Since we're well into the dog days of summer as far as hockey news is concerned, the least we can do is offer a quick look ahead to what's coming for the seven Canadian NHL teams this season.
With a month to go until training camp, I've asked a blogger from each city to weigh in on how their team has changed since last season and where they believe they rank in their conference. We'll run one team every weekday, with today the fourth of our series in the Ottawa Senators.
Who's in? Alex Auld, Stephane Da Costa, Nikita Filatov, Zenon Konopka
Who's out? Pascal Leclaire, Curtis McElhinney, Ryan Shannon, Marek Svatos
The Sens plummeted in the standings last year, dropping 20 points and from fifth in the East to 13th in the span of a single season.
The fifth-worst team in the league overall (and just a hair ahead of the bottom feeding Islanders and Panthers in the conference), Ottawa scored the second fewest goals in the NHL, finished tied for 24th in goals against and had only Jason Spezza put up more than 45 points.
To make matters worse, a late season trade brought in netminder Craig Anderson, who promptly went 11-5-1 with a .939 save percentage the rest of the way to bump the Sens' draft pick out of the top three and earn a hefty raise on a new deal. (The goalie they dealt away in Brian Elliott, meanwhile, worked wonders in helping the Avalanche nosedive in the overall standings.)
It was all pretty ugly, and it culminated in GM Bryan Murray getting a new three-year deal on the second last day of the season.
For a few thoughts on what's in store for the Sens this coming season, here's Peter Raaymakers from Silver Seven Sens with reasons for optimism, pessimism and a midsummer prediction as to how they'll finish.
Reasons for optimism:
"Ottawa will see a full season of Craig Anderson, who looked darn good in his extended dress rehearsal last season. There's also a new guy behind the bench, and Paul MacLean has a fresh approach, a new attitude and a lot of winning on his resume. Oh, and the team is hosting the all-star game this season so we can be optimistic there will be one or two Sens taking part in it."
Causes for concern:
"Foremost is the fact that the Senators haven't improved themselves, on paper, at all. They've brought in Nikita Filatov and Alex Auld, neither of whom will (likely) get Ottawa into contention. By design, this year will be another difficult year in the 'Senate Reform' rebuild, and the emphasis will be on developing players. This is concerning in the immediate term, even if it'll likely be better off for the team in the long run."
Predicted finish in the East:
"Any improvement will have to come from Anderson doing yeoman's work in net, and MacLean performing miracles behind the bench. Still, there are so many question marks surrounding those two that I can't see the Sens finishing higher in the standings than last season, especially with other teams in the Northeast Division having made serious progress in improving themselves (Buffalo and Toronto most notably). I'll predict the Senators will again finish 13th in the Eastern Conference, with the caveat that they could do a fair bit better if a lot of things that went wrong last season go right this one."
Now I'll turn it over to you in the comments section: How do you think the Sens and their rebuild will do this season?
Wednesday: The Toronto Maple Leafs