The Ottawa Senators are very much a brand new team entering the 2019-20 season. Gone are the likes of Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Cody Ceci, and Zack Smith. New to the team are names like Artem Anisimov, Nikita Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey, and Connor Brown, while prospects like Erik Brannstrom, Drake Batherson, Josh Norris, and Max Veronneau are set to push for regular roles. On top of all of the roster turnover, the team also has a new head coach in D.J. Smith. Given these considerable changes, Smith’s comments to Sportsnet’s Wayne Scanlan comes as little surprise. First and foremost, Smith tells Scanlan that the Senators will not name a captain in the coming season. The team did not have a captain last season following the departure of Erik Karlsson and now has even fewer tenured veterans. He did say that there will be veteran members, old and new, who he will rely on to play leadership roles in the locker room, but simply feels that the team must wait for a captain to naturally emerge. It also may not necessarily be one of the established veterans, as Smith notes that he will make a “conscious effort” to share ice time and responsibility evenly between the older players and many young players pushing for an opportunity. More than anything, Smith states that he hopes to change the culture in Ottawa, instilling a sense of belief and confidence in the new additions, young players, and perhaps even some of those long-time Senators who have survived a couple of difficult seasons. Based on Smith’s comments, it seems that the Senators will be a very new team indeed in many ways this coming season.
- A young leader is developing for one of the Senators’ divisional rivals, the Buffalo Sabres. Phenom Rasmus Dahlin, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 and a Calder Trophy finalist last season, is not afraid to speak his mind and knew what he was doing when he made some bold predictions to the Associated Press’ John Wawrow. “We’re going to be a winning team and be in the playoffs,” Dahlin told Wawrow, “I’m putting more pressure on myself… I think everyone is putting more pressure on ourselves now, and we’re ready to go… I feel more prepared. I feel more mature. Like that one year of experience, I know what’s coming this season. I feel more comfortable in my position… we’re going to get something good going on here.” It’s a strong statement from Dahlin and one that will surprise many. The Sabres have not made the playoffs since 2011 and finished 13th in the Eastern Conference this past season after a late-season collapse. The team arguably plays in the toughest division in the game as well, as Atlantic powerhouses Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto will almost certainly claim the top three seeds in the division, leaving Buffalo to fight for one of two wild card spots. Yet, the Sabres have to be happy that their 18-year-old centerpiece is bold enough to put those playoff expectations on his shoulders and will look to follow him back to postseason glory this season, no matter how tough the road may be.
- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Karl Alzner would like to be part of his team’s playoff push next season as well. Unfortunately, Alzner’s poor play left him relegated to the AHL for all but nine games last season. After spending the summer working out with teammates Carey Price and Shea Weber, Alzner tells TVA’s Louis-André Larivière that he feels he is ready to once again be a regular contributor and hopes he is given a fair shot to compete for such a role in the team’s upcoming training camp. While Alzner stated that he does not want to waste years of his career, whether or not he has an NHL role is ultimately up to him. His own play and taxing $4.625MM cap hit are why he spent last season with the Laval Rocket and he must prove that he is worth keeping on the roster. Alzner revealed that he did not formally request a trade last season, but that he will likely do so if he is cut from Canadiens camp this fall. However, there may not be much of a market for his services and likely even less interest in promising him a regular role at the NHL level.