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Ottawa Senators 101: A 2011-12 Season Preview Crash Course

Welcome to The 6th Sens Season Preview. This preview will be a crash course on the developing storylines and interesting facts that are certain to play out over the season. The preview, unlike the season to come, is fairly straight forward. There are 101 items on the list, most of them correlate to their assigned number to tell a story and shape the season ahead. Some of the items feature 20 years of Senators hockey stories that will be celebrated throughout this commemorative season.

101 – It’s not ominous when Zenon Konopka doesn’t wait until January 13th to make an inspirational speech, right?

100 – The addition of Paul MacLean’s mustache is the best talent related hair move since the organization rid itself of Brian McGrattan and his highlighted hair.

99 – Was the year Jason York broke the record for most shots in a game with 12 against the New York Islanders. Now York is breaking new ground as he joins Ian Mendes to provide taped pre-game footage for Rogers’ Sportsnet broadcasts.

98 – My estimated uncomfortableness, out of 100, when I first encounter the Loud Crowd at Scotiabank Place this season.

97(.4%) – The percentage of sold seats for Dany Heatley’s return last December. Unbelievably, the Senators were unable to sell out his return. There are still tickets available for the home opener against Minnesota as of this writing. On an unrelated note, ’97 was also the year that the modern Senators made the playoffs for the first time. When the 1996-97 team is commemorated with their own unique theme night this season, hopefully ‘The Voice’ Dave Schreiber will be there to announce #28 as Steve “Dududududududuchesne”.

96 – The draft position of Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the 4th round in the 2011 draft. Pageau has drawn rave reviews from Bryan Murray and Pierre Dorion and we have the privilege of watching him across the bridge in Gatineau this season. He’s already off to a roaring start with 3 goals and 1 assist in 3 games. He may be worth a trip or two over the course of the season.

95- The number of times Bob Cole has already reminded viewers that Colin Greening is from Newfoundland.

94 – The number of goals scored by the Senators at Scotiabank Place last season. That’s a lot of times to hear Nickelback. Please Ottawa Senators, think of the children!

93 – Mika Zibanejad becomes the first 18-year old Ottawa forward since Marian Hossa broke camp with the team in 1997. Will his season last longer than Hossa’s 7-game audition?

92 – The Senators will pay homage to their inaugural 1992-93 team on October 13th prior to their game against the Colorado Avalanche. Dave Archibald, Laurie Boschman, Neil Brady, Gord Dineen, Mark Freer, Jody Hull, Bob Kudelski, Jim Kyte, Mark Lamb, Darcy Loewen, Norm Maciver, Brad Marsh, Rob Murphy and Mike Peluso will take part in the pre-game festivities. There’s been no word on whether the organization will bring back Alanis Morissette to sing the national anthem. At the very least, she could sing another rousing audition of “You Oughta Know” and ‘allegedly’ direct it at Peluso.

91 – Alexandre Daigle isn’t the only Senators player who made the switch from a high jersey number to a lower one. Both Colin Greening (14) and Erik Condra (22) will be ditching their football numbers for something more traditional.

90 – On December 6, 1990 the NHL granted Ottawa an NHL team. Thank you Mr. Firestone. Now 20 years later, we celebrate like it’s 1990 all over again except without the lousy ice beer fad.

89 – The number of times the Senators SHOULD wear their new heritage jersey this season, including their seven pre-season games.

88 – This should have been the last year mesh back hats were produced. Why the NHL, among many others, continue to generate these horrible comb-over covers is beyond me. If you own a Senators mesh back cap you can guarantee I have said something terrible about you behind your back.

87 – None of these really matter as long as 87 is out. That’s all the hockey media will be talking about until he’s back. Then, once he returns, God help us.

86 – Spartacat’s age in human years (depending which conversion chart you prefer. I like this one because I already had stuff for the other years). At age 86, Spartacat can now officially transition smoothly from mascot to usher.

85 – This is the year that David Rundblad’s haircut came from.

84 – The number of days it seems before the first Sens ‘Hockey Makes Us’ Mosaic is completed. Hurry up people and upload your images.

