30 in 30: Ryan, young players alter Senators lineup
Tuesday, 08.20.2013 / 3:00 AM
By Korey Masesak
The Ottawa Senators had to deal with injuries to key players last season but still managed to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs and knock off a division rival before getting eliminated by one of the two best teams in the Eastern Conference.
Had the Senators not been dealt such bad luck with their health, they probably would have … reached the playoffs, defeated a division rival in the first round (maybe the Toronto Maple Leafs instead of the Montreal Canadiens in the 4/5 or 2/7 matchup) then been eliminated by one of the two best teams in the East.
Ottawa was a prime example of how NHL teams are sometimes able to survive without star players over the course of a small sample size. But the Senators also managed to meet preseason expectations, albeit with a greater degree of difficulty because of the injuries.
The ensuing offseason has not lacked drama. Longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson made it to free agency without an extension and ended up joining a new division rival, the Detroit Red Wings. The breakup has been public and a little messy.
General manager Bryan Murray didn't take long to replace Alfredsson, sending a package of players to the Anaheim Ducks for Bobby Ryan. The Senators also added Clarke MacArthur as a free agent, and, if healthy, the top six forwards could be more potent, even with Alfredsson in Detroit.
Veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar was set to leave as a free agent before being traded to the Dallas Stars, where he quickly signed. Veteran Joe Corvo was subsequently added as a depth defenseman, but Jared Cowen, a restricted free agent who needs a contract, will be expected to fill a bigger role.
With Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, the Senators might have one of the top goaltending tandems in the NHL, especially now that Jonathan Bernier and Cory Schneider have changed addresses.
Ottawa looks like a solid playoff team and one that can close the gap on the elite teams in the conference. Whether or not the Senators can challenge the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit at the top of the East likely will hinge on better health and a couple of young defensemen improving. Then again, Paul MacLean has proven to be an elite coach who is able to produce results regardless of who is available to play on any given night.