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Season Preview: Ottawa Senators

Addition of Derick Brassard spark to special teams, signal of win-now mentality

by Chris Stevenson / NHL.com Correspondent
At a glance

2015-16 record: 38-35-9, 85 points, 5th in Atlantic Division, 11th in Eastern Conference

2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Did not qualify

Additions: F: Mike Blunden, Derick Brassard, Chris Kelly, Tom Pyatt; D: Matt Bartkowski, Patrick Sielof

Subtractions: F: Alex Chiasson, Mika Zibanejad; D: Patrick Wiercioch

 
Projected opening night lineup

Forwards

Mike Hoffman -- Kyle Turris -- Mark Stone

Zack Smith -- Derick Brassard -- Bobby Ryan

Matt Puempel -- Jean-Gabriel Pageau -- Curtis Lazar

Tom Pyatt -- Chris Kelly -- Chris Neil

Ryan Dzingel

Defensemen

Marc Methot -- Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf -- Cody Ceci

Mark Borowiecki -- Chris Wideman

Fredrik Claesson

Goalies

Craig Anderson

Andrew Hammond

Chris Driedger

Video: Senators GM Pierre Dorion on hiring of Guy Boucher

 

After missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in the past three seasons, the Ottawa Senators made sweeping changes on and off the ice.

The moves were made with one goal in mind: a return to the postseason. General manager Pierre Dorion fired coach Dave Cameron after the Senators were 30th in shots allowed per game (32.8) and 26th in goals allowed (2.94). Ottawa gave up the first goal of the game 51 times.

Guy Boucher was hired as the seventh coach in nine years and given the job of tightening the defense and improving the special teams.

A major step in that direction was the Senators acquiring center Derick Brassard, 29, and a seventh-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft in a trade with the New York Rangers for center Mika Zibanejad, 23, and a second-round pick in 2018. It was a definitive example of trading the future for the present.

Brassard is a left shot at center, something the Senators didn't have last season. That should give Boucher, known as a power-play architect, another option for improving Ottawa's play with the extra man.

The Senators also shored up their penalty killing by signing veteran forwards Chris Kelly, who played with Ottawa from 2004-11, and Tom Pyatt.

The status of veteran left wing Clarke MacArthur remains a question. MacArthur missed all but the first four games of last season with a concussion. He returned for training camp this season, only to sustain another concussion on the third day of practice.

MacArthur was slotted to play on a line with Brassard and right wing Bobby Ryan. Zack Smith, 28, who had an NHL career-high 25 goals last season, could get a chance to fill MacArthur's spot.

Center Kyle Turris spent most of last season playing on an injured ankle. Assuming he's healthy, the Senators should have two good offensive lines with Turris between Mike Hoffman, who led Ottawa with 29 goals last season, and Mark Stone, a strong two-way forward, provided Stone has no long-term effects after sustaining a concussion on Sept. 23.

The defense, anchored by two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, will benefit from having Dion Phaneuf, obtained in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 9, for a full season.

The goaltending is set with veteran Craig Anderson, backed by Andrew Hammond.

Video: OTT@MTL: Ryan puts puck into wide open net for PPG

 

Why they should make the Stanley Cup Playoffs

A healthy Turris and the addition of Brassard gives the Senators a good one-two punch at center. Phaneuf, playing his first full season with the Senators, stabilizes the defense, and Boucher improves Ottawa's play in the defensive zone, making him a candidate for the Jack Adams Award.

 

Why they could miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Senators must turn around their special teams; they were 26th on the power play and 29th on the penalty kill last season.

 

Breakout candidate

Defenseman Cody Ceci. The No. 15 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft is 22 and entering his fourth season with the Senators. It looks as if he will play with Phaneuf on Ottawa's second defense pair, and Ceci could be in a position to improve his two-way game. His goal totals have gone from three in 2013-14 to five in 2014-15 to 10 last season.

Video: FLA@OTT: Ceci shrugs off defender, drills puck home

 

On the hot seat

Ryan. The 29-year-old hasn't scored with the Senators the way he did with the Anaheim Ducks, where he was a four-time 30-goal scorer. He has scored 23, 18 and 22 goals in three seasons with Ottawa. The Senators traded for Brassard during the offseason, which could spark Ryan's production on the second line.

 

Trophy candidates

Karlsson (Norris, Hart); Stone (Selke)

 

Quotable

"I think we've added to the personnel we needed. Not because some guys who left were not good. We needed something else specifically, and I think we've really added that. I have to say I'm really happy with more tools in my toolbox to be able to switch things around and have different guys having different roles and not overtaxing some guys doing everything." -- coach Guy Boucher

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