- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

On the final day of Ottawa’s season, coach Paul MacLean stood before the assembled media and acknowledged the obvious: Almost everything that could go wrong did, and across-the-board improvements were imperative.

“I think in the National Hockey League you have to play well enough, long enough to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs,” MacLean said. “We didn’t do that. I think we have to change our approach. We have to get to that identity right away.”

For a group that returns nearly intact - save for two notable exceptions—it will be interesting to see if the Senators implement and execute a plan that leads to the Stanley Cup playoffs returning to the Canadian capital.

Here are things to keep in mind before the Senators open Oct. 9 in Nashville.

WHO’S IN GOAL?: Essentially, Robin Lehner is Ottawa’s goaltender of the future. The goaltender of the present is a decidedly murkier topic. During training camp, MacLean stated “Craig Anderson is the No. 1 goaltender,” before adding “Robin Lehner has played well enough and earned the right to challenge, to play in more games.” Also complicating matters, Craig Anderson agreed to a three-year deal worth $12.6 million in August.

METHOT MAN: Defenseman Marc Methot is in the last year of a four-year, $12 million contract. Both the player and the team have expressed interest in a long-term marriage. So that should be easy, right? Wrong. The Senators and Methot’s representation have engaged in a negotiation that’s become nasty. “It’s not always pretty,” Methot said at training camp. “I would like to get something done.”

SHORT ON SCORING?: One of the bright spots for the Senators in 2013-14 included their 2.79 goals per game average (10th in the NHL). But that strength absorbed a significant blow in the offseason as top-line center Jason Spezza was traded to Dallas, and right wing Ales Hemsky signed with the Stars. Spezza totaled 66 points in 75 games last season, while Hemsky finished with 43 points in 75 games with Edmonton and Ottawa. Replacing that production will be a collaborative effort.

THE MIDDLEMAN: Along with the offensive production, the departure of Spezza leaves a substantial chasm at center. Spezza won 54 percent of the faceoffs he took last season and ranked second among Senators forwards with an average ice time of 18:12 per game. So the question is who replaces him? Kyle Turris will get the first chance, and he’s looking forward to it. “It’s going to be a challenge that I think I’m ready for,” Turris said.

LACK OF DEFENSE: Ottawa was one of the weakest defensive teams in the NHL last season. Only the Islanders, Panthers and Oilers had a worse goals-against average than the Senators’ 3.15. That deficiency was compounded by a penalty kill success rate (80.9 percent) that ranked 17th.

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