The Washington Times - September 4, 2008, 10:10AM

Teams that make the Stanley Cup finals often struggle to get back the next season because of the short summer, the wear and tear from a deep playoff run and player defections. Last season the Senators put a whole new spin on the post-finals appearance decline. Where they go from here is anybody’s guess.



2007-08: 43-31-8, 94 points (second in Northeast)

PLAYOFFS: Lost to Pittsburgh in first round

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Well, the Senators were the best team in the Eastern Conference for the first 55-60 percent of the season or so. Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson formed the best line in hockey, contributing a combined 115 goals to help the team lead the NHL on a per-game basis. Antoine Vermette pushed his point total from 39 to 53 and proved to be a nice complimentary option behind the Big Three.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Well, the Senators were one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference for the last 40-45 percent of the season or so. Distraction machine Ray Emery and Martin Gerber combined for some ineffective goaltending. Beyond the top line, Vermette and Mike Fisher no one scored more than 11 goals. GM/interim coach Bryan Murray called out the Penguins, saying they purposely lost the last game of the season to get the Senators in the first round. Pittsburgh proceeded to sweep Ottawa without breaking much of a sweat to help the Senators mercifully arrive at the crash site.

ARRIVALS: D Filip Kuba, D Jason Smith, D Alexandre Picard, G Alex Auld, LW Jarkko Ruutu, RW Ryan Shannon

DEPARTURES: G Ray Emery, D Wade Redden, D Andrei Meszaros, D Mike Commodore, LW Cory Stillman, RW Brian McGrattan, Lawrence Nycholat

IMPACT PROSPECTS: D Brian Lee, G Brian Elliott, C Ilya Zubov


Will Craig Harstburg shake things up?

Hartsburg has coached in the NHL before and had great success with Canadian junior national team the past couple of year, has been talking tough since Murray tabbed him for the job. The perception is this club needs a kick in the collective behind after last year’s free fall. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, bristles at Hartsburg’s new ideas.

Can they count on Gerber?

He was in a tough spot last year being the sidekick to Emery and his shenanigans, but Gerber could have made things a lot easier on his team by just playing better and allowing them to kick Emery to the curb. Now that he’s gone, Gerber begins camp as the No. 1 guy, but free agent Alex Auld (and don’t count out former college star Brian Elliott either) could push him if he struggles.

PROGNOSIS: There might not be a more interesting team to see what develops outside of Tampa Bay than the Senators this year. They are a true wild card. Better defense and goaltending and a little more scoring depth could easily make them one of the conference’s elite teams. But this team had the talent last year, and it blew up in their faces. Removing Emery should bring more peace to the dressing room, but depth up front could still be an issue if injury claims one of the Big Three. If things go bad, don’t be surprised to see Elliott grab the starting job by season’s end, but this team should still be in the playoffs and could surprise everyone with a deep run.


Dany Heatley Jason Spezza Daniel Alfredsson
Antoine Vermette Mike Fisher Nick Foligno
Jarkko Ruutu Chris Kelly Chris Neil
Dean McAmmond Cody Bass/Ilya Zubov Shean Donovan/Ryan Shannon
Chris Phillips Anton Volchenkov
Filip Kuba Jason Smith
Christoph Schubert Alexandre Picard
Brian Lee Brendan Bell
Martin Gerber
Alex Auld/Brian Elliott


*NOTE: This is not necessarily an attempt to guess line combinations