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Sunday, September 20, 2009

OGA SPR: The Ottawa Senators – The Colonel

As refreshing as a water bottle sqirt through your goalie mask, OGA's 21st Season Preview Report brings you a look at the Ottawa Senators for the 2009/2010 season...

Last Season versus the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC): Called at Tee Time – out of the Playoffs – after Game 30 /19 December 2008 for their first season to miss the Playoffs since the Lockout. They began the season right about along the PQC. But they lost their way from Game 26 through 50, winning only 8.5 games out of 25. They were perfect for Games 51 – 55, giving Senator fans false hope for a comeback, but, alas, the season was decided unequivocally back before Christmas.

Post-Lockout average PQC and what to expect this season: Ottawa averages a 4.96 against the PQC since the Stoppage and has progressed as far as the Stanley Cup finals in 2007. Last season was their worst season against the PQC but a glance at output since the Stoppage has shown a steady decline in the final tally of wins each season. Maybe a plus for Sens fans is the fact that over the last four years every OTHER year has started off a barn burner and last year did not. So if the pattern remains, we might see Ottawa nearly perfect in their first 10 games. If they are, it will be an early call of Chasing Stanley that accompanies that performance. If they do not, however, Sens fans need to watch for overall play by Game 40 – that was when they first overcame the PQC in the 2006/7 season. Anything less than a call of Chasing Stanley by mid-January may indicate an impending repeat of last year’s end result.

How will the Senators fall in for the 2009/10 season?

Team Play: ISSUE – (Hopefully) A lack of distractions… Ahhhh! Refreshing to be over it, eh? It should go without saying the presence of Dany Heatley would have been a HUGE distraction on many levels for this team. We would like to begin this section of Ottawa’s SPR by saying he is no longer here, and short of tobloidists and ambulance chasers who want to know what that ‘thing’ was that caused so much bad blood nobody has really told us about, the Hockey world should move on. And that is precisely what we will do here in breaking down the team…

A combination of several sources indicates a possible No. 1 line of Alfredsson -Spezza-Michalek from left to right, and Foligno-Fisher-Kovalev on No. 2. The No. 1 trio was tested Friday, 18 September and produced a goal by Michalek from Spezza and Alexandre Picard for The Sens’ first pre-season, even-strength goal. Line No. 2 was clicking against Montreal Saturday night, 19 September with a combined 4 Gs and 6 As by game’s end. It must be noted if the No. 1 and 2 combos stick, a question arises as to where to fit Jonathan Cheechoo. The FoxSports web site’s depth charts indicate Cheechoo is the No.3 RW and Chris Neil comes in on the No. 4 line. It is not showing Shean Donovan who is down the depth charts at best and may be on the outs in a personal worst case scenario. As a bottom line, some wingers are going to have to try another side or be the best ones in their current slot in camp in order to stay on the roster with the big club.

The top two pairings listed on defense are Phillips-Lee and Kuba-Campoli. In these four, you have 20, 20, 40 and 30-point (projected) defenders respectively. The Phillips-Lee pair offsets the free-wheeling Line 1 to maintain enough defensive order to not see Sens’ goalies bombarded with counter-attacking opportunities when the Number 1 offensive line is on the ice. The Kuba-Campoli pair is NOT the offensively gifted, power play tandem in terms of last season’s scoring you might think – they only combined for four total PP points. Alexandre Picard and Brendan Bell led the defenders on the PP with six and five points respectively, but they both project to the mid-20’s/low-30’s in points if healthy for an entire season.
Going into camp, Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott sit in the number 1 and 2 goalie positions. Leclaire’s 12 games last season all fell before Christmas and then he was lost to an ankle injury for the remainder of the year. Reports, however, indicate he is chompin’ at the bit to get going and, healthy, should be a steady influence on the ice. He is the kind of goalie who can change the game for the team. Elliott will likely be the capable back-up who held down the crease for more than 30 games last season.

This team, in order to get past the bad Heatley blood in their dressing room, will have to come out of the corner swinging – winning is the one thing that will keep the press and the fans out of your knickers.

Fantasy Value: It is not difficult to predict that Alfredsson, Spezza and Kovalev will put up some numbers this upcoming season. They are good 2nd or 3rd round draftees. It is a bit of a crap shoot as to which one is THE best pick based on the lack of pre-season scoring. But it should be noted Alfredsson traditionally plays in all situations and more when a game is on the line. Michalek last season was a 20+ goal/almost-60 point man, so should get some consideration for your mid-round forward positions, especially if on Line 1. Campoli is a solid defensive recommendation with Kuba, Picard and Bell possible steals in later rounds. And Pascal Leclaire is a good recommendation for a depth goalie on your team, not because of his personal abilities, but because of questions about the team in front of him.

Schedule Analysis: Almost 5700 more frequent flyer miles this season than last. For a primary analysis of the team’s overall 2009/10 regular season schedule, go to this link.

Tomorrow brings you the Philadelphia Flyers 2009/10 SPR…

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