There are changes coming to the Ottawa Senators, particularly up front.
On Tuesday, team owner Eugene Melnyk and general manager Bryan Murray were pretty clear in their desire to take the team in a new direction as they reflected on a disappointing season.
One of the possibilities is the departure of Jason Spezza, the team’s captain and first-line centre. That would lead to a different Sens captain for a third straight season and a clear criticism of this team’s leadership.
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With one year left on his deal, Murray has to decide if Spezza is the guy for the future. If he’s not, a trade should happen before the 2014-15 season to ensure the team gets a fair return and does not create a major distraction.
There is such a mixed opinion on Spezza among Ottawa’s fanbase: a divide that has existed since the Mississauga, Ont., native was drafted in 2001.
My friend represents one side: the diehard, dedicated, no-exceptions Spezza fans. The other side has been shaking their fist and yelling at the television for many years after Spezza makes a failed no-look pass or loses his assignment in his own zone.
Comments from Murray and the bevy of reports and articles questioning Spezza’s future are driving my friend, and half of the Senators’ faithful, bonkers. The other half is eager for the possibility of a new look.
Coaching style told to change next year
That is not the only hot topic after a tumultuous season.
This week, Murray questioned the style of head coach Paul MacLean. He said the bench boss went from being a teacher to a more confrontational figure, blaming some of the team's struggles on the coach.
It leaves more questions for fans leading into this long off-season, but there are some things we can deduce from all of this week’s comments.
Here are 10 things we think we know heading into the off-season:
- Jason Spezza is in play via trade.
- Unrestricted free agents Milan Michalek, Matt Kassian and likely Ales Hemsky, are gone.
- As a result of number 2, and potentially number 1, the Ottawa Senators will seek to be better defensively, but they won’t score as many goals next year.
- This team is looking for a new forward who can play physical but also contribute offensively (a cheaper version of David Clarkson and Ryane Clowe).
- Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur will be approached about contract extensions.
- Young players like Mark Stone, Curtis Lazar and Matt Puempel will be told they have a legitimate chance to make this team as top-six forwards.
- Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch and Cody Ceci will be told they'll be counted on to anchor the team’s defence next season (similar to this season).
- Marc Methot is just 28, but his contract offer will depend on his ability to lead and play like a grizzled veteran with a young defence corps.
- The Senators’ first pick in June’s draft will be 40th overall (second round), which is unlikely to bring immediate NHL help.
- The Binghamton Senators will have a roster full of young players thanks to a group of young players turning pro.
There will be big changes coming to Ottawa’s forward group, but not really their defence. The Senators’ management believes the root of their defensive issues comes from a group of forwards that struggled in their own zone and never quite learned how to break out of their own zone as a unit.
Not to mention, it’s up front where most of the contracts are either expiring or are set to expire. It’ll be interesting to see how this off-season follows the surprises of last summer.