Tuesday, September 2, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Ottawa Senators

1 - Why is this team worth watching? They have the best line in hockey. Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza are simply scintillating (sorry Tampa, they are better than the reunited Vinny, Vinny and Marty). But you had better tune in early: Ottawa flew out of the gates last season with some of the best hockey played since Montreal in the '70s but the sheer amount of ice time took its tole on their superstars and all three of them experienced injury woes to some degree later on. One would think that management would work to fix that but ...

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? ... but management didn't. This team has no secondary scoring and they did nothing to get any. Cory Stillman and Martin Lapointe weren't successful so they were let go and weren't replaced. They let Wade Redden, Mike Commodore and now Andrej Meszaros go and subbed them with Jason Smith, Filip Kuba and Alexandre Picard - unless Picard matures into a Norris candidate, that is a tremendous downgrade. Ottawa also worsened by allowing pariah Ray Emery go. The media may have made him an outcast but he was incredibly talented and a helliva lot better than Alex Auld, who couldn't get playing time on his last three teams, even though they all gave him opportunity and frankly all sucked (Florida, Boston and Phoenix). The only decent deals they made were to trade tough guy Brian McGrattan away and add pain-in-the-ass Jarkko Ruutu to a team that already includes the aggressive Chris Neil. They won't be fun to face but shut down the one line and you can chalk up a win.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? Heatley, Alfredsson and Spezza are all first rounders. Antoine Vermette should be good late in the draft as he will nab 60 points. Mike Fisher will get 50 but be careful as he somehow got nailed for a -10 plus/minus despite getting good ice time, especially when Spezza went down for a half dozen games. I'm a fan of Nick Foligno but, like his dad, he isn't going to put up great numbers. Martin Gerber is Ottawa's No. 1 and with Auld behind him, you can expect him to get the majority of starts which means at least 30 wins but beware shaky numbers.

4 - What the hell? The Senators are a pretty good team, they put on a good show and have a nice arena so why do they have to sweeten their ticket packages with tickets to the sold-out 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship?? Or hmmm, is it the other way around? To get to the good stuff, you have to submit to the Sens ... ? Man, that's sad.

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