83(.7%)- Ottawa’s penalty-killing success rate last season. With the addition of Zenon Konopka to go along with Chris Neil, Matt Carkner and Zack Smith’s new one-way contract, Ottawa’s PK unit is going to be worked extensively.

82 – The number of games that will either end in goon shows not or by a small margin of victory for the Senators.

81 – The number of times Jason Spezza will push his luck and tape his stick at center ice.

80 – “agdfaaldhwhjdasfsdgslwyagas.” ~ Cory Clouston, bad communicator. Too bad Mark Stone wasn’t around to translate. He clearly gets what Clouston is saying.

79 – The number of song requests I plan on tweeting to the Senators DJ (@SenatorsDJ) during every home game whether I’m in attendance or not.

78 – Marks the number of times we’ll hear Bruce Garrioch barbs directed at Brian Elliott and the slippery ice in St. Louis by the time December rolls around.

77 – The height in inches of Ottawa’s tallest and second youngest player, Jared Cowen. Jared has excelled in pre-season play and looks to be a lock to play on the team this entire season. His play has matched the hype and it looks as though Ottawa has found a new menace to patrol the blue line. One of the best story-lines this season will surely be the Kadri versus Cowen debate.

76 – The combined number of wins that the Senators have had in the past two seasons.

75 – The number of players who have scored 1000 points in the NHL, including our very own Daniel Alfredsson. Since then, Alfie has climbed to 69th overall with 1023 points and stands just one point behind the lovable and cuddly Alexei Kovalev. With even with a miserably productive season (say, 23 points) Alfie can take possession of 63rd place. He’s also currently the third highest scorer to emerge from Sweden. If only he could displace Sundin. Sigh.

74 – The number Mark Borowiecki wore in the preseason. While he was one of training camp’s final cuts, the impression that the Kanata native left on fans and the organization is rivalled only by the awesomeness of his nickname ‘The Borocop’. In the (un)fortunate event that one of Ottawa’s defensively ‘apt’ – and I’m using that term loosely – defencemen gets hurt or is dealt, expect the Borocop to get the promotion. You can follow him on Twitter (@theborocop).

73 – The number of variations on the spelling and pronunciation of Mike Smith. I mean, Mika Zibanejad. Make that 74.

72 – Daniel Alfredsson was born in 1972, which was the same year American Pie by Don MacLean (no relation to Paul) and Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple were released. Just for some perspective, in case you needed it. More age later. We really need to wrap our heads around this one.

71 – The number chosen by Nick Foligno. Nick looks to build upon a decent second half from last season and continue to remind people he deserves to be part of the core moving forward. With a plethora of young forwards with similar skills nipping at his heels, it will be interesting to see how he responds. Interesting fact: Nick’s father, Mike, selected Nikita Filatov first overall with the Sudbury Wolves selection in the 2008 Import Draft.

70 – The number of career games played for the Senators by inaugural captain Laurie Boschman in his lone season in 1992-93. That would be the last season Laurie played in the NHL.

69 – The amount of years it would take, if I earned $80,000 annually to make what Sergei Gonchar does in a year. Perspective helps when you feel bad yelling certain things at the TV.

68 – The amount of games McKeen’s Hockey Yearbook predicts Daniel Alfredsson will play this season. No they are not doctors but they plan one in magazines.

67 – The team that Corey Locke lead in scoring from 2002 to 2004 scoring a combined 269 points over 2 seasons. He has since tallied 1 point (an assist) in 9 NHL games over the past 3 seasons.

66 – Is the former number of the man who employs Matt Cooke. We’re looking forward to the four games this season when the Penguins play the Senators. We’re interested to see if the Erik Karlsson death stare and finger point will translate into any sort of revenge when these two teams meet next. There’s no doubt in my mind that Erik has forgotten.

65 – Erik Karlsson lead the Senators with 4 GWG last season. Is it too much to hope for that in the 2011-2012 season, a forward is able to lead this statistical category?

64 – Is this the year Erik Karlsson surpasses Norm MacIver’s record for points by a defencemen? It would be fitting since Erik was a toddler when Norm was lighting the lamp for 63 points in 1992-93.

