I have been quiet on here since the lockout, content to relax and watch, enjoy what was supposed to be another entertaining season of growth and success. I figure it's time that I chime in, try and make sense of the train wreck that the season has become, and hopefully look on the bright side of what has become a hurricane of shitty luck.
- A Decimated Core
First, it is obvious that what had started as a (shortened) season full of optimism for Ottawa has, in the span of a month, turned in to a tragedy of '07 Stanley Cup proportions.
Gone is Jason Spezza with a herniated disc.
Gone is Jared Cowen with a torn hip labrum.
Gone is Erik Karlsson with a lacerated Achilles tendon.
Add to that an unknown injury to Milan Michalek, and you've got a team missing it's top player, number 1 C, best shutdown D, and a first line winger.
It's safe to say that these injuries are devastating. No team, whether you are the Ottawa Senators or (as has just been shown with the injury to Kris Letang) Pittsburgh Penguins, can absorb those kind of losses and succeed.
There will be countless posts in the next couple of days lamenting the loss of Karlsson and the loss of the season, but I would like to take a look at what is in store for our Senators for the rest of the year. It took a lot for me to keep the game on tonight after the injury, after the two goals, and after watching Matt Cooke turtle, rather than fight Neil. But stay with the game I did, as I plan on doing for the rest of the year. This is still my team, these are still the Sens, and I plan on sticking with them through this awful time.
What though, needs to be done, to attain any sort of success?
He has given us the ability to win this year, every night. He is the best goalie in the league right now, and has consistently given Ottawa the best goaltending we have seen since Dominik Hasek. Before tonight, he was the only reason Ottawa had many of their points since Spezza went down. If he falters, Ottawa will be hard pressed to stay out of the league basement, let alone in the hunt for a playoff position.
Were getting 22+ minutes per night, expect them to log 25+ now. These are the only top 4 D Ottawa currently has on roster, and will be called upon to take more than their fair share of the burden. Gonchar is now the number 1 PP QB, and will have to play out of his mind to keep it respectable. Marc Methot is as steady as they come, but will be matched up against the best players the league has to offer, for huge minutes each night. Fatigue will be a huge factor here, as Gonchar is on the wrong side of 35, and Methot is only human.
- Young Guns
Turris, Silfverberg, Zibanajed, Da Costa on forward; Weircoch, Boroweicki, Benoit (ok, not SO young) on defense. Goals will be even harder to come by now, and these guys simply need to step up. On forward, the young guys are now default top six, and will be expected to produce as such. On defense, Binghamton's top 3 are now defenders 5-7, and will be counted on nightly to play safe, dependable hockey, and chip in where needed. The trial by fire has just got hotter, and they need to play lights out. If there was ever a time to cement their status as a bonafide NHLers, now is it.
This falls on MacLean, Aflie, Phillips, and Neil. Needless to say, the Vet's will need to step up their individual games to make up for the losses. On top of that, the young guys need help - the learning curve in the NHL is huge, and with the injuries that Ottawa has suffered, it is perhaps the steepest curve for any single group of young guys in recent memory. The vet's and Paulrus will have their hands full keeping them in check, showing them the ropes, and helping them through what is sure to be a season full of hard times.
- Closing Thoughts
We needed everything to go right for us last year to make the playoffs, and needed that same luck to return this year. The opposite has happened, and we will be hard pressed to maintain a spot amongst the East's top 8. I, for one, will be with them every step of the way - I did not turn my back on the team during or after the lockout, and I will not do it now.
The silver lining to this is that, regardless of whether we make the '13 playoffs or not, our time is not now. Sure, we are playoff contenders when healthy, but that in itself is an added bonus. Our glory years are ahead of us, and the future is only bright.
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