Onus on stars to lead Senators A.D. (After Daniel) | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in CanadaOnus on stars to lead Senators A.D. (After Daniel)

Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | 12:00 PM

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Jason Spezza of the Senators is swapping his assistant captain's Jason Spezza of the Senators is swapping his assistant captain's "A" for the captain's "C" with Daniel Alfredsson in Detroit. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

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CBC Sports is previewing each of the seven Canadian teams leading up to opening night of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here, the Ottawa Senators step into the spotlight.

CBC Sports is previewing each of the seven Canadian teams leading up to opening night of the 2013-14 NHL season. Here, the Ottawa Senators step into the spotlight.

The skinny

The Senators try to follow up their feel good story of last season -- they overcame long-term injuries to key players like Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, Craig Anderson, Milan Michalek and Jared Cowen -- without their popular and long-time captain, Daniel Alfredsson ... Newcomer Bobby Ryan will play alongside Spezza and Michalek, but the second line remains a work in progress. Who will play with centre Kyle Turris and left-wing Clarke MacArthur? Cory Conacher or Mika Zibanejad or Mike Hoffman or Mark Stone? ... Keep in mind that Stone does not require waivers to be demoted ... A player to watch will be local product Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The dynamic 5-foot-9, 163-pound centre made quite a first impression late in the regular season and in the playoffs. How will he follow up this season? ... Look for 23-year-old Patrick Wiercioch of Burnaby, B.C., to fill the void alongside Cowen left by the departure of veteran Sergei Gonchar.

Three questions: Bryan Murray

  • Has the organization overcome the loss of Alfredsson?

"I'm not sure you ever overcome the loss of a person like Daniel Alfredsson. We're going to miss him as a person and as a leader and what he did on the ice. He was a big part of this team for a long time.

"But the one thing I'll say is that he has been close to retirement for a few years now and that this was likely to be his last year. We felt we were in a good position with the leadership of our club and the way some of our young players were coming along. We were prepared."

  • On a straight Alfredsson-for-Ryan swap, I maintain your club is better. How do you see it?

"There is no question Bobby Ryan is a young player who can score and he'll give us some added offence. We also like the addition of Clarke MacArthur and how good he has looked with Kyle Turris on the second line. We also feel we have plenty of young talent ready to take the next step.

"I believe we are a touch better at this point, but not because of the 1-for-1 swap, as you suggest, but because of a combination of Ryan, MacArthur and our young talent."

  • When Erik Karlsson returned from his injury last season, he appeared to be a young star trying to do too much. Did you have to talk to him at all before or during training camp about this and did you need to talk to Spezza about the extra burden of being a captain?

"We've had that conversation with Jason. He's ready for the responsibility of being captain. He's in touch with his teammates as to what they do away from the rink. We also think he'll be a better player. He won't be as selfish. We've asked him to protect the puck better and he seems to be committed to the team game.

"With Erik, he was a quarter of the player he was when the injury occurred. He really struggled [in the second round of the playoffs] against Pittsburgh. He did try to do too much and he got caught flat-footed. But if training camp has been any indication, he's on the right track back to how good he was playing before the injury."

Player on hot seat

Karlsson. The 2011-12 Norris Trophy winner had his regular season cut short to 17 games after his Achilles' tendon was lacerated in a game on Feb. 13. He made a remarkable recovery to play the final three games of the regular season, but he clearly wasn't the same player the rest of the way. The 23-year-old Swede needs to return to that form early last season when he was one of the game's best, if not the game's best. 

Training camp development

The 30-year-old Spezza was given the captaincy with the departure of Alfredsson. He enjoyed his finest all-around season in 2011-12, Paul MacLean's first year behind the bench, but was unable to follow that up due his back ailment last season. Now he has leadership on his mind, too, and changing the mind of Canadian Olympic team executive director Steve Yzerman, who did not invite Spezza to the summer orientation camp in Calgary.

Key stat

2.33 -- Goals scored per game last season, fourth worst in the league and lowest among the 16 playoff teams. The Senators defence was another story, however. It allowed only 2.08 goals per game, second best behind the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks (2.02).

Follow Tim Wharnsby on Twitter @WharnsbyCBC

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