Before the start of the 2009 season I recall looking at the Colorado Avalanche roster and thinking they could surprise, having a young roster, a few veteran presences in the lineup and an upgraded goaltending situation. I remember being told I was crazy, that they were too young to make noise yet. Craig Anderson had been a good backup, but was unproven in the starters role, while a player like Matt Duchene wasn't even projected to be NHL ready when compared to highly touted John Tavares and Victor Hedman. The team went into the season, entirely unheralded, especially after the retirement of their longtime captain Joe Sakic.
They proceeded to finish 2nd in the Northeast division and make the playoffs, losing in the first round. Craig Anderson stood on his head for much of the season, keeping the club competitive sometimes in spite of itself during spells of the season.Now I look at this 2011/12 Senators team and ask why the Sens couldn't achieve something similar? We have a young team with a veteran core. Colorado was a team that had been competitive for a very long time, much like the Sens and you wouldn't say they were stacked with premium top 5 picks. We have that same Craig Anderson in between the pipes, a guy who should viably have plenty in the tank still given he spent a good portion of his early career as a backup. We have a mixed d corps. Chris Phillips had one of his worst seasons last year and I would figure is training hard to come back strong this year to show it was an aberration and not a trend. Erik Karlsson avoided the sophomore slump and figures to continue his development. We will probably be adding 2 first round picks into our defensive rotation.
The Sens play in what most people would agree is the inferior of the 2 conferences. Our farm club is in the Calder Cup finals and has shown a lot of heart and guts in getting there. I know not to put too much stock in short term performances from the likes of Colin Greening or Erik Condra given the type of season we saw from Peter Regin last year. But with that said, I would figure the Senators organization will be very well served by the experience many of these prospects have received from this playoff run.
I posted this mainly as I see much pessimism when it comes to our ability to compete next season, so I figured I'd bring a contrarian perspective.