The Ottawa Senators' 2007-2008 season is one they'll want to forget. They saw a record breaking start lead to one of the worst seasons they have had in the last decade.
The season can be summed up with inconsistent goaltending, spotty defense, and lack of scoring in the second half of the season and especially down the stretch. There are areas that Ottawa needs to address during the offseason. Ottawa needs more depth on their back end and more size up front.
Goaltending has always been, and will continue to be, a problem for Ottawa. Here are some suggestions as far as free agency is concerned for Ottawa. I will try not to mention trade possibilities because those could be endless.
One of the most glaring issues for Ottawa was their defensive play during the 07-08 season.
With the probable departure of Wade Redden, some of our defensive woes will be alleviated. Luke Richardson is also on his way out the door. But with the capable Christoph Schubert possibly playing defense for us next year and the arrival of Brian Lee, there may be only one spot open on the back end.
Lee possesses the offensive upside and first pass capabilities that Redden used to be known for, so he won't be too sadly missed. Schubert plays with the rough and tumble style that Ottawa needs more of on defense. Both players come with a very small impact on the salary cap as well.
Someone who would look good in an Ottawa uniform would be Jason Smith, but you can be sure that he will be re-signed to Philly before July 1. Other options would be to re-sign big Mike Commodore who was starting to fit in nicely with Ottawa.
One other player whose style of play would be welcomed in Ottawa would be Keith Carney from Minnesota. I think an experienced, physical presence is what is needed in the addition to the defensive core of the Senators.
Goaltending has always been an issue for the Senators. Please read the James Duthie Blog on tsn.ca, link appearing below, on the history of the Senators' goaltending woes. It is very difficult to get a top notch goalie—they are few and far between.
With the likely buy-out of Ray Emery's contract, it appears that Martin Gerber will once again be the main man in the pipes during the final year of his contact. Maybe Gerber will come out and play unbelievably like he did for Carolina during his final year of his contact there.
The likely backup will be Brian Elliott or Jeff Glass depending on who has a better training camp.
There aren't too many options on the free agent market to solve their goaltending issues so Gerber is probably as good and anyone out there. Jose Theodore will probably re-sign with Colorado since he earned the number one job this year and they need a goalie.
Washington's two goalies are out there, but Olaf Kolzig didn't have a great year and is moving into the twilight years of his career. Ty Conklin may be heavily sought after in Washington to replace him after his performance this year in Pittsburgh.
Dan Ellis had an unbelievable season and put on quite the clinic in a losing effort against Detroit in the playoffs. Don't expect him to be around after July 1. Then there was that rumored Jason Spezza for Roberto Luongo trade, but I wouldn't put any weight behind that.
I wouldn't expect a change in goal next season for the Sens, so expect it to still be an issue come playoff time, if they make it to that point.
The forward positions are where the most holes need to be filled. The Sens have speed up front but they need to be a bigger, more physical, and more balanced scoring team.
With the big three locked up to long-term contacts, we need to find more support to play with Mike Fisher on the second line. Antoine Vermette may be trade bait this offseason but like I said earlier, I am concentrating on free agent solutions.
One player that needs to be re-signed is Chris Kelly. Kelly brings a lot to the Senators.
He is a leader, great defensively, and can find the back of the net. His age is another positive. With the possible departure of Sean Donovan, Schubert's move to defense, Cory Stillman, Randy Robitaille, and Martin Lapointe (although Bryan Murray really likes him and he might be resigned), there are a lot of holes that need to be filled up front.
Cody Bass appears to have earned consideration for a permanent spot on the roster along with Nick Foligno after a great playoff run against Pittsburgh. A couple of players that would look nice on Ottawa's second line along with Mike Fisher would be Owen Nolan from the Calgary Flames or Michael Ryder of the Montreal Canadiens.
A substitute for Nolan would be Brendan Shanahan or Gary Roberts. Those three guys are experienced and play with an edge that would mesh well with Fisher on the second line. They bring their game every night and would add more consistent scoring and size up front.
Michael Ryder could be used on the top line in replace of Alfreddson to give another sniper for Spezza to dish to, and would be a benefit on the power play.
The first thing that Murray will try to get done is fill the void in the head coach position. There are some quality guys out there to choose from. Randy Cunnyworth was a suggestion made last year before Paddock was given the job and should be given some consideration again.
I would like to throw the name of Pat Burns into the mix. After his bout with cancer he hasn't lost his passion for hockey and may come back behind the bench given a chance. He has the experience of a winning coach and it would definitely make me happy if they hired him for the job.
Another guy that many Ottawa fans may call me crazy for considering is Pat Quinn. Sure we don't have a great history with this Toronto coach but he is still a great coach. He has done nothing but win while representing Canada since he left Toronto. He still wants to coach and Bryan Murray should give him a call.
His coaching style is also right up Bryan Murray's alley. This will be a busy offseason for the general manager, but he does have options and I hope he makes the most out of them.
Of course, none of these suggestions may actually occur, but those would be players that I would be having discussions with come July 1 if I were Bryan Murray. I think they are guys that fit Murray's taste and Ottawa's needs.
I just try to picture Ottawa's starting line up for the first game of next season and the thought of it gives me hope and excitement no matter how false the hope may be. But wouldn't it be nice to see this as the roster for game one? They have the cap space—can they get it done?