Injuries aside, this has been a very good year for the Ottawa Senators development wise. A set of strong rookie campaigns were made by players like Jakob, Zjad, Weircioch Gryba, Lehner and Benoit (technically, I love the guy, but he is in his late 20's). These rookies were further supported by solid sophomore years from Greening, Condra, Smith (technically third but only 2nd full season) and a very strong season from what became the best trade of last summer, Mark Methot. Late season inserts in the case of Conacher and Pageau further enhanced the young wave of development.
However with the good came the bad development wise. Regin and JOB appear to be done with this team going forward. Da Costa once again proved he has the hands, but perhaps not the body or work ethic needed to be a full-time NHLer. David (Dizzy) D. and Mike Hoffman ran into unfortunate injuries which derailed there seasons. Oh and Louis Caporusso sucks.
What makes interesting is how this youth movement will affect the team in September.
So Questions heading in:
1) Will the team be Healthy?
Karlsson/Cowen/Spezza, their health will matter to the success of the team for the start of next season. If for any reason management feels its in trouble here, especially on defence, expect a signing in the summer, even if its only a veteran stopgap. I really doubt the Sens brass want to test there luck with Boro/Gryba/Weircioch all at once. The health of Hoffman will also affectanother question mark for next year on the left side.
2) Who will make up the left side?
As of now only Greening is a lock on the left side for start of the year. (Kassian will be moved in and out of the lineup regardless, so I doubt count him). Assuming Conacher does not have a disastrous camp, he too is likely to cement a spot, he has proven his scoring ability in the NHL. Jakub flipped wings because of injuries, but is a natural right winger and given this year will almost surely be Alfie's last (assuming he plays at all) expect him to start on the right in September.
So that leaves open two spots. The Murrays have strongly voiced there opinion that Hoffman is a NHL winger when healthy and I fully expect he will be given a chance to grab one of the two spots open. Importantly there WILL BE competition, Matt Puempel will very likely be given a shot in camp, as will Dizzy, Shane Prince and Cole Schneider(the latter three having strong AHL campaigns this past year), but each will require strong camps to have a chance at making the team.
A final quirk to this left side dilemma is the potential for Zibenajad to be moved to the wing as Ottawa will (presumably) have a strong lineup done the middle that would play ahead of Zjad at center.
Karlsson/Phillips/Cowen/Methot will start the year. Gryba/Weircioch (Perhaps Benoit) have the inside track for the open spots, followed by Borocop and then Ceci. This really will be a question of how well each player does in camp as well as potential signings, there will be a battle on D.
For the first time in a long time, there will be no questions for this.
5) The Right Side.
The players aren't really in doubt Condra/Neil/Jakub/Michalek (health willing) and Alfie (if he wants it). The only young player who could make the right side out of camp is potentially Noesen, but health (both physical and mental) will decide who forms this wing.
Spezza/Turris is a lock for 1C/2C and Smith is heavily favoured for a spot on 3/4C. Assuming a decent to strong camp, Pageau will likely be given the insight shot at 3/4C. The major question will be how Zjad is used in relation to center or left wing depending on how Pageau plays.
7) Free Agent/Trade signings
Murray has openly noted his goal for the summer to sign a scoring winger.....will see how that goes :P
Year Two of the Senate Reform had a set of violent waves altering the roster, Year Three is set to make some as well, though of a far less unexpected variety.