KEY LOSSES G Alex Auld, C Mike Comrie, RW Dany Heatley, D Jason Smith
Like many a national capital, Ottawa is the setting for low drama. The crisis over the summer centered on Dany Heatley, whose brazen trade demand festered until G.M. Bryan Murray obliged the two-time 50-goal scorer at the start of training camp by dealing him to San Jose. The Senators recouped 20-plus goal scorer Milan Michalek and, intriguingly, right wing Jonathan Cheechoo, who had 56 goals playing next to deft passer Joe Thornton in 2005--06 before a startling drop to just 12 last year. The theory is that center Jason Spezza (below) can be his new muse, although unlike Thornton, Spezza is righthanded, which means his forehand dishes go to the left side, away from Cheechoo. A left wing--right wing issue... also typical of a capital, no?
The good news for the incoming forwards is the freedom in coach Cory Clouston's system. The bad news is Ottawa's defensemen aren't adept at moving the puck. Mercifully, the Heatley contretemps is history. And so, two years after the team reached the finals, is Ottawa's presumption of an annual playoff berth.