A development that could make the Ottawa Senators' extreme makeover more palatable to their fans is that several of the young players who will play in the nation's capital this season experienced a successful run the AHL Calder Cup championship last spring.
The team's old guard of captain Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Chris Neil, Chris Phillips and Sergei Gonchar could be joined by as many as eight or so players from the Binghamton titlists, including the frontrunners: Bobby Butler, Erik Condra, Jared Cowen, Colin Greening and Zac Smith.
"They learned how to win," Senators first-year coach Paul MacLean said. "I don't care what level you're playing, it's a good lesson to learn. The main thing is you learn how hard it is to win. Now they understand how hard it is to win. So for me, it's a little easier to convince them that they have to continue to work hard to win in this league."
Last season, players like Butler, Greening, Condra and Smith received an extended look in the NHL, too. This not only benefited them when they were sent to Binghamton for the playoff run, but should help in their transition to full-time work in the NHL in 2011-12.
"The one upside about us not being a very good team last year [in Ottawa] is that some of us got some time in the NHL," Smith said. "That probably helped us in the run to the Calder Cup, and then winning with Binghamton will help us coming back up because of the experience.
"The Calder Cup win definitely can carry over. You win the Calder Cup like we did and you gain confidence in yourself and in your game."
Coach: The 53-year-old Paul MacLean of Antigonish, N.S. is in his rookie season as an NHL head coach. The former Winnipeg Jets sniper won a Colonial Cup at the helm of the UHL's Quad City Mallards in 2000-01 and split eight seasons as an assistant coach beside Mike Babcock in Anaheim and Detroit. They made it to three Stanley Cup finals (2003 with Anaheim, 2008 and 2009 with Detroit), winning in 2007-08.
GM: Bryan Murray, 69, is in his fifth year as the Senators general manager after two full seasons behind the Ottawa bench. The Senators have gone from Stanley Cup finalist in 2006-07 to having missed the playoffs in two of the last three years, and they haven't won a playoff series since their visit to the final.
Last year: 32-40-10-74 points, 13th in the East (19 points out of the playoffs).
Who's in: LW Nikita Filatov, G Alex Auld, C Zenon Konopka.
Who's out: May 19: G Curtis McElhinney, RW Ryan Shannon, D David Hale, G Pascal Leclaire, RW Marek Svatos.
Payroll: $51.8-million US (22nd in NHL).
Key stat: The Senators used six different goalies last season. In 18 outings Craig Anderson notched 11 wins, two behind Brian Elliott, the netminder he was swapped for. Elliott, however, made 43 appearances for the Senators.
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