Without Jason Spezza: Where will the Senators' goals come from?
Ottawa Senators look to youth movement at forward after struggles with young defence last year
Let’s assume, hypothetically, Jason Spezza isn’t in Ottawa next season.
If Spezza leaves Ales Hemsky and Milan Michalek would also be gone.
No matter how critical you want to be about this trio’s defensive work, they can score goals. That’s not as easy as you might think.
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Without them, who will pick up the slack?
Jason Spezza rally, 1 p.m. Saturday
In the 2013-14 season, Ottawa finished 11th of 30 NHL teams in goals. Spezza accounted for about 10 per cent of the total, but that might have been even higher had he played with Hemsky earlier in the year.
We should expect another decent year of production from Turris, MacArthur and Ryan, who together compiled 32 per cent of the Senators’ goals last year.
That’s basically one of every three goals, taking into account a drop in the second half of the season due to Ryan’s injury. Considering he and MacArthur are pending unrestricted free agents, their goal totals should increase.
Secondary scoring in question
But after that only Erik Karlsson (20), Mika Zibanejad (16) and Zack Smith (13) reached double digits in goals last year.
By the numbers: Goals in 2013-14
229: Total goals.
Considering the budgetary restraints, the team will have to rely on the youth movement.
Young forwards like Matt Puempel, Mark Stone and Curtis Lazar will be given a chance to make the team as a top-six forward.
Puempel hit 30 in Binghamton last year, Stone had 15 in the AHL with four more in the NHL, while Lazar, who played in the WHL, tallied 41 goals in 58 games.
It makes you wonder, will this franchise be comfortable putting weight on young players’ shoulders? The Sens were burned when they asked young players like Erik Karlsson, Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch and Cody Ceci to anchor the defence last year.
Will they be gun-shy this year?
You know Bryan Murray will count on a jump in production from Colin Greening, who he’ll be paying $2.65 million in each of the next three seasons. But his struggles last year are a cause for concern.
There should also be at least one player returning in the Spezza trade who could produce decent goal numbers this upcoming season, but that’s a major unknown.
So it's a steep challenge and the Senators will rely on the forward depth it has developed.
This is why the team drafted four forwards during the first two rounds of the 2011 NHL entry draft: Zibanejad, Puempel, Shane Prince and Stefan Noesen (traded to Anaheim in Bobby Ryan deal).
Three years later, it's time they make an impact in the NHL.