There is no doubt that the Ottawa Senators and their fans expected better results this season. In the midst of a difficult year, with speculation about the future of the General Manager and the coaching staff, as well as possible moves at the upcoming trade deadline, one player that is emerging as a true leader in Ottawa is left-winger Nick Foligno.
A first round selection (28th overall) in the 2006 NHL draft, the 23-year old Foligno is stepping into a leadership role during his fourth year in the league. While it would be easy for the young man to stay in the background during the lengthy losing streak the franchise is currently dealing with, Foligno has not hidden from the media or his responsibilities to the team. Whenever there are questions surrounding the organization, he has stepped up and answered honestly and truthfully.
“I want to be a core player going forward,” Foligno told Rob Brodie (OttawaSenators.com) “I want to be someone that’s counted on to lead this team. That’s just with playing correctly and doing the things I need to do. But there is absolutely that drive and determination within me to want to lead this team and help this team win.”
After a strong pre-season, scoring four goals and adding two assists, many observers believed that Foligno had finally discovered his scoring touch at the NHL level. However, once the season started, he struggled to find the net again and did not score his first goal of the season until a November 29th game against the Edmonton Oilers. While his point production was not as expected in the first half of the season, he maintained his strong work ethic and persevered through the goal-scoring drought, filling any role he could with the team, and he is finally being rewarded around the net on a more consistent basis.
Through 52 games, he has 8 goals and 12 assists; three of his goals have been game winners. His total point production may not be what he was hoping for, but it is a sign that his hard work is beginning to pay off. His ice time has increased during the last three games and if the practise lines remain the same, he will play with Daniel Alfredsson and the returning Jason Spezza this evening against the New York Islanders. The game on Long Island is the start of a four game road swing that also takes the team to Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton.
Nick is the son of long-time NHLer and current assistant coach of the Anaheim Ducks, Mike Foligno (1,018 games with Detroit, Buffalo, Toronto, and Florida). Nick’s work ethic is similar to his father’s – a hard working, gritty player that puts his team and teammates first. He is not afraid to go into the corners and has “a little bit of sandpaper to him” as former Senators GM John Muckler once said.
While the Senators and their fans search for the bright spots and the positives during this difficult season, one look at Nick Foligno’s effort night after night, and they will realize that this young man can be a difference maker in the future and he is ready to embrace a leadership role in the organization.
Other Sens News: As previously mentioned, Jason Spezza returns to the lineup tonight in New York. His first game action since suffering a shoulder injury in a December 26th game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Did the Senators miss Spezza? Well, with only one win in the fifteen games he was out of the lineup, the answer to that question is a resounding ‘Yes’… Say what you will about his occasional defensive lapses, his creativity in the offensive zone was certainly missed on a team that continues to struggle in the goals for and goals against categories.