63 – Dry Island. This has no impact on the Senators season or anything Senators related. I just think it’s hilarious. Frat boys gone wild and then get caught with their hands in Johhny Walkers jar. Too funny. What a bunch of brats.

62 – The number of points that last season’s last-place Oilers finished with. Here’s your benchmark fellas.

61 – Shane Prince’s draft position in the 2011 Entry Draft. Well, he’s looking like a steal isn’t he? Best part is, if you haven’t had the opportunity to see what a steal he was you can do so at the Civic Center as soon as he’s healthy again. He was one of only three Senators players selected in this years draft to earn a spot in a pre-season game. He’ll be an exciting kid to watch develop over the next few years.

60 – Can Craig Anderson play as many games this season as Pascal Leclaire played in the previous three seasons combined (60)?

59 – An interesting piece of Sens trivia has to do with the number 59. It’s the shortest used number in Ottawa history. It was used for only one game, by one player in 1999-2000. It was worn by the one and only Erich Goldmann.

58 – Is the Vegas line on the number of games that it takes before head coach Paul MacLean’s ‘stache goes grey.

57 – The number of points that the team-leading Jason Spezza put up last season. If this team is going to have a Republican’s chance in Vermont at making the post-season, this team needs to score more. Nick Foligno was the second highest scoring forward on the team with with 34 points. This suddenly got really depressing.

56 – The number of points former first round pick Jim O’Brien scored in the AHL last season. O’Brien was rewarded with six games with the big club at the end of last season. He looks to improve on those totals and solidify himself as part of the new core moving forward. This year will be crucial to JOB’s career development and needs to show continued growth and maturity on a Calder Cup defending team. Historically he has required adjustments at every level and it would appear JOB has found his game. The question is, can he play in the NHL and how long will he be given to show he can?

55(.76M) – The Senators salary expenditures in 2011-2012. It is the lowest total in recent memory as the Senators spend just to get above the cap floor. It will be interesting to see the economic impact of a rebuild in a season that will see Ottawa host the All-Star Game and their own 20th anniversary celebrations including a Jersey launch. Although it may be a losing season on the ice, it appears as though the Senators could be financial winners.

55 – Sergei Gonchar has done nothing to alleviate the sour taste left by former Russian players in Ottawa. He recently alluded to preferring the system employed by current coach Paul MacLean over the one put in place by Clouston. He claims it’s more natural to him and he doesn’t have to think as much on the ice. That’s good news for a few reasons. A more comfortable and rejuvenated Gonchar is crucial for any success the Senators may have. It also doesn’t hurt his trade value.

54 – Less times we have to hear about Matt Spezza suiting up in practice because Pascal Leclaire can’t go. Thank goodness.

53 – The number of games Jakob Silfverberg played for Brynas of the SEL last season. He scored 18 goals and was good for 34 points. By all accounts Jakob was ready to make the jump to the NHL this season. Tim Murray has suggested he could be a second or third line player. Unfortunately, Jakob elected to return to Sweden for another year of development but I’m sure many will love the fact that he’s not burning a year off of his ELC. I kinda agree. That’s another discussion.

52 – The number of Senators games that will be broadcast on Rogers Sportsnet this season.

51 – The number of major penalties the Senators received last season. With the addition of Zenon Kenopka and a full season with Zach Smith look for this number to rise to somewhere around 80.  The St. Louis Blues lead the league with 79 majors last season.

50 – The number of points David Rundblad tallied in the SEL last season with Skelleftea setting a record for most points by a defenseman. With an injury to Matt Carkner, David will have an opportunity to showcase his skills on North American ice and make a case for a full-time roster spot. This could force the hand of management to make a deal, barring any other unforeseen injuries.

49 – The number of goals highly touted Russian forward Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting scored in his OHL rookie season in 2010-11. Should the Senators bottom out this season, you had better get used to hearing his name and reading ‘nail’ puns in Sun Media’s headlines.

