It’s time to say goodbye to the summer for Ottawa hockey fans.
In this case, hope springs eternal in the fall.
The last time we saw the Senators was on a Sunday night in late April, they were shaking hands with the Montreal Canadiens at the Canadian Tire Centre after a disappointing 2 0 loss in Game 6 which ended their Cinderalla like run to the playoffs and what could have been a special season.
While many still wonder what would have happened if Ottawa centre Jean Gabriel Pageau’s goal on Montreal’s Carey Price in a tight game hadn’t been called off by a quick whistle, the time has come to put last season behind you and get ready for what the Senators hope will be another trip to the post season.
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The work will officially get underway Thursday. That’s when 24 players invited to the club’s rookie camp will hit the ice at the Bell Sensplex before boarding a bus for London to take part in a four team tournament at the Budweiser Gardens with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins and Canadiens.
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After the newcomers get a chance to show what they’ve got, the big boys will arrive for main camp with medicals set for Sept. 17 at the rink and the first on ice session on Sept. 18. The pre season won’t waste anytime getting going with the Senators facing the Leafs in a split squad on Sept. 21.
GM Bryan Murray, along with assistants Pierre Dorion and Randy Lee, worked hard this summer to make sure this team was kept together because they believe that down the road with the right additions this club can contend.
The hard work is about to begin for the Senators with a lot of questions about to be answered heading into camp. Here’s some snapshots of what to look for in the next couple of weeks.
THE COACHES’ CHALLENGE!
Appointed the 11th coach in franchise history after GM Bryan Murray decided to make a change Dec. 8 with the club on the outside of the playoff picture and looking in, the focus will be different for Dave Cameron this season.
The players were looking for a new voice when coach Paul MacLean was sent packing and the Senators were receptive to what Cameron was selling when he took over. His door was open, he listened to the ideas the players had and changed the pace of practice so that the group got back into shape.
It helped that Cameron got saves from Andrew "The Hamburglar" Hammond when Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner went down with the injuries,
cheap replica ray bans. The club made a miraculous run to the playoffs but that is all gone now and and Cameron must get the Senators off to a good start from Day 1.
He knows, and the players are aware, they can’t afford to dig themselves that kind of hole again and make the post season. Cameron finished with a 32 15 8 to make the playoffs on the last day of the year against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Senators don’t want that kind of drama again.
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NO QUESTIONS IN THE CREASE
Let’s be honest, it’s not crowded anymore.
The Senators didn’t want any distractions in training camp, so they decided to send Lehner and veteran centre David Legwand to the Buffalo Sabres in June for the No. 21 pick in Fort Lauderdale, which allowed the club to have two picks in the first round of what was considered a strong draft.
The decision to move Lehner was difficult but the Senators felt his development had stalled and if the club is going to make the playoffs this spring they’ll do so with a healthy Anderson,
buy fake oakleys. He was strong when he took over in the playoffs and has shown in the past he has all the tools to help the club win.
The Senators had a decision to make with Hammond,
replica oakleys. The Hamburglar had a brilliant 23 4 4 record in the run to the post season and the Senators didn’t just want to walk away from him. They feel he’ll be able to push Anderson and can certainly play as much as 20 games if not more if necessary,
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Really, this might be the most set position on the club if all goes as planned.
KEEP AN EYE ON .
Goalie Matt O’Connor: Signed as a UFA after deciding to rebuff offers from the New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers, the Boston University graduate is expected to be the No. 1 in Binghamton this year. But it’s fair to say he could get a chance to play at the NHL level. O’Connor is considered a top goalie prospect and he signed here because he wanted to work with goalie coach Rick Wamsley.
As he goes, so go the Senators in a lot of ways. He struggled in the first half last year but it’s no surprise he played his best hockey when Cameron took over and the club made the post season. Defence partner Marc Methot signed an extension and that’s going to be the top pairing to start the season.
From there, it gets interesting. There is lots to watch for in camp. Five minutes from being traded last year, Patrick Wiercioch emerged down the stretch and moved into the top four playing a lot with Cody Ceci. This year, a healthy Jared Cowen is expected to push for playing time in the top four.
Veteran Chris Phillips, returning from off season surgery, will be in the mix somewhere but you have to wonder if he’s going to have a full time role. Blueliner Mark Borowiecki showed he can contribute and there are going to be players on defence who will push for playing time, there’s no question.
Chris Wideman was the AHL’s best defenceman last year and the Senators kept him from going to unrestricted free agency by offering a strong contract. The way the game is going offensively, there could be room for a slick, skilled player like Wideman to get time at this level. He could surprise in camp. No question.
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KEEP AN EYE ON ,
Fred Claesson and Mikael Wikstrand: In Claesson’s case, he was in Binghamton last year and has learned the North American game while this will be Wikstrand’s first NHL camp and he’ll be a raw talent. They may not make it on Day 1, but both have the possibility of being callups during the season. Veteran Michael Kostka was brought in for depth, and he has NHL experience as well.