Today we kick off the 2011-12 Silver Seven Ottawa Senators Pre-Season Prediction Panel. Over the course of the week leading up to the season opener, the staff on the blog will be taking a look at some of the biggest questions facing the Sens heading into this season.
To kick things off, perhaps the most pressing question: Who will lead the Ottawa Senators in goals scored this season? If you pick Jason Spezza, then who do you think will finish second?
I'll pick Milan Michalek. He scored three less goals than Jason Spezza in four more games last year, but you've got to think he played through at least some of those games hurt. To be Ottawa's leading scorer wont take much, and Michalek has scored over 20 goals four times in the last six years. He'll vie with Spezza for the lead.
Bobby Butler. I know it's kind of gutsy considering how ineffectual he's been during this preseason, and there's better candidates like Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza to choose from. But if I'm going to pick a leader in goal scoring, I'm going with the best pure goal-scorer on the team. On Ottawa this year, that's a short conversation. It's The Bust.
I am going to pick the easy guy, Jason Spezza. He may be more of a passer, but on this team, I think he's also the best goal scorer and I predict that he'll have over thirty goals. So, for next highest, I am going to go with Milan Michalek. If he can stay healthy, he will be in the twenty-five goals range. Other twenty goals candidates include Nikita Filatov, Daniel Alfredsson and Bobby Butler, but I think Michalek will edge them.
Jason Spezza is the obvious pick, but to be fun, I'll go a different way. I'm going to say Daniel Alfredsson. Even playing on one leg last year, he was leading the team in goals AND points when he shut it down. I know he's not getting any younger, but with an improved powerplay, and the possibility of him playing against lesser competition on the second line, I'm going with the Captain. Maybe he's this year's Teemu.
Milan Michalek. Of course, this rests on two very unreliable and mostly metal knees. If Michalek can stay healthy, he should lead this team in goals, if not points. We saw flashes in the early goings in 09/10 of what he is capable of: probably around thirty goals. That's all it will likely take on this team.
Spezza doesn't have any surefire snipers to play on his wings, so he's going to end up leading the team in goals. Daniel Alfredsson still has one of the best shots on the team, so he'll be second.
Bobby Butler. He's a better sniper than a setup guy, so he'll be taking feeds from Spezza more often than setting him up. I think Alfredsson takes a step back this season, as much as I hate to admit it, and that opens up a spot for Butler to bust out.
I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest Daniel Alfredsson could be the guy atop the goals column for Ottawa this season. He tied for third on the team last season, but he played just 54 games, and a lot of those weren't anywhere near full health. This year, he's said he's feeling better than he did at all last season, and he's looked great (if a little tentative, perhaps for good reason) in the pre-season. It's going to be very difficult for him given his age, but Alfredsson's always been atypical among NHL forwards.
So there you have it: Two of us picked Spezza, two picked Alfredsson, two picked Butler, and two picked Michalek. Help us break the deadlock: Who's going to lead the Sens in goals this season?