Senators inconsistent, but learning
At this point in the season I figured I would still be talking about the concept of the Ottawa Senators and the fan idea of "Fail for Nail."
For those who are not in the know, there was a grassroots campaign among Senators fan that the Sens should just spend the season giving their young prospects time to develop and not worry about the score-line, and just looking forward to a high draft pick.
While the attitude has not vanished entirely among the fan base, and I include myself in that, it is seeming less and less likely as the season wears on.
The Sens are not top of the table, with a 10-9-1 record, but they are certainly holding their own. Their record is currently good enough to have them in the top eight, and therefore a playoff spot, if the playoffs started now. Albeit they have a few games in hand on their Eastern competition.
I want to take the time to tackle a few different issues, and positives surrounding the Ottawa Senators on the ice, and of course, off the ice.
Alfredsson is making just over $4.5 million dollars to play hockey this season, and is definitely providing solid bang for his buck with eight points in 13 games. Let's face it, at 38 years old Alfie is in the twilight of his career, and expecting more offensive production is just ignorant. Alfie is integral in leading the young generation of Senators, because he certainly knows what a winning culture feels like (despite not winning a cup, the Sens have had several years as a dominant team for him to hang his hat on) and he also knows how to create offense.
All that being said, he is signed on for next season as well, at a salary of $1 million. Melnyk has openly said Alfie will have a spot with the team after retirement, likely in a front office job. Now, should the Senators trade him away to a contender? This question is being discussed vividly in many different forums and in the media, and it's a valid question.
Alfie still has value, and can definitely help a team out in a quest for the cup, so it comes down to whether or not Alfie's impact with the squad as a leader outweighs the benefits trading him could bring. I believe the tea should trade him only if a deal comes in that completely blows the doors off Ottawa. I wouldn't trade him for draft picks, but for a young, but somewhat proven, top-six forward (honestly, the Sens don't need D prospects). That is the only way he gets dealt.
Nikita Filatov seems unhappy with being demoted to the Rochester Ameri.... err, I mean the B-Sens, after he did not stick with the top team. While management liked his offensive talent, other areas of his game were found lacking. The KHL has come calling, but Murray currently has no interest in talking with them, as Filatov is signed to the Sens for the season. Filatov needs to man up, learn how to play defensively, and work his way up the team's depth chart.
Sergei Gonchar, or Senchar, as Ron Guillet and myself refer to him, has had a resurgent year for the Senators. A few turnovers early in the season had me slamming my head against the wall, but his play has improved dramatically. I hope he can continue the pace he is at, or at least finish above 40 points. Oh, and of course, keep mentoring Erik Karlsson.
Speaking of Karlsson, he has been a revelation for the Sens. He is leading the league in points for a defenseman, with 18 points in 20 games. While his offensive upside is astonishing, I hope his play in his own zone improves a little. At times he plays sound defense, and at times he looks kind of like Wade Redden (who I saw this weekend when the Connecticut Whale played the St. Johns IceCaps, by the way).
Milan Michalek has also been a revelation for the Senators, as he has 20 points, including 12 goals. He looks like the prospect everybody thought he was coming into the year, and it certainly appears as though his summer work-out regime has put him into a better position than ever.
The grinders are getting it done for the Senators, as it not only appears the Senators know how to play defensively this season (mind you, there have been, and will continue to be, many bumps and bruises this season), but their grinders can score too. Foligno, Smith, Neil and Greening are showing the Senators have some great depth who can construe clutch offense. Foligno has 6 goals in 19 games, so it appears he may actually reach the 20 goal plateau finally, which would be exactly where the Sens want him to be. I think he operates best as a third line forward, who brings intense energy and passion to the ice, but can fill in on a scoring line when necessary.
Last, but not least, the Senators finally seem to have a competent goaltending situation. Anderson has been good. By that I mean that he has sometimes been great, and sometimes poor, but overall he has provided consistently good goaltending. He has certainly been playing with a lot of confidence lately, and the results are showing. Also, we finally have a top prospect in goaltender Robin Lehner, and the team is not rushing him, which is welcome news.
Overall, I don't think the Sens will be competing in the playoffs this season, and if they do, they don't appear to have a run in them, so I forecast another good draft year. The Sens are giving their young prospects plenty of ice time, and Maclean seems to be a capable teacher for the young guys. Ottawa should hopefully become a legit playoff team within the next two seasons at this pace, which is a great rebuilding effort.