2014-15 NHL team previews: Ottawa Senators

2014-15 NHL team previews: Ottawa Senators
August 19, 2014, 9:30 am
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As part of our summer series previewing the 2014-15 NHL season, CSNwashington.com is analyzing all 30 NHL teams, division by division. Today we continue with the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division.

Today: OTTAWA SENATORS

2013-14 record: 37-31-14 (88 points)

Where they finished: 5th in the Atlantic; 11th in the East; 21st in the NHL

Coach: Paul MacLean (4th season)

Key additions: RW Alex Chiasson, C David Legwand

Key subtractions: RW Ales Hemsky, C Jason Spezza

Projected Lineup

Forwards

Clark MacArthur - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan

Milan Michalek - Mika Zibanejad - Alex Chiasson

Colin Greening - David Legwand - Mark Stone

Erik Condra - Zack Smith - Chris Neil

Extras: J-G Pageau, Curtis Lazar

Defense

Erik Karlsson - Marc Methot

Jared Cowan - Chris Phillips

Cody Ceci - Patrick Wiercioch

Extras: Mark Borowiecki, Eric Gryba

Goaltenders

Craig Anderson - Robin Lehner

Our take:  Remember when the Senators reached the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs despite playing much of the lockout-shortened season without No.1 center Jason Spezza (limited to 5 games) and top defenseman Erik Karlsson (limited to 17 games)?

The Senators even followed the surprise playoff berth with a first-round upset over the Northeast Division champion Montreal Canadiens. Paul MacLean went on to win the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year and momentum was high heading into the 2013 offseason.

Oh, how things have soured ever since.

In a matter of 12 months, the Senators lost their two all-time leading scorers with Daniel Alfredsson signing with the Detroit Red Wings on July 1, 2013 and Spezza traded to the Dallas Stars on July 1, 2014.

While Karlsson was back healthy last season and led all NHL defensemen in scoring with 20 goals and 74 points in 82 games, the Senators could not recapture the magic of 2013 and missed the playoffs for the third time in six years.

The biggest difference for the Sens between the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and the full 2013-14 campaign was their play defensively.

After leading the NHL on the penalty kill (88.0%) in 2012-13 and finishing 2nd in overall team defense (2.08 goals-against per game), the Senators ranked 22nd on the PK last season (80.9%) and 27th in overall team defense (3.15 GA/game).

Ottawa also ranked 29th last year in shots-against per game (34.7), ahead of only the Toronto Maple Leafs.

That being said, No.1 goalie Craig Anderson (25-16-8, 3.00G.A.A, .911SV%) must rebound this season as enters the final year of 4-year, $12.75 million deal he signed with Ottawa in 2011. If not, Robin Lehner, 23, could challenge for more playing time after appearing in 36 games last season.

While the Senators lost a No.1 center in Spezza (and his 60-70 point potential), former third overall pick Kyle Turris says that he's ready to move up the depth chart as Ottawa's top pivot.

Turris [26 goals, 58 points and a team-high plus-22 rating in 82 games] is expected to begin the year on Ottawa's No.1 line alongside Milan Michalek and Bobby Ryan.

Ryan [23 goals and 48 points in 70 games] and Clarke MacArthur [24 goals and 55 points in 79 games] are both slated to become unrestricted free agents next summer.

Top pair defenseman Marc Methot is also entering a contract year.

With Spezza now in Dallas, the Senators are again in search of a new captain. Karlsson [24-years-old and signed through 2018-19] is a leading candidate to wear the 'C', as are veterans Chris Phillips, 36, and Chris Neil, 35.

Will they make the playoffs in 2014-15? No, the Senators will miss the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since the mid 1990s.

Milestone watch: Chris Phillips (1143 games played) is 36 games shy of passing Daniel Alfredsson (1178) for the most games played in Senators franchise history... Craig Anderson needs 19 wins to join Patrick Lalime (146 wins) as the only 100-win goalies in franchise history.

Against the Capitals: Mon. Dec.22 at Washington; Thu. Feb.5 at Washington; Sat. Apr.4 at Ottawa

[RELATED: Life after the Caps: Brendan Witt]