The Ottawa Senators did some summer cleaning. By shipping long-time superstar Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars, the Senators reaped a return of players and a 2015 draft pick. While many people are divided on the state of the Senators — some believe that the team is better off without Spezza, while others hope that the Senators are just competitive — one thing is for certain: the Senators must be focused to play, and return to the playoffs. Here’s how the Senators get back to playoff hockey in the Canadian Tire Center:
Don’t Let the Past Wreck the Future
Yes, the Senators lost Spezza; yes, Spezza has been a hallmark for the franchise since he was drafted to the Canadian capital city in 2001; and yes, Spezza was part of the Senators’ 2006 Eastern Conference title win, but it’s time to move on. New leadership must take over if the Senators want to be a competitive team next season in the Eastern Conference — Spezza was the captain after Daniel Alfredsson (a long-time Senator) left for the Detroit Red Wings last season.
Someone must step up and take create a mentality of success in Ottawa. Right now, Chris Neil and Zack Smith are a couple of the constants within the Senators organization. It’s up to them to right the ship and lead them to the promised land: the playoffs.
Anything But A Cold Streak
The Senators can’t afford a bad losing streak. Trouble spots in their schedule include late October/early November battles with the Chicago Blackhawks (twice), Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins, and Minnesota Wild — all of which were playoff teams. Stumbling is treacherous ground in an NHL regular season, but stumbling out of the starting gate sets a negative tone for the season.
Playing gritty, smart hockey is what the Senators need to do if they want to survive. Erik Karlsson and Kyle Turris will need to continue their point scoring ways, and be the one-two punch the Senators need on offense. Last season, Karlsson led the team with 74 points, while Turris was third on the team with 58 points.
The Senators aren’t too far off the beaten path for a return to the playoffs, however, if they struggle with the opening month of the season, the team could falter. Getting to mid-November in one piece is the goal for the Senators. If they can do that, then they should have the right mind-set to get back to the postseason.
Getting By With Some Help
Like any sporting team fighting for a playoff shot, they are going to need some help. Most wild card teams control their destiny — win ‘x’ amount of games, and hold off the opposition — to the playoffs. Last season, a late-tail spin by the Toronto Maple Leafs opened the door for the Detroit Red Wings to slip into the playoffs.
Ottawa won’t be a division clinching team next season, but will be in the hunt for a wild card berth. It’s almost certain that the triad of the Montreal Canadians, Tampa Bay Lighting, and Boston Bruins will rule the roost in the Atlantic side of the Eastern Conference. That leaves the two playoff spots vacant. If that’s the case, the Senators need to have the likes of the Red Wings and Maple Leafs stumble at some point in the season.
If only one of the teams struggle, then the odds of Ottawa getting into the playoffs become very slim — the Metropolitan side of the Eastern Conference will likely claim a spot into the playoffs.
For Senator faithful, the return to the playoffs isn’t that far out of reach, but a few things need to go Ottawa’s way.