NHL Season Preview 2016: 3 questions facing the Ottawa Senators

Our writers tackle three questions as part of the SB Nation NHL season preview

1. The Senators traded Mika Zibanejad for veteran Derick  Brassard over the summer. How will that change the Sens' dynamic on  forward? (by Michaela Schreiter)

The addition of Derick Brassard, and the loss of Mika Zibanejad, changes the overall team  dynamic in a few ways. First of all, Brassard brings experience to the  line up. At 29 years old, Brassard is six years older than Zibanejad,  and has a total of nine NHL seasons under his belt. The team knows what  they're getting from Brassard. In his best season (2014-15), he  registered 60 points (19G, 41A) in 80 games. He maintained very close to  that pace last season, with 58 points  (27G, 31A). Zibanejad, on the  other hand, is still in the process of developing. Despite being in the  NHL for three and a half seasons, we're still not sure exactly sure what  Zibanejad's ceiling will be. The Sens removed a little bit of  uncertainty from the line up, and added experience.

Now,  experience only means so much. Brassard also brings an element to the  Sens' line-up that, until the trade was made, many of us didn't even  know they needed: A left-shot centre. This isn't going to be a deal-breaker, but it may make it easier for Brassard to feed the right wing.  And there is a particular right winger who is in need of generating  chemistry with his centre... Bobby Ryan. Brassard might have an easier  time getting the most out of Ryan, which is a welcome aid to the line  up.

Finally,  Brassard is a solid second-line centre. With Turris at number one,  Brassard will provide much-needed support to the remainder of the team's  top-six forwards. That means that Jean-Gabriel Pageau can remain on the  third line, and face easier competition than he may on a top line.  Pageau is one of the Sens' most surprising weapons, and the further the  team can keep him from an opponent's top players, the better. With Chris  Kelly also in the line up, the Sens have all the centres they need. So  Zack Smith can also remain at the wing, where he scored a career-high 25  goals last season.

Zibanejad  was also (obviously) a centre, so it's not like Brassard is bringing  something to the line up that wasn't there before. But unlike with  Zibanejad, there are no questions around Brassard. The team knows what  kind of player he is, and Boucher knows where and how to use him.  Brassard brings certainly to the line up, something that was all too  absent last year, and is very much welcome now.

2. What will be the Sens' top six defencemen this year? How well will they perform? (by Callum Fraser)

I envision the D corps to look like this:

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf - Cody Ceci

Mark Borowiecki - Chris Wideman

Thomas Chabot (7th defenceman for 9 games)

Fredrik Claesson (7th defenceman for 73 games)

The  only non question mark of the eight players likely to suit up for the  Senators this season seems like Erik Karlsson. And that's not to say the  others won't have a positive impact on the roster; it's just that there  are a lot of new pieces and some of them weren't up to snuff last  season.

Will Marc Methot prove he can play  first pairing minutes after having a poor effect on Karlsson last year?  Was Patrick Wiercioch really the one weighing down Cody Ceci or is the  22-year-old not quite ready for a role like this? Does Dion Phaneuf  still have enough in the tank to truly be that additional top-four  defenseman the Senators have been craving for the past several years?  Has 64 career NHL games been enough preparation in order for Chris  Wideman to flourish in a full-time NHL role? Is Mark Borowiecki going to  be able to keep up with Guy Boucher's "obsession" for a high pace game?  Is the other side of Thomas Chabot's game refined enough for him to  garner nine or more games? Can Fredrik Claesson become a regular NHL defenseman?

Just like the forwards, health is a huge factor with the defense this  season. Depth-wise, they are thinner than ever with the loss of  Wiercioch, admittance of Jared Cowen's failure and refusal to upgrade in  the offseason. Still though, the Senators may have a playoff-worthy top  four. They just need them to all play 82 games and live up to their  potential.

3. What impact will new coach Guy Boucher have on the team? (by NKB)

Right now, virtually every Sens fan  is in the honeymoon stage with Boucher: he's a charismatic speaker, and  he's seemingly taken good stock of the team's strengths and weaknesses.  It's hard not to be excited and expectations are high. That said, a  coach will always be limited by his roster. The Senators are returning a  very similar team to the one that struggled badly at times last year.  It would be unrealistic to expect a simple coaching change to propel the  team up the standings. Instead, Boucher's first year will be a success  if he's able to install a more cohesive vision of how the team is  supposed to play.

It's  a cliche, but all too often last year the Sens looked they were playing  without any structure. On offense, players did not seem to have a  series of successive reads they could go to in either the defensive or  the offensive zone. To break out, the puck was fired up the boards on  the strong side and it had to get out or else. In the offensive end, it  was unclear how the team wanted to attack the opposing defences. Boucher  is known as a coach with a strong penchant for disciplined  systems-play. Witness his Lightning teams' strict adhernece to the  1-3-1, even as the rest of the league mocked them for it.  If nothing  else, Boucher will help the team play in a more organized fashion. Will  that translate to more wins? That's yet to be seen.

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