BT's 10 Bold (Or Not So Bold) 2010-11 NHL Predictions: The Ottawa Senators
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The Otttawa Senators have always had trouble with secondary scoring. They've tried to fill those holes through free-agency, from within, and now with the acquisition of Sergei Gonchar, they're going to try to revitalize their puck-moving defensive ways of old.
Along with that, the maturation of Erik Karlsson and the hopeful emergence of Zack Smith at the NHL level means that the Senators may not have to shop for scoring help, and that they've finally found the young guys to fill those roles.
Ottawa's second question remains in net, where there really hasn't been a solid starter since Patrick Lalime. If Pascal Leclaire isn't the answer, then is Brian Elliott? Or, is Elliott just a stop-gap until Robin Lehner is ready for full-time major league duty?
1) Alex Kovalev fights two more times
Sure it's been five years since his last fight and he's only had four in total, but in no way is this over. Kovalev wants to avenge himself against Francois Beauchemin and he'll do just that. Sens fans, your new heavyweight!
2) Kovalev has a big year offensively
Ok...so the fighting one isn't really realistic. If he even has one more fight this year I'll be surprised. Then again, there will be those people who'll be surprised if Kovalev has a big year offensively. Known for going through his share of off-years, Kovalev is in a contract year and wants to earn one more deal. Whether that's in Ottawa or not remains to be seen, but he should be motivated, especially coming off of knee surgery. If he's not, we'll find out awfully quick.
3) Jason Spezza rebounds after a tumultuous off-season
Some guys can never buy a break and Jason Spezza is one of those guys. It seemed like he had to learn every lesson the hard way when he was trying to crack the NHL early in his career, and since then nothing's come easy to Spezza other than scoring. Well, last year that dried up and there were no shortage of people preparing to jump on his back. Is a 90-point season in the works? With an aging Alfredsson and limited tools to works with it might not be, but 75 should be.
4) Zack Smith becomes the high-powered rookie Ottawa's been longing for
Every few seasons the Senators find themselves a rookie they feel will adapt quickly (and well) to the NHL level (Jesse Winchester comes to mind when he was given top-line minutes out of camp a few years ago). Unfortunately they haven't been able to find that. With Zack Smith's physical makeup though, he could be exactly what they need. A perfectly-molded power forward, Smith's numbers won't blow your mind, but he'll at least be a consistent rookie.
5) Daniel Alfredsson scores 25 goals
Shying away from those high-powered "Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson" days, Alfie has settled back into the 20-25 goal range. At 37, a high-flying year probably isn't likely, but the leadership and modest scoring touch are certainly welcome. A rebound season from Spezza will help those totals along, too.
6) Chris Campoli replaces Filip Kuba
Not just while he's out, but for the rest of the season too. Kuba is a good offensive defenseman that fell into injury problems last year, but with the signing of Gonchar and Karlsson beginning to acclimatize to the NHL, along with the fact that Campoli, when given the opportunity, can be a great puck-mover too, means that Kuba could get limited ice time in offensive situations. At least don't expect top-pairing minutes like he was getting last year.
7) Leclaire is out of the goaltending picture by season's end
I'm tired of Brian Elliott surprising everyone and taking over the starting role. It's pretty much happened each of the last two seasons. So you know what? He can have it. Leclaire has his work cut out for him to prove that he can stay healthy and be effective. If not, he may go the way of Martin Prusek.
8) Matt Carkner fights 27 times this year
He had 24 in his first season last year, and that's just the beginning. Besides, he fought Colton Orr eight times last year...what's another three?
9) Milan Michalek scores 30 goals, but fails to get 25 assists
With first line ice time, Michalek is being given every opportunity to succeed and if he had stayed healthy last year, he might have gotten pretty close to this weird milestone (22 goals in 66 games). In San Jose he was more of a play-maker (at least 30 assists in three straight seasons), but he keeps the finisher's mentality this season. It's also not unlikely for something like this to happen. Just look at Patric Hornqvist or Matt Moulson.
10) Erik Karlsson has a 40-point season
Who cares what big-money free agent Sergei Gonchar will do for this franchise (ok...a few people probably do)? My eyes are on the Swedish sophomore who figured out his puck-moving game after a brief stint in the AHL and really turned it on over the last few weeks of the year. Karlsson displayed the tools that made him such a popular prospect in scouting circles and those won't be going away any time soon. Just watch him skate. That alone makes him NHL worthy.
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