SANTA CRUZ, September 27, 2013 — As is typical of the National Hockey League off season, several established players changed addresses via trades and free agency. While this is a yearly event, few teams experienced a bigger upheaval than the Ottawa Senators. Veteran forward and team captain Daniel Alfredsson departed for Detroit while the Senators acquired sniper Bobby Ryan from Anaheim.
Alfredsson’s leadership will be missed more than his offense. The 40-year-old Swede finished third on the team in scoring with 26 points last season, while Ryan, 26, racked up 30 points with the Ducks. With this move, the Senators are placing offensive need ahead of veteran savvy, and it may be a good decision.
To acquire Ryan, Ottawa had to part with promising young forward Jakob Silfverberg, who finished fourth in scoring behind Alredsson last year with 20 points. Silfverberg had an impressive rookie campaign and projects to be a top forward for years, but perhaps the biggest loss for the Senators is the other player they gave up. Ottawa’s first round pick in the 2011 NHL draft, Stefan Noesen, from Plano, Texas, has been tearing up the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Plymouth Whalers. At 6’ 2”, Noesen has the size and scoring touch scouts love.
Bobby Ryan is a prolific goal scorer and a big body. He will inject more offense into a Senators team which struggled at times last year to put the puck in the net, but fans ought not to expect much else from Ryan. A reputation for laziness and entitlement has plagued his career, perhaps unfairly, since he gained notoriety for being the player picked right after Sidney Crosby in the 2005 draft.
Unlike Crosby, who entered the NHL immediately, Ryan showed up to Ducks training camp out of shape, assuming he would make the team on his status alone. Being sent back to his OHL team was meant as a wake up call to the talented player and he responded with seasons of 95 and 102 points for the Owen Sound Attack. When Ryan finally made his Ducks debut in 2007, his 15 points in 23 games made a statement that he was ready for the NHL.
Ryan will need to adjust to the added scrutiny of playing hockey in a major Canadian market. Ottawa is very different from Owen Sound, let alone Anaheim. If he works hard on the defensive side of the puck, a requirement for coach Paul MacLean, and keeps scoring goals, he should fit in well in the nation’s capitol.
Silfverberg will add immediate depth to an offensively challenged Anaheim forward corps which drops off considerably after its top line. Silfverberg is also a savvy defender who plays responsibly in his own end, and the addition of Noesen gives Anaheim another high end prospect who is close to being ready to play in the league.
With Daniel Alfredsson’s departure from Ottawa, the Senators named veteran Jason Spezza as captain. Spezza has spent his entire career in the capitol and it has not always been a good match. Seemingly on his way out of town on a yearly basis by way of one trade or another, the gifted forward earned the ire of fans who sensed he was not committed to the Senators. As the new captain, Spezza will have to prove he has what it takes to be a leader, both on and off the ice.
Chemistry is a fragile thing, especially on a hockey team. The Ottawa Senators are hoping that their off season moves will push them far into the playoffs without sacrificing leadership and team cohesiveness. How far the Senators go will largely depend on how heavy the C is on Jason Spezza’s sweater.
Russ Rankin writes about hockey, music & politics. You can find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter. He also sings for Good Riddance and Only Crime. Find out what he’s up to by checking out his website.
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