Ottawa Senators v Washington Capitals

Daniel Alfredsson reportedly skated for first time since undergoing back surgery today

There isn’t a whole lot of positivity surrounding many peoples’ expectations of the Ottawa Senators next season and that logic is reasonable. After all, the Eastern Conference’s 13th-ranked team brought in journeyman backup Alex Auld, Columbus Blue Jackets first round disappointment Nikita Filatov and … well, a lot of draft picks who won’t make an impact next season (aside from maybe their first pick Mika Zibanejad). Those moves don’t exactly leave Senators fans with a whole lot of reasons for optimism.

That being said, things could be a little brighter with a new head coach in Paul MacLean, a full season with new franchise goalie Craig Anderson and perhaps even a healthy season from captain Daniel Alfredsson.

After eight straight seasons of at least 70 games played, Alfredsson’s injury-wrecked 2010-11 campaign ended in February after he made just 54 appearances. Alf decided to undergo back surgery this summer, with his rehab seemingly on track. Bruce Garrioch reports that Alfredsson skated for the first time since that surgery today, another positive sign that he might turn the corner health-wise. It sounds like Alfredsson should be able to participate in training camp as hoped, but we’ll have to see if he has any setbacks along the way.

The 38-year-old winger remains a crucial facet of the Senators’ offense alongside oft-critiqued center Jason Spezza, so a big portion of the Senators’ hopes for a competitive season may rest on his health. Then again, maybe GM Bryan Murray & Co. would prefer another rebuilding year and the strong prospects that could come with those losses next season rather than fighting for a low playoff seed, which is probably the best result the Senators can hope for in 2011-12.

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado