Ottawa Senators: 2013 season preview

After making a surprise playoff appearance in the Year of Karlsson, the Senators hope for another big season from star forwards Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek to avoid falling back to the pack.

Sens hope 2011-12 campaign no fluke

Erik Karlsson, left, Jason Spezza, centre, and Milan Michalek keyed Ottawa's surprise run to the playoffs last year. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Key Arrivals: D Marc Methot, F Guillaume Latendresse, D Mike Lundin.

Key Departures: F Nick Foligno, D Filip Kuba, G Alex Auld, F Bobby Butler, F Zenon Konopka, D Matt Carkner.

Key Decisions: Traded F Nick Foligno to Columbus for D Marc Methot; Extended contracts of D Erik Karlsson, F Chris Neil, F Zack Smith, F Kyle Turris.

2011-12 record: 41-31-10, finished 8th in Eastern Conference, lost in first playoff round to New York Rangers.

Last year’s story

The Sens appeared headed for disaster after a brutal first two weeks of the 2011-12 season but turned out to be one of the league's most resilient teams under new coach Paul MacLean, winning an East-best dozen games in which they trailed after a period. Jason Spezza enjoyed the kind of season his critics have long been clamouring for, Milan Michalek set a career high in goals, captain Daniel Alfredsson stayed healthy (and productive) for the most part, rookie Jared Cowen showed promise on the back end, and veteran blue-liner Chris Phillips bounced back from a terrible 2010-11. In net, Craig Anderson gave the team its most dependable goaltending since Dominik Hasek's body got wonky and Ray Emery's head went wiggy.

Above all, it was the Year of Karlsson: Erik Karlsson engineered stunning improvements of 33 points and 46 in the plus/minus department from the previous season, finishing with 78 points and a plus-16 rating to earn the Norris Trophy.

This year's outlook

Ottawa on paper looks ripe as a team that could conceivably make the mistake of assuming that every player who had a strong campaign last season will continue at that standard unabated. They've also given away a lot in terms of grit, it seems. But coach MacLean doesn't seem like the type to let a bunch that hasn't accomplished much get complacent, and in a shortened season, their considerable natural skill level might win out over toughness and allow them to make a modest jump in the standings.

Unlike Toronto, where a relative paucity of NHL-near prospects had writers obsessing over the body fat percentage of five-foot-10 (maybe) Nazem Kadri, the Sens have the luxury of having about eight forwards under 25 who will be battling for about five or six spots. So, along with the off-season departures, this will be a different-looking Ottawa team by five or six players. The likes of Tampa Bay, Carolina and Buffalo have retooled in the East, but remember that Florida barely made the playoffs and New Jersey didn't have the best off-season. If anyone can challenge Boston for the Northeast title, it's the Sens.


Chris Iorfida

Senior Writer

Chris Iorfida, based in Toronto, has been with CBC since 2002 and written on subjects as diverse as politics, business, health, sports, arts and entertainment, science and technology.