48 – Is the total career points for Peter Regin. After a dismal 2010-11 season, many are hoping for Peter to break 100 career points this season and solidify himself as the second line center moving forward.

47- Now that Alexei Kovalev and Brian Elliott are gone and Filip Kuba’s days look numbered, Ottawa needs a new whipping boy. Hello Bobby Butler.

46 – Patrick Wiercioch’s number or rank on Ottawa’s depth chart according to some cynical fans. Patty has taken a lot of lumps but you have you to remember this is a kid who just finished his first year as a pro. Not only that, but he came from the NCAA. It’s going to take more than a year or two to make the adjustment. In my opinion he played quite well in his time with the Senators at the end of the season and that’s enough for me to keep him amongst the top defensive prospects in the system. Not everyone can step right in and be a difference maker. Patty will be fine but he needs to continue his strong play in Bingo this season. We’ll be watching closely.

45 – The number of irate callers on the Post-Game Show who will have to be screened out after immediate calls for Spezza’s head after a neutral zone turnover in a meaningless game.

44 – In case you forgot, it’s been 44 years since the Leafs won the cup. Just a little reminder.

43 – Is the number of recently departed Roman Wick. Grieve quietly Sens Army. We’ll find another late round pick on his last legs that’s tearing up a middling European league for you to fall in love with again soon, I promise.

42 – The number of participants invited to the All-Star game last year in Raleigh, North Carolina. We look forward to seeing another Maple Leaf player humiliated by his peers on national television.

41 – The number of televised away games you can see at RSU’s new headquarters – The Wood on Wellington.

40 – The number of the beast. No it’s not Ed Hunter, but he is a hunter of another variety. Robin Lehner starts the season as the B-Sens starter and looks to climb up the depth chart. Lets hope he doesn’t take the whole hunting thing too literally and the Sens are forced to deal with a Dick Cheney type incident. There will be plenty of eyes on Robin and many other prospects in Binghamton this year and I think it’s safe to say he’s entered the pressure cooker that only a Canadian market can provide. We’re hoping this time next year 40 also stands for the number of wins Lehner put up in the AHL in 2011-12.

39 – Binds Matt Cakrner, Jason Spezza and Dominik Hasek together. There is perhaps no stranger trio to have worn the same number in Senators history.

38 – The age of Daniel Alfredsson when the season starts. He’ll be 39 in December. Told you it was coming. Just be glad I don’t know anything about anatomy.

37 – The number of Jason Spezza’s extended family who pointed fingers at one another following Dave Hodges scoop that Jason may end up in Toronto. Of course, this number could also reflect the number of times the Toronto media has suggested Ottawa trade high calibre players in order to improve their team.

36 – Our fanclub for Milan Michalek – Michalek’s Anonymous – still hasn’t taken off. We think it has something to do with his level of play. Forget about Justin Verlander or Roy Halladay, Michalek posts some of the best Cy Young numbers around.

35 – Is the number of perhaps the loneliest man on the Senators roster. With speculation that Craig Anderson could play in upwards of 70 games this season, backup goalie Alex Auld may have landed himself the best job in sports. He’s the MLB equivalent of a lefty specialist. Some might argue he’s just keeping the spot warm for young Lehner. Either way, it’s good to have Alex back.

34 – The amount of dollars Cory Clouston spent on his best suit.

33 – The age Chris Phillips will be when he plays his 1000th NHL game this season. If all goes well and no games are missed, he’ll play his 1000th game on the road against the Bruins on February 28, 2011. He has currently played 945 games.

32 – The number of wins for the Senators in 2010-11. The last place Oilers finished last season with 25.

31 – The percentage of Yahoo! fantasy hockey teams that own Daniel Alfredsson. Ironically, a team in one of our pools named Regression Happens drafted him. Other Senators include Craig Anderson at 70%, Jason Spezza at 84%, while Erik Karlsson is owned by 94% of teams in Yahoo! leagues.

30 – Our current ranking of the Senators home and away uniforms. The Senators made huge leaps with their new heritage uniform and we can only hope the team finds a way to make these two wrongs a big right. It will be even more difficult to stomach the current uniforms in a season where we will be bombarded with images of classic Sens jerseys from years past.

