With the 2011-2012 NHL season quickly approaching, the minds behind a few of the best Ottawa Senators Blogs on the interwebhave gotten together to answer the five major questions going into this season.
With the Rookie Tournament now in the books, we have all gotten a glimpse of what the future holds for your Ottawa Senators. A number of rookies were impressive and may push for jobs in Ottawa this year. However, with Ottawa predicted by most to miss the playoffs, the question for this season must be asked.
What is the main purpose of this season? Development, lottery pick, playoffs or Stanley Cup?
Here are the thoughts from the best Sens blogs on the net:
It has to be to win the Stanley Cup. I know as fans we've been told to expect some growing pains with a rebuilding hockey team and that is probably true but you can't resign yourself to bottom feeder status before the first puck is even dropped. The players can't and neither should the fans. For supporters of this team, there will be plenty of time to analyze the next top prospect and calculate draft lottery percentages, should the Sens struggle this season. But for now, the Ottawa Senators, along with 29 other teams in the NHL, should be focused on winning the Stanley Cup. As long as the organization places an emphasis on being a competitive team and trying to win every night, the player development stuff will take care of itself.
The next team I hear saying their purpose heading into the season is a lottery pick will be the first. Ottawa's looking at development. They'll look to use that development to move forward and compete for a Stanley Cup, but that's unlikely; if they end up with a lottery pick, they'll take that, select the best player available, and move on with the Senate Reform.
The goal of every team going into the year is the Stanley Cup, but realistically we don't have a shot. So I'd reckon to say it's development AND a lottery pick. The way you improve is through the draft after several years of poor performances. Suffering through last season would be a complete waste if they patched together some FA's that would make us competitive this year and ruin our chances of a true rebuild.
Our main goal should be to let all the young guys play and heavy minutes too. We need to see who has it and who doesn't going forward. Let the young kids play at the NHL level and get some experience so they develop for later on and at the same time, keeps us in contention for another top 5 pick that can really help our franchise.
It should be a fun year watching the young guys improve over time and playing with the heart that won many of them the Calder Cup. It will be a big change for all the jaded vets go through the paces again. These guys are hungry to show they belong in the NHL, and while most nights we will come out on the losing end, it will be necessary for the development of the young guys to log that ice time so in a few years when they're keys to our team, they have that experience to fall back on.
If we focus on development, we should end up back in the lottery with a top 5 pick anyways, unless we're ping ponged out yet again.
Can I say all of the above? The main goal has to be to make the playoffs. That's the business and that always has to be the goal. I'm not a big believer in the scorched earth policy of going completely young and it looks like Bryan Murray isn't either. Yes, it's a rebuild but this team is deceptively well balanced going into this season. Four of their top six defenseman are solid NHL veterans and that doesn't include Erik Karlsson who is on the verge of really breaking out as a superstar in this league. Craig Anderson is a legitimate number one goalie and they still have Spezza and Alfredsson up front with key veteran character players like Chris Neil and Zenon Konopka. If they don't make the playoffs, it should be considered a disappointment, but if some of the young guys make strides, a lottery pick will give them even more help. To me, this season is a no-lose kind of situation. The fans are going to be patient and the team may even surprise everybody by how good they can be.
Two words: Nail Yakupov
The goal of this season MUST be player development. In today's NHL, you have to be realistic about your team or face year's of mediocrity (look to the Leafs and Panthers as perfect examples). Always going for it is a costly venture. Every year, only a few teams really load up and go for it as they believe they are only a piece or two away from hoisting the Cup.
Ottawa is still a long ways off from getting back into the picture of legitimately contending for the Cup. So instead of picking up pieces to make a run (especially with our track record in that department), Ottawa should fully commit to the rebuilding process. I truly believe that with another high pick and a good draft similar to this past summers', Ottawa could only have a two-year rebuild.
With this year's draft featuring a number of highly rated, impact players in the top five, if Ottawa could snag one of those special forwards, they may be ready to contend sooner then later. With a number of trading assets on the current roster (Kuba, Regin, Foligno,Michalek
, Lee, Winchester, Carkner, Neil and Konopka), Ottawa can turn these assets into draft picks to give the Murray's an opportunity to do what they do best. Even if the team gets off to a good/great start to the season, they should not buy into the hype. Rather, they should sell high and get the most they can for their players. With the ultimate prospect being Russian Nail Yakupov, the dynamic right winger could be the player to replace our aging captain on Spezza's right.
Now you know our thoughts, what do you think should be the goal for the upcoming Sens' season?