From the outside, it would appear as if the Ottawa Senators stood pat during an offseason in which Eastern Conference rivals retooled.
In general manager Bryan Murray's mind, it was a case of believing in a group that made a strong finishing kick last season and reached the playoffs.
''Basically, the same group as last year,'' Murray said. ''I hope there's a confidence factor. We expect (the Senators' young players to) gain quite a bit from that run. We have a competitive group.''
Some things to watch for from Ottawa this season:
DEMANDING DAVE: The question posed to Murray was simple: Why did the team respond to coach Dave Cameron and not Paul MacLean? The response was as straightforward as can be. ''Dave (has a) strong message of fitness and more detailed systems work,'' he said. Murray said MacLean was concerned about players injuring themselves during camp, but the Senators' slow start to last season forced him to make the coaching change.
DEFENDING KARLSSON: Here's a frightening thought for the rest of the National Hockey League: Two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson can be even better. That, essentially, is Murray's view of the Senators' captain. ''There's an upside, still,'' Murray said. Which is? Karlsson's defensive game. Many observers around the league decried Karlsson's defensive abilities after he was awarded his second Norris Trophy following the season. According to Murray, the defensive side of the game was a focal point for the defenseman during the offseason.
`HAMBURGLAR' ON THE BACK BURNER: All Andrew Hammond did for Ottawa after being called up from AHL Binghamton was compile a 20-1-2 record with a 1.79 goals-against average and .941 save percentage, in 24 games as the Senators clinched a playoff berth. His numbers dipped significantly in the six-game first round series loss to Montreal, as he was 0-2 with a 3.44 GAA and had a .914 save percentage. Craig Anderson will be Ottawa's No. 1 goaltender to start the season.
WELCOME MATT: Ottawa's goaltender of the future resides in Binghamton, New York. That's where college free agent signee Matt O'Connor will ply his trade until the time is right. ''Watching him in training camp, he's quick, he's athletic, he's big. Long term, he'll be a No. 1,'' the GM said.
BACKING BOBBY: If there was one area in which Murray was unequivocal, it was his defense of Bobby Ryan. Specifically the speculation that the organization is unhappy with Ryan's offensive production. ''That's not true,'' Murray said, before explaining that his philosophy for the 28-year old is ''just to be as good (as he can be).'' He then added Ryan is ''a goal-scorer of sorts,'' and his expectation for the winger is to ''just play well and hard.''