Apr 18, 2013; Ottawa, ON, CAN; The Canadian flag is passed through the crowd prior to game between the Washington Capitals and Ottawa Senators at Scotiabank Place. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

2014-15 NHL season preview: Ottawa Senators

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This 2014-15 NHL season preview features the Ottawa Senators.

What was Stanley Cup worthy in 2013-14?

For a team that won less than half their games last season, the Senators had a pretty decent offense. They finished 11th in the NHL in goals scored ahead of teams like the Kings, Rangers and Capitals. They were also 4th in the league in shots per game with 32.8, behind only the Sharks, Rangers and Blackhawks.

Leading the way offensively was of course, a defenseman. Erik Karlsson has firmly established himself as the premier offensive blueliner in the league today. The 24 year-old Swede hit the 20 goal mark for the first time while racking up 74 points, the second time in 3 seasons he’s gone over 70. While 74 points now seems expected from Karlsson, consider this: the only defensemen who have scored more than 74 points in a season since 1995-96 are Ray Bourque, Nicklas Lidstrom, Mike Green and Brian Leetch. Pretty elite company.

While trading a franchise centre like Jason Spezza is never easy, the emergence of Kyle Turris last season certainly made the idea more acceptable. Turris scored 58 points in 82 games and was a +22 in just over 18 minutes per game. He was also better than 50% in the faceoff circle for the first time in his career.

What was draft lottery worthy in 2013-14?

in 2012-13, the Senators, with the same exact goaltending tandem, finished second only to Chicago with 2.08 goals against per game. This past season saw them drop all the way down to 27th, allowing 3.15 goals per game.

While a drop that significant cannot simply be blamed on goaltending, Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner have their fair share of responsibility. They managed .911 and .913 save percentages each, this after posting .941 and .936 the season before.

Of course, it didn’t help that the Senators allowed 34.7 shots per game, 2nd most in the NHL. More shots plus lower save percentages… it’s not difficult to see where that’ll lead.

Aside from an injury-plagued 2012-13 where he only played 23 games, last season’s 17 goal output tied Milan Michalek’s rookie season total in 2005-06 for the worst of his career. His 2.06 shots per game were also far lower than his career average of 2.41. To make matters worse, he was also -25, one behind (or ahead) of Jason Spezza for the worst differential on the team.

So what did they do to get better?

I’m not sure this summer was as much about getting better as it was about moving forward. One year after letting former captain Daniel Alfredsson walk, Ottawa traded Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars.

One of the centerpieces of the return was Alex Chiasson. After taking the league by storm in a 7-game stint in which he scored 6 goals the year before, Chiasson was never able to find any consistency as a full-time NHL player last season.He finished with 13 goals and a -21 in just over 15 minutes per game. Still, the 6’3″ power forward did score 99 points in 108 games with Boston University, so the offensive upside is definitely there.

Helping to replace Spezza up the middle will be the Nashville Predators’ first ever draft pick, David Legwand. He’s an effective two-way centre who will complement young centres like Turris and Mika Zibanejad very well.

Player to watch

In the last year of his contract, this is the time for Bobby Ryan to finally show the ability that made him the second overall pick in 2005 and a 30-plus goal scorer in each of his first 4 full seasons.

He’s big, he can skate, has very good hands and a very quick release. All the tools are there for Ryan to be among the top point producers in the NHL.

This may very well be the year he does it. Don’t let his 48 point total fool you, the talent is there for much, much more.

The Sens will spend most of this season building a new identity for themselves…

They will make the playoffs if…

Turris and Ryan are to today’s Sens what Spezza and Heatley were to the 2007-08 Sens. It’s asking a lot, but I believe the potential is there.

They will miss the playoffs if…

They get the same kind of goaltending as last season. Anderson and Lehner don’t need to be all-world like in 2012-13, but somewhere in between would be nice.

What should we expect this season?

The Ottawa Senators enter 2014-15 without Daniel Alfredsson or Jason Spezza since 1994-95. The changing of the guard is officially complete.

This team now belongs to Karlsson, Turris, Ryan and the young Senators coming up like Zibanejad and Cody Ceci.

The Sens will spend most of this season building a new identity for themselves, and that will likely mean a 2nd consecutive season without playoff hockey in Canada’s capital.

Prediction

34-38-10 78 points, 7th in the Atlantic Division, 14th in the Eastern Conference

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