After bowing out to the Ducks four games-to-one in the Stanley Cup finals, questions were abound whether the Senators would able to sustain another run to the finals in 2008. Senators' managment, led by former head coach Bryan Murray, remained largely inactive over the summer, and some believe management's inability to address the lack of team toughness and secondary scoring will, once again, be the Senators downfall.
Here are five questions many have about the 2007/08 version of the Ottawa Senators:
Is John Paddock capable of filling Bryan Murray's shoes?
Paddock has paid his dues in the minors since his days in Winnipeg coaching the Jets. His adjustment period shouldn't be very long considering Paddock's knowledge of the player personnel from his days as an Assistant Coach with the Senators and Head Coach in Binghamton. The guess here is that Paddock won't be much of a drop-off from Bryan Murray. As long as he lets his stars play, the team will comfortably be in the top four of the Eastern Conference standings.
Do the Senators lack secondary scoring?
In a word: yes. However, they lacked secondary scoring last season too and came within a series of hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup. After Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson the goal scoring falls off significantly. This was the downfall of the Senators when they had to match up against the Ducks and their top defensive pair that included either Pronger, Niedermayer or both. One reason that the Senators' secondary scoring wasn't an issue in the first three rounds is because they didn't come up against a top defensive pairing; therefore, the team's top line of Spezza/Heatley/Alredsson could abuse lesser defensive pairings. Once the Ducks threw Pronger/Niedermayer at them, the top unit had difficulty creating offense, and were broken up on multiple occasions. If the Sens don't address their lack of scoring depth, they will be hard pressed to repeat as the Eastern Conference champions.
Will the team miss Schaeffer, Preissing and Comrie?
Not really. Schaeffer has a reputation as a strong player along the boards, and while there is merit to that point, he lacks the necessary scoring touch to justify playing on one of the top two scoring lines of a contending team. Additionally, his play during the latter part of the playoffs left much to be desired.
Preissing had a terrific regular season, and took advantage of that impressive play by signing a nice contract in Los Angeles. The diminutive defenseman gave Ottawa some great mobility on the back-end and consistently led the breakout with a good first pass. Nonetheless, the Sens are probably the deepest team on the back end in the entire league and Preissing was really playing third unit duty during the 2007 playoffs. The former Shark will not be difficult to replace.
Comrie was mostly ineffective during his stay short stay with the Sens and when he wasn't scoring, which was often, he wasn't contributing much else. Comrie will hardly be missed in the Nation's Capital.
Is Ray Emery the real deal?
Ray Emery is not in the class of Luongo, Brodeur, Kiprusoff or Lundqvist but he doesn't have to be. He slots in solidly behind the top tier of goaltenders in the NHL. The big backstop benefits from plenty of goals up front and a defense that is terrific at keeping teams to the outside and getting in passing/shooting lanes. In the unlikely event that Emery falters, the team has Martin Gerber there to back him up. Fans should count on Emery for 40 wins and a respectable G.A.A. in 2007/08.
Can the Senators make it back to the finals?
Sure they can; however, their road to get there became a lot more difficult with the additions of Gomez and Drury in NYC and the Penguins adding a nice mix of veterans to go along with their bundles of young talent up front. Overall, these should be the three teams that compete for Eastern representation in the Cup finals. Although, it says here that the Senators will not return to play for Lord Stanley's mug in June 2008.
On to the morning papers:
- Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette has a fascinating piece about the Canadiens hiring a stickhandling coach. Perhaps more teams will hire speciality coaches?
- Kris Letang is attempting to make the Penguins a year after being sent back to the QMJHL after only a few NHL games. The sentiment around the team seems to be that Letang's will be given a starting defenseman job that is his to lose.
- After essentially telling John Tortorella that he was going to stick it to him, Marc Denis has a lot of pressure on his shoulders entering Lightning training camp; Erik Erlendsson has the story in this morning's Tampa Tribune.
- Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star documents Mats Sundin's expectations for the upcoming season. Apparently the word "cup" was uttered (I am wondering if the word drunk was also uttered).
- As Rosie Dimanno of the Toronto Star learned, there is never a dull moment with Darcy Tucker.
- Brent Sutter and Lou Lamoriello should have a great, long-lasting relationship due to their similar hockey philosophies writes Damien Cox of the Star.
- Canucks' prospect Juraj Simek was promoted to the main training camp on Monday writes Ben Kuzma of the Vancouver Province.
- Being a newcomer last season resulted in some nerves for the Canucks' Roberto Luongo. This season the nerves are gone and he is looking to lead the team from the outset of camp.
- Scotty Bowman, once again, denies he is leaving the Red Wings for the Leafs in this morning's Globe and Mail.
- The Ducks are going to assume Selanne and Niedermayer are not returning says Randy Carlyle in this morning's Orange County Register. As Dan Wood writes, with an early trip overseas, the Ducks better be well-prepared to break camp.
- In this morning's Boston Herald, new coach Claude Julien stresses defensive responsibility, along with offensive creativity as some of the keys to a successful team.
- After locking up Jarome Iginla and Robyn Regehr this summer, Darryl Sutter has shifted his focus to re-signing Miikka Kiprusoff this season writes Jean Lefebvre of the Calgary Herald.
- With the Blue Jackets returning to the prospects tournament title game, their championships in the past two tournaments exemplify how meaningless team results in these tournaments really are.
- While the Stars are short on goalie prospects for the first time since their arrival to Texas, their NHL depth is among the top in the NHL writes Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.
- Coming off a tremendous Super Series, Oilers' 2007 first round pick Sam Gagner is looking to make an impact at the big camp. The Oilers don't want to put too much pressure on their top prospect but do feel he's coming into camp at the right time.
- The Oilers' players' wives come to the defense of the City of Edmonton in this morning's Calgary Herald (how ironic?).
- Steven Gorton of the Florida Sun-Sentinel tells us that Mike Van Ryn will have two healthy wrists for the first time in a while.
- The Kings are not exactly easing into training camp writes Lonnie White of the L.A. Times.
- Ryan O'Byrne is hoping size works in his favor as he tries to crack the Canadiens blue line.
- Jim Dowd is not done with hockey yet and has been invited to Flyers' camp writes Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger.