OTTAWA - I am not as stupid as I look.
In fact, I also appear to be smarter than most, if not all of the hockey “experts.”
I can’t find anyone else who picked the Senators to make the playoffs this season.
But I did.
You can look it up.
I wasn’t asked to participate in a pre-season prediction panel, but time and time again I stated in our early Digital Faceoff pieces that, when the dust finally settled, the Senators would be among the Top 8 teams in the Eastern Conference.
Well, it’s no secret that I like to go against the flow, but I also truly believed the Senators had what it takes to qualify for the post-season tournament for at least eight reasons:
1. Paul MacLean
I was also the first to write that the Senators would and should hire the former Detroit Red Wings assistant to become their coach. Not just because he was a former 10-year player who, because of his experience would command respect in the dressing room, but also as he had spent the previous six years coaching a successful team and before returning to the NHL he had a very strong run as a bench boss in the minors. I’ll admit that I didn’t think MacLean would be able to figure out a way to coax a lot of offence from his new team, but I did think he was smart enough to come up with a game plan that would keep the Senators close most nights. I was right.
2. Craig Anderson
I thought the Senators corrected their biggest weakness when they traded for Anderson, a goalie they had long coveted, last February. He played very well the rest of the season, but the “experts” pointed out that he had not proven himself as a consistent, elite puck stopper. But I thought he was good enough to steal some games and get the job done. I was right.
3. Daniel Alfredsson
If you had followed the man closely for 15 seasons as I have, you knew he was going to bounce back from the back surgery — even if he says he didn’t. And knowing of his leadership qualities, you also believed that his presence and work ethic would raise the play of those around him. I was pretty sure of this. I was right.
4. Jason Spezza
The guy is a great player. He’s also very proud. After two injury-shortened 57-point seasons, he was bound to bounce back and bounce back strong. At least that’s what I thought. I was right.
5. Erik Karlsson
I asked him a few hours before Game 5 of the regular season in Washington about his personal goals for the season. He said to get one more point than the 45 he scored in 2010-11. I told him I thought 70 was within his reach. He said “that’s a lot of points.” I said again that I thought he could reach that level. I was right.
6. Milan Michalek
This is no frail individual. He’s a big strong guy who plays hard. That’s why he was always running into injuries. But I knew his luck would change, and if it did he would prove once and for all that the Senators won the trade when they acquired him for Dany Heatley. I was right.
7. The boys from Bingo
I knew the experience gained from a long and strong playoff run that ended with a Calder Cup championship would make better players of guys like Zack Smith, Colin Greening, Jared Cowen, Kaspars Daugavins and Erik Condra. I knew there would be a positive carryover effect. I was right.
8. Bryan Murray
The Senators GM and his staff had taken plenty of heat for the team’s fall. But I knew he was a smart hockey man and that he had a strong staff in assistant GM Tim Murray and director of scouting Pierre Dorion. I was certain they knew what they were doing. I was right.
Now, I’m no genius. I’m not even an “expert.” See, I thought David Rundblad would make the team and become an impact player faster than Cowen. Boy, was I wrong. But, as for the rest of it, well, you have to agree now that I’m not as stupid as I look.