Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ottawa Senators 2011-12 Preview

Can the Sens rebound after a devastating season in 2011?

The Senators have experienced a decline from their prime seasons a few years ago. Being virtually eliminated from the playoffs eraly on last year did not instill confidence in fans. That being said, the team has acquired some solid young prospects and the future now once again looks bright.

The team will most likely not contend for a division title this year, but the wheels of change are in full swing and the rebuild has begun.

While Daniel Alfredsson is in the twilight of his career, Jason Spezza is evolving as a leader. Nick Foligno and Milan Michalek will have to shoulder more of the workload this year, and newcomers will be asked to produce as well.
On defence, Erik Karlsson will look to improve upon his breakout campaign last year, and Sergei Gonchar will continue to teach him and newcomer David Rundblad valuable pieces of information that will help them bloom.

This year, expect the Senators to struggle and perhaps finish last in the division. They may remain in the playoff hunt until late in the year, but do not have what it takes to make the playoffs this year.



Forwards The Sens’ infusion of youth will make for some long nights and some exciting nights in Ottawa this year.

Jason Spezza The highly talented forward is taking on an increasingly veteran role with the club. This season, Spezza will hope to avoid injury and play a full season. When he’s able to do so, he’s capable of 80+ points. Expect a few bumps in the road however, and a 75+ point campaign.

Daniel Alfredsson The slick Swede’s production is clearly on the decline, but injuries have exacerbated this problem. If he can stay healthy, expect a bit of a rebound from last year, but his 100 point days are clearly over. If he nets 60-70 points, that’s a strong season for a 38 year old.

Milan Michalek Michalek has failed to take the next step in his career since moving to Ottawa. In fact, some may argue he’s moved backwards since a couple of strong years in San Jose. He has tremendous size and speed and should be able to increase his production. Count on him improving to 55-60 points this year, with greater consistency.

Nick Foligno Foligno is another young forward who has failed to truly break out yet. He’ll be given ample opportunity on a team looking to him for a veteran presence and steady hand at the forward position. Foligno should emerge as a steady two-way player this year with 20+ goals and 45+ points..

Bobby Butler Butler arrived on the scene late last year and found some chemistry playing alongside Jason Spezza. What he lacks in defensive awareness and proficiency, he makes up for in skill and offensive prowess. If Butler gets a shot with some talented offensive players, strong numbers could follow.

Mike Zibanejad Few have had their stock rise higher than Zibanejad. The big centre appears poised to land a spot on the Senators this year and stands a shot at a top 6-forward spot with the departure of Mike Fisher to Nashville late last year.

If he sticks with the big club, expect 30-35 points in his opening campaign.

Nikita Filatov The supremely talented Russian winger was never afforded a great shot in Columbus. That being said, he hasn’t done much to prove he’s worthy of great things yet either. He’ll have to earn his ice time this year, but if he puts it all together, he’ll be dangerous.

Defence
Erik Karlsson

Karlsson exploded last year by notching 45 points last season. His –30 rating definitely leaves room for improvement, but rest assured, there is more to come from him. 50 points should be expected this year.

Sergei Gonchar Gonchar provides some leadership and experience on the back-end. His best days are behind him, but he’s still capable of putting up some solid numbers. 35-40 points are reasonable.

David Rundblad The 20 year old newcomer notched a tremendous campaign in Sweden with 50 points, amongst the league’s best for forwards even. Rundblad should bring his game to Ottawa this year and could earn a top-4 spot.

Goaltending
Craig Anderson
Anderson struggled in Colorado last year but was 11-5-1 with Ottawa late in the season. A talented keeper, Colorado may have given up on him too soon. He is their starter this year and will run with it.

Prediction - 32 Wins

Alex Auld Auld has been a journeyman ever since posting a career high 67 games in Vancouver years ago. An experienced goalie and solid teammate, He’ll be ready when necessary

Prediction - 9 wins

TOP SLEEPER
Milan Michalek
Michalek showed immense promise in San Jose but his career progression has stalled since arriving in Ottawa. This year, he may earn top line billing alongside Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson. If he does, the potential is there for him to finally put it all together and notch 60+ points.

If he doesn’t, he may see himself traded and he may blossom elsewhere. Either way, he’s talented player with plenty of upward potential.

TOP ROOKIE
F— Mike Zibanejad
The big Swede stands a chance at earning a spot out of training camp.

With solid offensive instincts, he could center the Senators second line and play alongside some talented wingers. Zibanejad has a large frame and could be ready to make an impact at some point this year. Expect big things in the future as well, as it’s quite bright.

Potential Breakout Player
Erik Karlsson

Karlsson took a leading role on the team’s defense last year when Sergei Gonchar went down to injury.

This year, Karlsson may compete with Gonchar for ice time on the power play, but any dip in prime scoring chances will be out-weighed by increased experience and confidence.

As Karlsson continues to develop, he could hit 60-70 points.

For now though, expect a healthy boost to 50 points as he is a key component of the Senators’ future, and probably the best long term fantasy option for Ottawa.




Fantasy Hockey Toolkit Central 2011-12 Season Previews
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