Written by Travis Ramsay
Heading into the 2011-12 season the Senators were picked by many to finish dead last. Last years trade deadline saw the team unload players for draft picks to start what looked like a long and arduous rebuilding process. The Sens have turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the season. As I write out this article, Ottawa (31-22-8) sits securely in seventh place, only 2 points behind Boston in the race for the Northeast Division lead and 6 points ahead of both Toronto and Winnipeg, who are in 8th and 9th respectively.
The Senators have been able to find success due to resurgences from many members of their veteran core. Chris Phillips is on pace to more than double his point total from last season and is a plus player again after finishing -35 last year. Veterans Gonchar, Kuba, Neil, Foligno, Michalek and Alfredsson have all also matched or surpassed their point totals from last year at the 3/4 season mark this year.
In net Craig Anderson has stepped up his level of play from being just okay on a team that is still defensively immature to being stellar and making the big saves when his team makes mistakes in front of him. Anderson has 2 shutouts in is last three starts and ranks amongst the league leaders in wins.
Jason Spezza is looking as good offensively as he ever has in his career. He is on fire, scoring 14 points in his last 5 games. He’s making fewer of those glaring offensive turnovers fans had been growing all to familiar with and has started to fire the puck, as a result he is currently fourth in the league in scoring. Along with Spezza, Erik Karlsson as been an offensive workhorse for the team and has lead all defensemen in points for most of the season now. The 21 year-old is currently riding a four game point-streak in which he has nine points and two game winning goals.
Despite the surprise success of the Senators this season, both owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Brian Murray have stressed the fact that they have no plans to mortgage the teams future just to get a shot at winning one or two playoff rounds. The team’s management believe they have prospects in the organization that will fill holes in the lineup in the near future. Mark Stone (101 points in 55 games in the WHL), Mika Zibanejad, and Jacob Silfverberg (3rd in SEL scoring) should be able to impact the team’s top 9 forwards. Defensmen Patrick Wiercioch may be able to join other youngsters Cowen and Karlsson soon. And Robin Lehner will continue to develop as the Sens number one goalie of the future.
The Senators biggest roster move of the season probably already occurred way back in December when they aquired Kyle Turris from the Coyotes for David Runblad and a 2nd Round Pick. In 28 games since being traded to Ottawa, Turris has 15 points and is a plus 9, meanwhile, the team itself is 16-8-4 over that same stretch. Turris is expected to fill the Sens long term void in the second line center slot.
Don’t expect a lot of action in the coming days from the senators brass. Anything other then acquiring a couple rental players for depth would be as surprising as the Sens success this year. The attitude amongst fans and management is that team will have exceeded expectations if they make the playoffs, there is no pressure to make a big splash this deadline, instead they will likely stay the course with the current roster or something very similar.
If the price is right the Sens could be interested in Tuomo Ruutu, Sam Gagner, Paul Gaustad or Ales Hemsky. Assets the Sens could move include Gonchar, Kuba, Lee, Carkner, Foligno, one of their offensive prospects or any of their picks.