Updated: January 16, 2013, 1:04 PM ET
Andre Ringuette/Getty Images Erik Karlsson's offensive explosion last season was a big part of the Sens' playoff berth last season.

Senators: Five Things You Need To Know

By Pierre LeBrun

So what do the overachieving Ottawa Senators do for an encore?

Before last season, the Senators were a popular pick to finish last in the Eastern Conference.

Instead, the Sens were the surprise team of the East, grabbing the final playoff spot in the conference and giving the top-seeded New York Rangers all they could handle in a first-round series that one Blueshirts player told ESPN.com ended up fatiguing his team moving forward.

The question is, can the Senators prove last season wasn't a mirage and make it back to the playoffs and beyond this year?

The early consensus among most observers is that Ottawa is primed for a bit of a regression as reality sets in. Just another chance for the Senators to prove everyone wrong.

1. The GM Doesn't Stand Pat
GM Bryan Murray didn't rest on his laurels last summer, tweaking his team by adding power forward Guillaume Latendresse, defensemen Mike Lundin and Marc Methot while showing exit papers to Nick Foligno, Filip Kuba, Bobby Butler, Zenon Konopka, Matt Carkner and Jesse Winchester. Interesting that Murray felt the need to slightly change a roster that played so well last season. But the veteran hockey man knows his team well and saw deficiencies. The addition of Latendresse, in particular, fills a need for more size up front.

2. The Sensational Mr. Karlsson
I still believe Shea Weber should have won the Norris Trophy last season, but you cannot take away anything from Erik Karlsson's incredible offensive explosion en route to a surprise Norris nod. (On a personal note: a big thank you to Mr. Karlsson for helping me win the Media Hacks Fantasy Hockey League last season!) The exciting puck-mover is electrifying to watch, and his evolution last season was a big reason for Ottawa's surprise performance. Karlsson did lose his regular defensive partner in Kuba, so we will have to watch how he adjusts on that front. But given his natural talent, I can't imagine a drop-off.

3. Sens In Europe
Led by the likes of Karlsson and Jason Spezza, Ottawa had eight skaters playing overseas during the lockout, and that's no small factor. The difference between those who have played real games the past few months and those just working out in scrimmages on this side of the ocean could be noticeable in some cases. Ottawa gets a bit of an edge here early in the season by having so many players who already have their game rhythm down pat.

4. Alfie, Alfie, Alfie
Was there anything more heart-warming last season than watching the fans in Ottawa during All-Star weekend embrace their captain Daniel Alfredsson the way they did? I honestly believed at that moment that he'd be retiring after the season. I was wrong, like many others. The 39-year-old Sens captain is back for another season, and the NHL is a better place for it. The Sens need to be wary of the compacted, 48-game schedule and make sure they don't wear him down.

5. The Coach With The Right Answers
Paul MacLean waited years and years for a chance at an NHL head coaching job and finally got it last year in Ottawa. Take a bow, Bryan Murray. What a hire MacLean was. He was nominated for the Jack Adams Award and was instrumental in blending the youth and veteran elements on his club in a season that surpassed all expectations. The Senators are blessed behind the bench.

Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?