Last year, when Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza, Ottawa's two best players went down, I presumed their hopes and dreams went down with them. Then, Craig Anderson managed to put up magical, Brian Elliott-esque numbers, and when he got hurt, other goalies stepped in. No name young players showed up and played well. Somehow, someway, the Senators bucked the odds and made the playoffs as the seven seed. Since they had Karlsson back by that point, it was not that surprising to me that they managed to upset the Montreal Canadiens, although they did it in a more efficient fashion than I anticipated. They could not overcome Pittsburgh in the second round, but it was still a nice run for an intriguing Ottawa team.
A healthy Karlsson and a healthy Spezza are huge, to begin with. Spezza is a very good center, and Karlsson is one of the best defensemen in the league, particularly on the offensive side of things. Anderson is going to see his numbers dip this year, for he is not one of the best goalies of all time, but even if he does, Robin Lehner is one of the best backups in the league. Sure, Daniel Alfredsson, long the face of the franchise, is gone. Will he be missed? To some degree, I suppose. He can still play, and he will help Detroit. However, Alfredsson went to the Wings because he felt they gave him the better chance of winning a Cup in his winter years. I am not so sure that is the case.
The Sens made a big move this offseason trading for Bobby Ryan. He is a big power forward with excellent hands. They didn't have to sell the farm to get him either, and he is a major upgrade in the present. They added Clarke MacArthur, a solid depth forward. They traded Ben Bishop for Cory Conacher last season, a season wherein Conacher was a Calder candidate much of the year. When healthy, Kyle Turris is very good. They have young forward like Mika Zibanejad and Jean-Gabriel Pageau as well. I like this forward group.
On defense, they have some talent around Karlsson. Chris Phillips, the most banal first round pick of all-time perhaps, is getting up there, but young guys like Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen are ready to become bigger parts of this team. Also, for what it is worth, Paul MacLean seems like a very good coach, and he commands respect with his oft-discussed mustache.
I really like this Ottawa team. While I don't think they will win their division, I definitely see them as a playoff team, and I think they will be fighting Detroit for that second position in the Metropolitan. Based on what I wrote earlier, you may be able to predict that I think the Sens will end up finishing in that spot. Are they a contender for the title? Perhaps as outsiders, but as intriguing outsiders. The kind you don't want to overlook. I think we may be looking at the best team in Canada playing in its capital. Take that, Maple Leafs!