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Should Senators fans be optimistic?

Can Jason Spezza and the Ottawa Senators turn it around in 2011-12, or will they be in for a long rebuild? (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Can Jason Spezza and the Ottawa Senators turn it around in 2011-12, or will they be in for a long rebuild? (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

If you’re wondering about sending in a question to the mailbag, wonder no more and drop me a line. I can’t get to them all, but make yours interesting and I’ll try to answer it either online, in THN’s magazine mailbag, or on THN Radio. Also, if you’re wondering whether I’ve gotten any more creative in trying to figure out a different lead-in paragraph for the online mailbag each Friday, this is your answer.

Adam: With the Caps suffering another early-round defeat (in a four-game sweep no less) are they becoming the San Jose Sharks East? A great regular season team that just falters during the playoffs? It also seems like every year they have a star player who disappears during the playoffs with Alex Semin last year and Nick Backstrom this year. Does this go to coaching and what does the future hold for Bruce Boudreau after another early exit?
Joseph Ierfino, Newmarket, Ont.


Joseph: It’s certainly appearing that way, isn’t it? That said, given the way San Jose is finally performing in these playoffs, that may not be as much of an insult as it was in seasons past.

As former NHLer and three-time Stanley Cup champion Aaron Ward told THN Radio last week, by the time the playoffs roll around, the best teams are virtually on autopilot; they all should know their roles and the team’s systems by Game 1 of Round 1 - and blaming the coach almost always is a case of ignoring the real problems inside an organization.

I think that’s true in Washington’s case. Boudreau didn’t forget everything that made him the Jack Adams Award winner just a few years back. So I think Caps GM George McPhee has to seriously consider moving Alex Semin or Mike Green and altering part of the core of youngsters. Green in particular would be intriguing in that John Carlson’s emergence makes him expendable in the eyes of some; Semin, meanwhile, likely wouldn’t get as much of a return, but some offense-challenged franchise still would pay a decent price for his services.

In any case, it’s apparent McPhee can’t sit back and enter next season with the same group. Boudreau may indeed pay for another early exit with his job, but that won’t solve what truly ails the Caps.

Hey Adam, do you think veterans Jarome Iginla and Roberto Luongo have a shot at the 2014 Olympic team?
Jordan Lafantaisie, St. Malo, Manitoba


Hey Jordan,

You mean a shot at the Olympic team if the NHL chooses to send its players to Sochi, right? If that does happen, I think both guys have a decent chance of making the team. Iginla will be 36 by then, but as he showed this season, his tank is anything but empty. Luongo will be 34 - and as a guy coming off a gold medal victory at the previous Games, he’s all but assured to land one of the three goalie spots.

Adam, is it true that you only answer questions from THN magazine subscribers?
Levi Wall, Calgary


Levi,

No. See?
 
Adam, what changes should we Sens fans expect for next year? Is optimism even realistic? What do you think the Senators must do to become a Stanley Cup contender once again? Do you think this year's draft will have much impact on the team?
Morgan Johnson, Gatineau, Que.


Morgan,

I didn’t have the Senators as a playoff team prior to the start of the 2010-11 campaign and as the roster sits right now, I still think they’ll be in tough to make it next season. There’s no telling what version of Craig Anderson they’ll get, there’s not a ton of depth on the blueline and Daniel Alfredsson will continue to get closer to the end of a fabulous career.

Now, that’s not to say Sens fans can’t be optimistic Anderson will play well, Sergei Gonchar will rebound from a brutal year and Alfredsson and Jason Spezza will show people they’re both still forces with which to reckon. But all those things will have to happen for Ottawa to keep pace in the improving Northeast Division. I wouldn’t bet my house on that coming to pass.

Finally, there’s every reason to believe a high draft pick will positively impact the organization. But from my vantage point, that impact isn’t likely to be felt by the time next season begins. Young players need time to assimilate to the pro game and develop their skills. That’s another reason why I think the Sens are a couple years away from true contention again.

Hey Adam, what happened to the later rounds of the draft? Before the lockout, the draft was nine rounds instead of the familiar seven. Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Jaroslav Halak, Tim Thomas, Dominik Hasek and Tomas Kaberle are just a few examples of all-star caliber players chosen in the eighth round or later. Why was the draft shortened to seven rounds and do you think there is any chance of more rounds being added to the draft?
Scott Schiffner, Oakville, Ont.


Hey Scott,

The eighth and ninth rounds of the draft were killed off primarily as a gift to hockey writers who were on the verge of tears and revolt after two days of draft pick announcing.

Just kidding. In fact, the draft was reduced to seven rounds because teams understood at that point in the proceedings, choosing players is even more of a crapshoot than it is after the first round - and it is better to let undrafted players after seven rounds sign as a free agent with a team rather than tie them unnecessarily to a franchise simply for the sake of getting them on the draft board.

Adam, don't you think it's about time the Maple Leafs dropped a few of the high-priced executives and players and got a few hungry young minor hockey players who can out-skate and outplay anyone they have now? They stink! I have been a fan for more years than you are "old" and this is the worst I have ever seen! Get rid of all that are not doing diddly squat and that includes the ones upstairs in management.
Kathleen Hayes, North Sydney, N.S.


Kathleen,

Are you sure there wasn’t a delay problem with your email server and you submitted this question a couple years ago? As far as I’m concerned, the Leafs do have more hungry young players than they’ve had in a long while. The way they finished this season should give hope to fans the Leafs can continue to build a solid foundation, so I’m not exactly sure what portion of the roster you’re looking at.

As far as management goes, I don’t know that there are any passengers aboard GM Brian Burke’s ship. Between Dave Nonis, Dave Poulin and a heavily bulked-up scouting staff, Toronto now has more hockey minds in their employ than ever before. Considering Burke clearly still makes the final call, I don’t mind their presence whatsoever. In fact, it can only help the franchise.

Follow Adam's hockey tweets at twitter.com/TheHockeyNews, and his non-hockey observations at twitter.com/ProteauType.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.

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