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They're the talk of the town hall

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Leave it to one of the youngest fans in the house to ask the question every Ottawa Senators fan wanted to hear answered most of all.

On a bright sunny morning at Scotiabank Place, the Senators opened their doors to season-ticket holders for a Town Hall session that allowed fans a rare opportunity to pick the brains of Senators president and CEO Roy Mlakar, general manager Bryan Murray, assistant GM Tim Murray and assistant coach Curtis Hunt.

Senators GM Bryan Murray (left), president and CEO Roy Mlakar (centre) and event moderator Gord Wilson of Team 1200 share a light moment with fans during a town hall session held at Scotiabank Place on Saturday at Fan Fest (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
Fans in attendance received answers and information on a wide variety of topics about the team, its farm system and some of its future stars. But the biggest roar came when a wide-eyed young blond fan in a Sens jersey asked Bryan Murray to address the issue that’s at the top of every supporter’s list of hopes and dreams: “Are the Sens going to win the Stanley Cup this year?”

“It’s a good question,” Murray said with a smile as the fans listened intently. “The only reason we play, the only reason we’re in this business is to win the Stanley Cup. We’re not making any promises but we are going to tell you that we will compete hard. I believe we’ll be a contending hockey team.

“We have a group that I think will handle adversity a little better this year but to have a successful year, everybody has to click, you have to be really lucky and then you have a chance to win the Cup. We’re hoping all of those things fall into place this year.”

The Senators’ quest officially begins two weeks from today, when they open the 2008-09 season against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Globe Arena in Stockholm. Fans will get a rapid-fire look at the formation of the team during three home pre-season games in the next eight days, including tonight’s matchup with the New York Rangers at Scotiabank Place (7 p.m., Rogers TV, Sportsnet).

“The priority here is to become a team and in a very short period of time before we start the season in Sweden,” Hunt said of the goals of the coaching staff led by new head coach Craig Hartsburg.

There are also plenty of bright days to look forward to in the future. Both Murrays spoke about the improved depth within the organization, which they believe will be further reflected in an improved Binghamton Senators team in the American Hockey League.

“Our depth is good,” said Tim Murray.”I don’t think injuries will cripple us.”

Fans also received an update on Erik Karlsson, the Swedish defenceman who was the Sens’ top pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place. The 18-year-old blueliner now suits up for the Swedish Elite League’s Frolunda Indians.

“We really love Erik,” said Tim Murray. “He’s playing top four minutes (for Frolunda), he’s running their power play.

“All reports are very good. He’s on his way – whether it’s next year or the year after, we don’t know yet.”

Another of the Sens’ top prospects, centre Jim O’Brien, makes his NHL debut tonight against the Rangers.

“Jim has come a long way since last year,” Tim Murray told the fans. “He didn’t participate (in training camp) last year because of a bad shoulder, but he played great in rookie tournament … We’ve got high expectations for him”

The town hall was a new component of the Senators’ annual Fan Fest, which offered an opportunity for fans to take in an open practice, visit the new Sens Store and participate in a number of interactive events in the Red Zone in front of Scotiabank Place.

Check out our photo gallery from today's Fan Fest at Scotiabank Place.

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