Senators News: May 28th

-Capgeek has contract numbers for Darren Kramer (600k) and Jakub Culek (590k).

Scott Cullen has posted his off-season game plan for Ottawa: “The Ottawa Senators were the surprise team of the NHL last season, making the playoffs in a year that was expected to be a rebuilding effort. There is a lot to like about a Sens team that has quality prospects on the way and received solid contributions from several rookies last season, but there are also reasons to be wary. Consider that Sergei Gonchar and Daniel Alfredsson both had bounceback seasons in their late-30s, or that defenceman Erik Karlsson had the most points by a defenceman in more than a decade, or that both Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek stayed uncharacteristically healthy. Any of these factors could reverse course and come back to stall the Sens’ progress next season, but there is at least reason to be optimistic that Ottawa is in position to better handle any potential shortcomings — certainly better prepared than anyone could have imagined they would be at this time last year. GM Bryan Murray knows that, while his goaltending is solid with the trade deadline addition of Ben Bishop to complement Craig Anderson, he’ll have to address the blueline, where he has three unrestricted free agents that could leave and a restricted free agent in Erik Karlsson that will be in line for a dramatic raise in pay after his prolific offensive season. The forward group has depth, with lots of young challengers for roster spots, but could always use another proven scorer. Seeing as the Senators had the worst record among playoff teams last season, it doesn’t require much to believe that they could miss the postseason next year but, at the start of the 2011-2012 season, any talk of Ottawa making the playoffs was a pipe dream and we all saw how that played out. Needs: One top six forward, three defencemen.”  For the most part Cullen’s comments are spot on, but one of point to consider: Gonchar and Alfredsson‘s down years were the first of their careers, so stand as anomalies instead of their production this season.

-I only got one half of my Cup final (New Jersey facing the Kings), making my predictions half right.  The Western Conference finished without a single competitive series (only one went to six games!), sucking any drama one might have hoped for from the supposedly superior conference.  As for the finals, I expect the Kings will win.

-There’s not much to get excited about in this year’s playoffs, but I have enjoyed the slap in the face it is for all the journalists who’ve said you can’t win with Ilya Kovalchuk in the lineup.  There remains in some of the media an irrational dislike or suspicion over Russian players which I believe is because they make easy targets.  Just like when Swedes were soft or (for those of you old enough) when French Canadians were soft (thanks for that Don Cherry), it’s picking on a non-English speaking group without seeming influence on readership/viewership as a scapegoat for things someone dislikes.  Nationality has nothing to do with performance (I remember when journalists would earnestly say that no team with a European captain could win the Stanley Cup).  On top of that it’s amazing how glib people can get about one player.  An individual on a hockey team, even a great player, can’t win without a strong supporting cast (which is why Wayne Gretzky never won a Cup outside of Edmonton).  In the post lockout era in particular, only teams that have three productive lines have won the Cup.  I don’t think Kovalchuk has anything to prove, but it has been amusing to see him praised to the roof going into the Cup final given all the criticism he has received over the years (his success is somehow a slap in the face to Ovechkin, the new favourite whipping boy).

-The players attending the NHL draft combine have been announced.

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