29 – The day in January when the NHL’s stars play in the annual season ticket grab…er I mean, All-Star game. And by All-Stars, I mean the ‘best of the best’ who don’t want to take the weekend off and recover from an already gruelling 82 game schedule.

28 – Expect to see this number tangled up with big 39 a number of times this season. Orr vs. Carkner has become the marquee event in an otherwise dull Battle of Ontario. The events of this summer make it much more difficult to stomach these staged fights when you know both guys are lying awake the night before worried for their health and livelihood. Either way, the show must go on.

27 – Last year the Islanders paid Konopka $600,000. As a tough guy and faceoff specialist, that works out to $967.74 for each faceoff win or $24,000 per fighting major. Can’t wait to see the bargain numbers he provides Ottawa this season.

26 – As in December 26th, the opening day of the World Junior Championship in Alberta. This year four Senators prospects will look to crack their respective national teams. Shane Prince and Stefan Noesen look to crack the American lineup while perennial overachiever Mark Stone and Peterborough sniper Matt Puempel look to don the red and white. It may be the most meaningful hockey anyone in the Senators organization plays all year.

25 – The number of games it took Nick Foligno to score his first goal last season. Also, the date of Legends Night in February which we honour Senators players who haven’t contributed anything in ages either!

24 – The number of goals Filatov needs to score before we start ordering White Russians at our favorite drinking establishments.

23 – The number of beers Ottawa media take on the plane. Where did the extra one go you ask? Well you gotta have something to drink while standing in line at security.

22 – The number of games we expect Francis Lessard to be suspended at some point this season. One thing he does have going for him is he hasn’t been in the NHL long enough to have a history as a repeat offender.

21 – The number of Nikita Filatov. Also, the number of days before Don Brennan resorts to ‘La Femme Nikita’ moniker for the talented Russian.

20 – The number of seasons that the modern day NHL Ottawa Senators have competed in the NHL. Although you could argue that last year the Senators didn’t really compete all that much.

19 – With an emphasis on the team’s lack of secondary scoring, the lion’s share of the scoring burden will rest on Jason Spezza’s shoulders. Can he get the most out of Nikita Filatov? Or will he join the illustrious likes of Jared Boll, Derek Mackenzie and RJ Umberger as players who couldn’t get the young Russian to produce?

18 – Jesse Winchester’s number. We just wanted to remind everyone he still plays on this team. That’s all.

17 – Assuming that he’s not dealt by the trade deadline, on Fan Appreciation night on Thursday April 5, Filip Kuba will offer to give some fan the jersey off his back. It will be the best giveaway he makes this season. Unfortunately for Kuba, the fan will respond like a young child who was taken to see Santa Claus in the mall for the first time… with tears.

16 – Is the number of career wins for Alex Auld in an Ottawa uniform. It ties him for 10th for all time wins with the Senators. He happens to be tied with Pascal Leclaire. Cry or laugh, whatever works best for you. Next up, Jani Hurme with 25 wins.

15 – The popularly predicted finish for the Senators in the Eastern Conference.

14 – The jersey number of Colin Greening. He’s become known as a tool man in Ottawa with the coveted combination of size and speed. He also put up 13 points in his first 24 NHL games while playing the bulk of time on Jason Spezza’s wing. He was part of the Calder Cup winning team in Bingo although he only registered 5 points in 23 games. That said, he was an effective player away from the puck and was a big part of that team’s success. He was rewarded in the off-season with a one-way deal and is now expected to be a regular offensive contributor. We’re anxious to see if the sophomore slump strikes this Newfie and have tempered our expectations as he adjusts to a full season in the NHL.

13 – Peter Regin made a bold move to number 13 last season from the number 43 he wore the year prior. So weird that he had a terrible season after the jersey change. He’ll stick with 13 again this year and it’s anyone’s guess which Peter Regin will show up. Will it be the promising all around player once compared to Anze Kopitar or will it be the injury plagued dud from last season?

