The Oilers look to turn around their dreadful season start with a W in Ottawa.
Thanks to Ryan for his time.
Jeff Chapman: It's impossible to emphasize how big a loss the Senators franchise continues to endure due to the absence of Daniel Alfredsson. No one can realistically be expected to step in and fill his skates in the near future. I have a pretty good memory of the doorknobs-in-a-sack party Oilers fans wanted to throw Chris Pronger after the summer of 2006, but what are the feelings among Sens faithful regarding Alfredsson? I assume the base is scorned, but have they accepted it? Is there an ongoing grieving process?
Ryan Classic: It varies widely. Some people still wore his jersey to the home opener, while others are a bit less forgiving. Most of the frustration has been levied at the owner and his financial difficulties, but as a group we can't help but feel betrayed. In Ottawa we're used to being spurned (Yashin, Heatley, and more), but this was something different. I don't think we'll know for sure until the Senators meet the Red Wings on Wednesday. For me personally, I'm still very angry at all sides, owner to agent to player.
JC: Centre Kyle Turris is having a great start to his season (1-5-6 in seven games). During last year's shortened NHL season, he finished with 29 points on the 48 game season. Is this just a hot start, or is this the year he takes a big leap?
RC: Turris had a hot start last season as well (11 points in 11 games) and then cooled off once he Spezza's absence forced him to play as a #1 centre, followed by Karlsson's injury. This season feels different, though. He looks like he's making a leap, but in actuality the biggest change has been recently with Bobby Ryan. Initially Ryan was supposed to play with Spezza, but chemistry is a funny thing. Ryan and Turris have been dominant together alongside other newcomer Clarke MacArthur. Those are both players he didn't have last season and they've been a big help.
JC: What player has been the biggest surprise so far? The biggest dissapointment?
RC: Biggest surprise has to be Cory Conacher. He's taken the opportunity to play on the top two lines and run with it. It doesn't show up in his point totals, but he's been outstanding with his drive to the net. He'll ram through everyone. You often hear about small players playing above their size, and that's what Conacher is doing right now. Biggest disappointment? Jared Cowen is my pick. What a disaster he's been so far. Undisciplined and a risk every time he's on the ice unless he has the Turris line buffing up his advanced numbers.
JC: With the exception of his last start, Devan Dubnyk's goaltending has been absolutely dreadful to start the season . Contrarily, Craig Anderson's goaltending has been dreamy over the past few seasons. It's good to have a backup plan, as evidenced by the disaster in the pipes for the Oilers. With Ben Bishop in Tampa Bay, can Robin Lehner hold the fort down for a game or two, or more?
RC: Robin Lehner is arguably better than Craig Anderson, and if he isn't now he probably will be in short order. If Anderson were to be traded today, I'd be satisfied with Robin Lehner as my starting goaltender, and I doubt you'd find many Senators fans who disagree. In back-to-back nights last weekend, Lehner faced 97 shots in 114 minutes (Anderson started one of the games). He stopped all but five. While those were two of his better performances, they're not too far from his average. He is going to be incredible. Fun fact:link to game page make fun of that Pascal Leclaire debacle all you want, but that second-round pick the Senators got alongside him became Robin Lehner.
JC: A few days before the season, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said his team was "over budget" with a payroll of about 57 million (about seven million below the cap ceiling). If I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, I'd be willing to bet that this is a sign the Senators aren't going to be taking on any more salary in the near future. If this team stays healthy, can they make another go of it in April?
RC: I think they can. Obviously that's fan optimism speaking, but the Senators are a tricky bunch to predict. They're resilient, I'll give them that. Two things they need to cut out by the postseason (or even just to make the postseason): penalties, and shots against. They're an undisciplined team right now and their defence needs work. The losses of Sergei Gonchar and even Andre Benoit - together replaced only by Joe Corvo (!) - are really being felt right now. Hopefully ownership can find a way to spend a little extra and get some defensive help. Goaltending can take you a long way in the playoffs and cover up flaws, and goaltending is something the Senators have for once.
Ryan Classic is a member of the Full On First Unit over at Silver Seven.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanClassic