There were a lot of benefactors from last season’s memorable run that saw them go 23-4-4 record down the stretch to snag a wild card playoff spot. Those who benefited include Dave Cameron, Andrew Hammond, and Mark Stone.
Cameron was awarded a two-year contract after taking over for Paul MacLean in December. Hammond, also known as “The Hamburglar”, secured a three-year deal which allowed the Sens to ship Robin Lehner and David Legwand to Buffalo for the No. 21 overall pick in this year’s draft that was used to select Colin White. Stone, who was second on the team in goals (26), and points (64), parlayed his Calder Trophy-nominated season into a three-year, $10.5-million contract. The spotlight will be on all three entering this season. Can they come out for encore performances, or will they become a great one-hit wonder?
While we are on the subject of goaltending, Hammond be in a goaltending battle with Craig Anderson. How will Cameron handle these two? Hammond was the darling of the second half of the season before flaming out in the first games of the playoffs, giving way to Anderson. It could (and should) be Anderson’s gig to start, but if he’s shaky or doesn’t win games don’t be surprised if Cameron keeps either one on a short leash before he has confidence in one of them.
The blue line is where the Sens can be scary good. Erik Karlsson has two Norris Trophies on his mantle and he’s only 25. Still striding to the peak of his career, he has the ability to make this team a contender. He’ll have Marc Methot for the entire season (barring injury) and the two has the ability to keep pucks out of the net as well as leading the offense. The second unit should consist of Cody Ceci and Patrick Wiercioch, who is still developing into NHL-caliber players. Cameron should expect consistency out of these two.
The area that should see the greatest improvement from last season is the forwards. Stone will wing the top line with Kyle Turris in the middle and Clarke MacArthur on the other side. Stone will be setup for success, it will be up to him to avoid the sophomore slump. Mika Zibanejad will play on the second line with Bobby Ryan. Ryan had an awful season last year, and it was bailed out by his teammates like Stone when the team was on their pursuit of the playoffs late in the regular season. Pressure will be on him to return to the 30-goal scorer he was in Anaheim. At 28 he still has the potential to perform at a high level.
Overall, Ottawa has a tall task ahead of them. Everything worked in their favor since the calendar turned from January to February. It’ll be interesting to see if they will sink or swim. I’m choosing sink because they didn’t add anyone of significance. Water finds its weight eventually and the Senators will fall back to early and find themselves on the outside of the playoff chase come the trade deadline. Bryan Murray could try to add some firepower to the roster to make another run, but I see them coming up short.