It's the third of six in the 2011-12 Silver Seven Ottawa Senators Pre-Season Prediction Panel series. 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.
There are few sure-things on the Ottawa Senators roster this year, but of all the potential players to step up or fall back: Which player will be the biggest surprise on the Senators roster--good or bad?
Unfortunately, I think Bobby Butler might be the biggest surprise for the Sens this season, in a bad way. Butler played very well during his extended tryout last year, but based on the fact that he walked on to a roster spot and had an uninspired pre-season, I could very well see a big sophomore slump for The Bust this year. He'll get opportunities with some very good linemates to start the year, but if his poor skating catches up to him and he can't convert, Butler could find himself well down the lineup (and maybe even in the press box) to make room for Mika Zibanejad or Stephane Da Costa.
I'm going off the board with this one, I'm picking Sergei Gonchar. I think he is going to have a very good season with the Sens. He had an issue with the Cory Clouston system, and I think Paul MacLean is smart
enough to listen to Gonchar, and to use him properly. Specifically, I see him and Karlsson making things happen on the powerplay, and I expect that Gonchar will actually be much better in his own end. He
looked good in the preseason, and I hope he doesn't make me look like a fool!
It's tough to pick someone since my expectations are so low, but I'll say Nick Foligno. I don't think he'll be too happy about Nikita Filatov taking his spot on the second line, and he might finally take that next step. It's easy to forget that Foligno is only 23 years old right now (24 in late October), so he's still really young and nowhere near his prime. He was drafted one year after Brian Lee. I thing Milan Michalek might surprise as well, but I'll stick with Foligno.
I am torn between Sergei Gonchar and Filip Kuba. Neither player is facing too many high expectations, and I think both will have much better seasons. I am going to go with Gonchar, partly because I feel Kuba won't get credit even if he improves. Gonchar had a strong finish to the season and was playing very well before his injury. In the defensive zone, I see Gonchar as the best defenceman on the Senators and I also see him finishing with 40+ points.
Nikita Filatov. This one is tough, mostly because I'm not sure what people feel constitutes a success for this kid. I think he's going to have a pretty good season. For a player with his smoothness, quick hands and laser shot, a twenty goal season won't require too many bounces going his way. Especially when riding shotgun with Jason Spezza.
I'm going to say Craig Anderson. Why? Here's what I know: No one knows what to expect from the guy. His numbers from last year, if they were to be repeated, would match Tim Thomas's record-setting season last year. I'm sure some fans are expecting that kind of performance. They're in for a surprise. Some fans are expecting Anderson to fall on his face the way he did last year with the Colorado Avalanche. Those fans are also in for a surprise. That leaves us a vague window of mediocrity to choose our expectations from. Our starting goaltender won't be amazing, but he won't be terrible either? Thanks, Nostradamus! We just don't know exactly what kind of season Anderson will have--we simply don't have enough data to make a fair prediction. Because of that, no matter what we expect from him this year, Anderson will surprise us.
I'm going to go crazy optimistic and say that if Mika Zibanejad makes the roster out of camp and sticks around for the full season that he surprises everyone by winning the Calder.
I think the biggest positive surprise will be David Rundblad, but only after November or December. Expectations for him seem to be low right now because of his mediocre performance in the preseason. He'll need some time to adjust to the North American game, but once he does, I think he'll be a very solid player for the Senators.
Some of us are optimistic, some of us less so, but there's definitely room for a lot of different players to really surprise fans, pundits, teammates, and perhaps peers around the league. Who do you think will be the biggest surprise for the Senators this season?