The Senator's training camp is now in full swing. There isn’t a day that goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about what I think of this year’s team. It is no different from any other year. Everyone asks the people they meet the same questions. They want to debate the changes, they want to hope, they want to dream, they want to worry, they want to keep caring. That is one of the most wonderful things about living in a Canadian NHL city. There are very few people you meet who do not care about hockey and who don’t care about this team.
I have to say I have a very good feeling about the forwards on this team. Lots of skill, lots of size, lots of speed. Proven scorers and proven checkers. Ottawa like every other team in the NHL except Detroit would love to have another affordable, veteran scorer who is proven and playoff tested. No small task in finding that without blowing the budget.
I also don’t have any great issues with goaltending and I believe that puts me in the minority after having daily discussions with friends in the stands and hockey fans at the supermarket. I think Gerber will be what he has always been. A very good, steady veteran goaltender. Not an all-star but a solid hard working pro. Alex Auld is the wild card. The book on him everywhere he has been is that he is great until he realizes he is the number #1 guy and then the pressure gets to him. A little older, a little more experience and maybe now he is ready to take the heat if he ever gets a real shot at the #1 job in Ottawa.
My questions are on defence. I think this new group will be bigger, tougher and harder to play against but I still wonder about their ability to move the puck. You can say what you want about Wade Redden and Andrej Mezaros but they were both better puck movers than anyone left on this Ottawa roster from last years team. If you look over his career Filip Kuba should help a great deal in that regard and Brian Lee showed some promise in that area as well but I an still interested to see how it works overall. Bryan Murray has made no secret about his on-going search for an affordable, veteran puck moving defenceman but again, get in line with just about every other team in the league. Anaheim seems to be the only team that doesn’t need more. They simply can’t sign forward Teemu Selanne until they free up cap space by moving Mathieu Schneider. You have to think Bryan Murray would love to get him, but it would have to be at half price and the problem for Murray is there will be several teams in line ahead of him.
We will know more as training camp continues and the exhibition games begin, but right now looking at it on paper, the Senators look to be a team that will still score more than their fair share and likely be a lot nastier in their own end, but might have some problems developing a lot of their offence off the rush without a solid first-pass defenceman unless Kuba is that guy. We will have a good idea about that in short order with the pre-season close at hand.
See you at the rink.