The picture above can be found on the home page of the Ottawa Senators homepage, a salute to fans for supporting the team this year. I also want to say, to the few of you who have started to come by, thank you so much, and I hope you are enjoying what you see here. I plan on posting things periodically in the summer, some stop by when you are in need of a sens fix!! Now, on to business....
The year is over, the series is over. While many are quick to call the Ottawa Senators "chokers" (Im looking at you Allen Panzieri) I am going to make the argument that this year was a success. I will use three points over the next three days (so that it isnt too long all at once); experience, expectations, and character.
No coach comes in in their first year and wins the Stanley Cup (unless you take over a team with Crosby and Malkin, but seriously, I could coach those guys). Cory Clouston, since taking over this team, has begun to put his stamp on the organization. He is a no-nonsense guy who is loyal to his players and his system. Was he perfect this year? Absolutely not. He made mistakes. His love for Ryan Shannon, and his throwing Pascal under the bus too many times come to mind, but overall, he did a great job, and now that he has been to the post season with this group, and played the champs, he should have an idea of what he needs to change for next year.
In addition, the playoffs were a coming out party for some rookies who will have a very important place on this team for years. I have said before on this site that going forward, the most important player on this team is Erik Karlsson. He played 40 minutes of play in game 5 in addition to leading the team in average ice time for the playoffs with 25 minutes a game. His 6 points led all rookies in points in the first round, while tying him for second in defenceman points. All of this will aid his development going forward and I expect him to play very well next year after finishing the season strong.
Peter Regin showed Sens fans there is hope on the top line left wing spot. He showed not only can he play, and play very well, with Alfie and Spezza, but that he has the ability to rise up in the big games and play with a tenaciousness we have not seen in a forward with hands like his, probably ever. At 24 years old, this restricted free agent will be signed at a bargain next season, and the Sens can look forward to a whole year of him on that top line with Spezza and Alfie. He finished second in rookie scoring for the first round (behind Karlsson, his best friend), and now that he has a taste for playing on the top line, expect him to work hard this summer to keep that spot.
Brian Elliott did not play well in this series, and Pascal Leclaire played better, but his rust was evident in the rebound trouble he had. However, neither had ever played in the playoffs before this series, and I expect two things to happen; Elliott to get hungry to prove he can play in the playoffs, and Leclaire to challenge for the number one spot that he knows he is talented enough to have. Leclaire shone in the playoffs, and now that he knows he can do it, looking to next year, I feel good about our goaltending, despite how poor it was in the playoffs.
Lastly, Zach Smith, showed at times, he can be a very good third/fourth line player for this team with how well he played in these playoffs. For a player who didnt play at the NHL level for more than 10-15 games this year, his jam was very impressive in the playoffs. However, with the theme being experience, Zach being on for both the Pens go-ahead goal in game five (his last shift in that game) AND the game winner in game 6, expect him to have some serious focus to prove to Clouston he is good enough to play with the team next season.
Which of these playoff experience stories do you see as most important. More importantly, do you think these stories can be used to justify this season as a success?