In a feature that I will most likely never do again, I bring you the Sheer Craziness Top 10, shortened to SC Top 10. (What did you think SC stood for?) This off-season has felt really long, possibly because it started in April, and I have read far too many prediction pieces. Despite my weariness, and the fact that the Senators are near-universally expected to be terrible, I still find myself excited for the start of the season. After months of speculation, it's finally here. Here's my top-ten list of what I'm looking forward to this season.
10. That long-rumoured trade
It's been rumoured since the start of free agency that Ottawa was about to make a quantity-for-quality trade. The Sens have 7 D on one-way contracts plus Cody Ceci, as well as forwards like Colin Greening and Erik Condra who look to be out of the team's plans. The anticipation has been huge. Who's gonna go? Patrick Wiercioch? Eric Gryba? Marc Methot? Greening? Condra? Mike Hoffman? In fact, the anticipation has been so much fun, I almost hope the trade never happens, and the anticipation continues all the way to next July!
9. David Legwand's theme song
It has to be this. If you don't know Flight of the Conchords, do yourself a favour and get to know them. Then tell me that "Leggy Leggy Leggy Leggy Wandy Wandy Wandy Wandy" is not the greatest theme song ever. I can't wait 'til his first Sens goal, when I get to burst out in this song.
8. Yelling at the refs
We all know the refs are biased against the Sens. And I can't wait until the first time a terrible call goes against us and I get that cathartic rush of screaming at some guys whose opinion I can't affect anyway.
7. Jason Spezza in Dallas
My Western Conference team for the longest time has been the Oilers, which, needless to say, has been quite disappointing. But with Spezza with the Stars, I'm looking forward to see what he can do with Ales Hemsky, and with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn on the powerplay. I know this has been written about ad nauseum. Screw it, I'm still excited to watch it.
6. Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, and Alex Chiasson
These three wingers I lump together as the guys who are competing for the chance to make big jumps this year. And I expect at least one of them will. Watching a young-ish guy unexpectedly tear up the league is always fun, especially when he's on your team. I expect at least one of them to do it.
5. The Calzone Line
This term was unabashedly stolen from a Bonk's Mullet post to describe the top line of Kyle Turris, Clarke MacArthur, and Bobby Ryan. They put up good possession numbers and points last year, despite Ryan being hurt since Christmas. I'm excited to see what they do with their shiny new extensions in tow.
4. Curtis Lazar in the NHL
Most hyped Sens prospect there is. Also, seems to be living up to a lot of the hype. And who cares if he plays all night with Greening and Chris Neil - we get to see him in the NHL! I doubt he'll make it past nine games, but it'll be an exciting glimpse of the future.
3. Goaltending controversy
Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner have given us some memorable showdowns already, and look for this year to be similar. Coach MacLean has said that Anderson is still his number one, but he expects Lehner to get a bigger share of the starts. Last year, Anderson only started 52/82 games, so it looks like if Lehner gets a bigger share, we're moving very close to a 50-50 split. Of course, if both begin the season shakily, I'll be loathing this controversy instead.
2. Mika Zibanejad with real linemates and real minutes
Z'bad is 21-years-old, and enters the season as the second-line centre. Last season, he played 14:19 per night, and had a ridiculous rotating cast of linemates. He also posted 1.69 points-per-60-minutes last year. With consistent scoring linemates, more minutes, and regular time on the powerplay, I think we're ready to see why the Sens drafted him sixth overall a few years ago.
And finally, the top thing I'm looking forward to this upcoming season...
1. Erik Karlsson is back
There's no question that Karlsson couldn't prepare as usual for the season last summer, because he still had to rehab his Achilles injury. He also put up 74 points in 82 games last year, easily tops by a defenseman. With a full summer of conditioning, there's no telling what he can do. He is one of the most electric players in the league, and has just become the team's captain. I can't wait to watch him in all his glory this season. Världens bästa Karlsson.
So all of that's positive, but there are also things that I'm not looking forward to at all. Here's my top-three list.
3. Comparisons to Spezza
All year, when the Sens aren't performing well, Turris, Zibanejad, even Legwand will find themselves compared to Spezza. Media outlets will say what this team would have been capable of had Spezza still been in the mix. It'll happen, and it'll all be garbage, and it'll be the only part of the Spezza trade that I regret.
2. That defensive corps
Ottawa looks to have a lot of problems on defense. There's Karlsson, then Methot if he gets healthy, then Wiercioch puts up good stats but gets benched, and then... Maybe Jared Cowen will put it together? This team seems to have a lot of 6/7 defensemen. Chris Phillips can point all he wants, this group will be average at best, and most likely much worse.
1. The return of "pesky"
In his most recent interview, Bryan Murray said that the "pesky Sens" were back. I can only expect that this phrase will return in full force. Every time the Sens stage a comeback, people will say that the peskiness is back. Every time the Sens lose, someone will comment that they need to get pesky again. Slogans have nothing to do with a team, and "pesky" is as strong of a descriptor as "compete level" or "leadership" or "intangibles". It's a meaningless narrative, and yet it'll be used over and over this coming season. It's my pre-season prediction for biggest annoyance of the 2014-15 Ottawa Senators' season.