuba missed the playoffs due to an injury and suffered a broken leg on the first day of training camp, but should be back by the end of the month. Chris Philips, Chris Campoli, Brian Lee and Matt Carkner round out a solid but not spectacular group.
Up front, Ottawa has plenty of depth. Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Alexi Kovalev will get their points. Milan Michalek and Nick Foligno are coming off injury plagued seasons and will need to rebound. The only top six forward who was healthy was Mike Fisher, who had a career high in goals and assists. Peter Regin turned some heads with his two-way play and could see time on the top line.
The Sens might have one of the top third lines with Chris Neil, Chris Kelly and Jarkko Ruutu. Their fourth line, Jesse Winchster, Zach Smith and Ryan Shannon can fill in different roles.
Coach Cory Clouston has to like what he has from his skaters. There is depth, experience and talent. What he can’t be too confident in at this point is who will be his number one goalie. And that is one position he needs to have confidence in.