12 – The number of times that the Senators will wear the heritage jersey this season. Here is the heritage jersey schedule: Thursday, Oct. 13, vs. Colorado; Sunday, Oct. 30, vs. Toronto; Friday, Nov. 4, vs. Montreal; Wednesday, Dec. 14, vs. Boston; Friday, Dec. 16, vs. Pittsburgh; Tuesday, Dec. 27, vs. Montreal; Tuesday, Feb. 7, vs. St. Louis; Saturday, Feb. 11, vs. Edmonton; Friday, March 2, vs. Chicago; Wednesday, March 14, at Montreal; Friday, March 16, vs. Montreal; and Saturday, March 17, vs. Toronto.

11 – After an interview with Sportsnet’s Ian Mendes, Daniel Alfredsson trade speculation is now en vogue and it’s only October. As the NHL’s longest tenured captain, will this be his last season with the Ottawa Senators?

10 – The measured length of a pole, in feet, that NHL teams refuse to touch Filip Kuba with.

9 – Paul MacLean becomes the 9th coach in Ottawa Senators history. If he can last a full season he’ll leap frog three others in games behind the bench. Congrats? Anyways, MacLean has arrived with rave reviews for his system and desire to play all 200ft at top speed. So far, he’s said all the right things and that’s half the battle in Ottawa. We’ll see how he does with a group widely regarded as bottom feeders. Who knows, he just might surprise.

8 – The number of Senators blogs you should visit on a regular basis. Silver Seven Sens, SensTown, Sens Chirp, Black Aces, SenSay, Eye on the Sens, Welcome to your Karlsson Years and of course, The 6th Sens.

7 – Poor Jim Balsillie could never make it seven. Nevertheless, the Senators will welcome the return of the Winnipeg Jets to Ottawa on two separate occasions – October 20th and January 16th.

6 – Of the six times that the Senators play the Toronto Maple Leafs this season, each will occur on the second night of a back-to-back series.

5 – The amount of current players due to hit Free Agency after this season. Alex Auld, Matt Carkner, Filip Kuba, Zenon Kenopka and Jesse Winchester will all have the legal right to shop their services. It’s hard to imagine any of them returning. It’s even more difficult to stomach the thought of any of them returning. Their combined salary is 6.85 million dollars.

4 – The number of times Tim will go to the dry cleaners in Toronto to have his jersey cleaned after watching the Senators and Leafs four times on Hockey Night in Canada.

3 – Reflects the number of times that the defending Stanley Cup Champion Bruins come to town. Meaning, it also represents the number of times that the pre-game video montage that celebrates the Calder Cup winning Binghamton Senators rings a little more hollow.

2 – The number of years in a row that TSN claimed Ottawa has missed the post-season on their season preview show last night. Apparently they got ahead of themselves and used the graphic from next year’s show. By the way, Mark Crawford has gained a lot of weight. I actually thought for a few minutes that Glen Healy had made the move to TSN. I’m embarassed to admit this really happened.

1- The amount of times Mike Fisher will have to be burdened with his celebrity in Ottawa this season as the Predators make their lone trip of the season to Ottawa on February 9, 2012. We’re also sorry to hear you think Ottawa has as many churches as Winnipeg has parks. It must be so hard to be adored by the very people you spent years reaching out to in Ottawa. I guess if that’s the lone rip job Ottawa gets from Mike then we’re sitting pretty. It still wasn’t nearly as good as Kovalev’s parting shots. This is Ottawa Mike, you’ll have to do a lot better than that. We’ve been hated by the best.

0 – The second best plus minus of all Senators to play in over 50 games last season. This mark was held by Matt Carkner. Ryan Shannon, who was a team best +3, has taken his talents to Tampa. I guess this season we get to hope for a team of 0’s. Even then, we may not be so lucky.

It’s going to be a long season. It’s going to be an interesting season. We’re not there yet and we’re not even close but we’re on our way. Just remind yourself, it’s all up from here even though it may feel like we’re spiralling downwards. I think now is the time we should take Euge’s advice and buckle up. Our emotions are going to be taken for a ride. It’s going to be a dandy.

Here’s good looking out in 2011-12, Sens fans.