October 31, 2008
The 2008-09 Ottawa Senators are a much changed group from last season, having added grit and character in the offseason. How has this new team fared so far?
No surprise here. Just like last year, the question of secondary scoring has reared its ugly head. The Big Three (Heatley, Spezza, and Alfredsson) are scoring and contributing, but there is a big drop off between them and the next group.
Surprisingly, it's Shean Donovan who leads the second pack, with five points in nine starts. Notably absent are Chris Kelly (three points in 10 games), Antoine Vermette (two points in 10 games), and Mike Fisher (no points in eight games). These three will have to start contributing on the scoreboard if this team will have any realistic chance of making it deep into the playoffs.
On the back line, the Sens have had to cope with the loss of some pretty good puck movers (yes, I'm talking about Wade Redden), and one thing that has been noticeable so far this year is the lack of a suitable replacement.
Although Filip Kuba has been a surprise, breaking the record for most assists from a defenceman to start the season, the rest of the crew have been unspectacular. In fact, at times, they seem lost as to how to clear their zone. With no disrespect intended, both Phillips and Volchenkov are solid, but not great puck movers. The Ottawa defence is likely in a transition to a new system, and has a lot of room for improvement.
One of the most tired conversations in Ottawa, besides the weather, is about the Senators' goaltending controversy. Now in his third year, Martin Gerber still has not managed to capture the hearts and minds of Sens fans and help propel the team to the promised land.
In fact, he has probably garnered more criticism and angst than love and respect. If he wants to change that, he will have to win some games single-handedly and put to rest the doubts that everyone has.
The good news is that Alex Auld has proven to be a more-than-capable backup, providing some very solid games and showing that the team is not doomed to let the first two shots against them always snap the twine. Unfortunately, without a really outstanding No. 1 goaltender, the chances of this team making it to the finals again are very, very slim.
Dany Heatley - The man is a scoring machine, pure and simple.
Jason Spezza - Despite his reputation as a giveaway machine, he is a creative genius.
Daniel Alfredsson - The heart and soul of this team, leads by example and always factors into every game. Oh, and he's now a Senator for life.
Shean Donovan - Surprising contribution from a fourth-liner, he is making the most of his limited ice time.
Jarkko Ruutu - Has proven to be the super pest we knew he would be, makes it difficult for opposing teams to play against them.
Filip Kuba - Broke a record and currently sits third in team scoring.
Alex Auld - He is carrying this team at the moment, giving them a chance to win every game he is in the nets.
Not Living Up to Potential
Mike Fisher - Big paycheck this year has yet to show up on the box score, he needs to start producing...now.
Antoine Vermette - Needs to use his speed and creativity to get some points on the board.
Chris Kelly - Plays a solid style, but has dropped off considerably in production.
Martin Gerber - Needs to instill confidence in his teammates and the fans by actually stealing a game or two on his own.
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