The trade deadline has passed us, and as expected, the Ottawa Senators did nothing on deadline day. However, that's not to say they did nothing, as here are the changes that took place in the weeks before the deadline:
IN: Matt Cullen (F), Andy Sutton (D)
OUT: Alex Picard (D), OTT & SJ's 2nd round picks
SENT TO AHL: Jonathan Cheechoo
That leaves the Ottawa Senators with the following current roster (lines subject to change, of course):
Scratches: Winchester, Donovan, Campoli
There is also always the chance that Brian Lee or Jonathan Cheechoo could get called up for the playoff run, if their skills are seen as required do to injury. Now, let's look at this lineup...
The Senators have a good mix of skill and grit, which is what you want in the playoffs. The addition of Sutton means they've got a blueline that should strike fear into opponents, which will reap benefits in preventing players from running the goalies. There are enough scoring threats spread out through the line-up that secondary scoring won't be the problem it was in the 06-07 Cup run. The Senators also have a good amount of depth, which will serve two purposes:
- Replace players in case of injury
- Allow Cory Clouston to tailor his strategy according to the opponent. If you find the Ottawa defense too slow and lacking offense? Bench Carkner, bring in Campoli. Team not playing physical enough? Bench Shannon, bring in Winchester. Not enough players from Moose Factory? Bring in Cheechoo.
Goaltending is still the biggest concern. If Elliott or Leclaire manages to hit a groove before the playoffs, things could be fine, but I still doubt their mental toughness to recover from any sort of bad bounce in the playoffs. Neither of these guys has played a playoff game, which makes me even more nervous, but maybe they're one of those goaltenders who somehow stands on his head in the postseason despite being subpar the rest of the year (see: Osgood, Chris). Another problem is that aside from Chris Phillips, the Senators defensemen are all one-dimensional, either offensively or defensively (and even Phillips has very limited offensive utility). This means that the defense can either shut down a line or set up some offense, but rarely can it do both, which limits the Sens' transitional game. Finally, the defense is also kind of slow, which could definitely be a problem against more offensively-inclined teams.
The Senators have a solid, versatile, hard-working roster that should get them into the playoffs, perhaps even as the leader of the Northeast Division. Considering most didn't have this team pegged as making the playoffs when the season began, that's pretty impressive. However, given the moves Murray made in trading away second round picks for rental players, simply making the playoffs is not good enough anymore. As mentioned earlier, the team has added the type of pieces that do damage in the playoffs -- strong defensive players who play with an edge -- which should help the Senators come playoff time.
It really comes down to goaltending. If Leclaire or Elliott can provide solid, capable netminding, then the Senators can do some damage come playoff time. If the netminders remain inconsistent, however, then it will be the same old Senators playoff hockey.