Sens on right track with defence

JASON YORK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:36 PM ET

Championship teams are built from the back end out.

If you want proof, look no further than last year’s Stanley cup champion — the Chicago Blackhawks.

Sure, they had a great young captain in Jonathan Toews, speedy forwards like Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa and a crafty sniper like Patrick Kane, but a big reason why they won was because they had the best defensive corps in the NHL.

Fleet-footed Duncan Keith was the NHL’s top defencemen and my pick for the Conn Smythe.

His partner on the Canadian Olympic team, Brent Seabrook, wasn’t the flashiest, but in my books was the steadiest blueliner.

Chicago’s back end was rounded out by the sure-footed Brian Campbell, a No. 2 on any other team, up-and-comer Niklas Hjalmarsson and the reliable Brent Sopel. Jordan Hendry and Nick Boynton complete the group.

When I think of that Chicago blueline, especially the top five, the words mobility, skill and puck control jump out at me.

This is the time of year when predictions are being made. It’s the time of year when fans and experts like to break down the strengths and weaknesses of the contenders and pretenders.

Here in Ottawa, a common theme has echoed since training camp began.

The Senators have questions in goal, the forwards are the strength and the defence is okay.

Most people predict this edition of the Senators will make the playoffs, but not much else is expected.

I agree that there is some concern in net after a lacklustre training camp by both Brian Elliot and Pascal Leclaire. And the group of Senators forwards is one of the deepest groups in the East.

I do believe this current group of Ottawa blueliners has a chance to be a lot better than OK, especially when Filip Kuba returns in about three weeks.

I am a big Anton Volchenkov fan ... I think he is a very good NHL defencemen ... just not the right kind of defencemen for the team the Senators want to be and the type of team the Senators need to be to get back to being an elite team in the NHL.

Teams that win in the playoffs — like Chicago last season — have defence that joins the attack, defence that controls the puck and defence that is quick and mobile.

Ottawa’s top five defencemen — Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips, Kuba, Erik Karlsson and Chris Campoli — have all those ingredients.

Matt Carkner might not have the quickness, but he moves the puck well and plays with composure. Brian Lee has looked good so far and may have some potential.

This group is good right now, but it has the chance to be great.

Everyone is focused on Gonchar. He just signed a big contract and will be counted on heavily. Trust me, Gonchar will be fine. He will do what he always does, run the power play, move the puck and be steady, but not spectacular, in his own end.

The two key players that can make a big impact are Karlsson and Campoli. Both defencemen possess the skating, skills and instincts that can change outcomes in games, control the puck and kickstart the offence.

Karlsson will be a star in this league, no doubt about it, but will it be this season?

Campoli looked great in training camp, but can he be that consistent all year?

The Senators sure hope the answer is yes to both of these questions. If so, these two defencemen can go a long way to making Ottawa a serious contender in the east.


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