Over the next month, we at NHLnumbers are going to
be taking a look at where each team in the league currently stands based
on what we learned from them last season, and where they realistically
can and should go this summer with the resources and cap space they
The Ottawa Senators are a sight to behold. After all, this is a team that should be contender every year, with guys like Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan, Mika Zibanejad and Kyle Turris putting the puck in the net, and Erik Karlsson driving the back end.
The problem is that that is all they have. Sure, they have some decent depth pieces, but not players good enough to be in the role that they play on a Cup contender. This is a team that has the cap space to add a couple key pieces, but Eugene Melnyk is too cheap to open up his wallet, and actually try to build a team.
No worries though, just Moneypuck this team, and they can get to the promised land, considering that’s the type of method they need to go for. Wait, what’s that Melnyk? Experienced players don’t need analytics, form your experience with horse analytics? Well, toss that idea in the garbage.
Yeah, this team might be screwed.
Coming off a miracle run to the playoffs, only to fall short in the first round, the Sens went all in like Melnyk betting on one of his horses. And by all in, I mean that they figured that Andrew Hammond was as good as the 20-so game stretch he went on last year was the goalie that he is.
However, they finished with a 38-35-9 record, not terrible, but not great either. They fought for a playoff spot for a majority of the season, only because the team was too stubborn to realize that they wouldn’t make it. But, despite the so-so record, they actually overachieved quite a bit, based on those pesky analytics.
The Sens had the fourth worst 5v5 Score Adjusted Corsi For, tied with the Buffalo Sabres with 46.7%. While not “terrible” (the 44.1% Colorado Avalanche take that spot), it certainly is not ideal. Take into account of their third best 101.4 PDO, and it’s hard to argue that this season wasn’t a fluke. They didn’t fare much better with scoring chances either, as they had the third worst 5v5 Score Adjusted Scoring Chances For in the league, at 46%.
The Senators biggest strength is their forward core, that being the previously mentioned Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan, Mika Zibanejad, and Kyle Turris. Four of the five had at least 50 points, with Kyle Turris’ 30 points in 57 being the only exception. Not only that, but they are all good defensively, as seen by the fact that four of the five had a positive CF Rel% this season, with Bobby Ryan’s -1.87% Corsica being the outlier. The best of the group is Mark Stone by far, as he led all Sens forwards in points with 61, and was the only remaining Senator forward with a CF% above 50% not named Clarke MacArthur (the other two were Colin Greening and Shane Prince).
After those guys though, there isn’t much. Zach Smith is the only forward that stands out significantly, as he had a career high 25 goal season, as well as a +4.23% CF Rel. After him, Jean-Gabriel Pageau is the only other Sens forward with more than 30 points (he had 43), but he was a -0.77% CF Rel. From a defensive standpoint, the only other positive CF Rel Sens forwards were Chris Niel (+3.18%) and Max McCormick (+0.43%). That’s a solid nine forwards, but having 3/4 of a forward group isn’t good enough.
As for the defense, do you have a moment to spare for me to tell you all about the Lord and saviour, Erik Karlsson. After winning his second Norris trophy, he somehow managed to find a way to top that, by scoring a point per game, and finishing in the top five in NHL scoring. No, not Sens scoring, NHL scoring. He also had a +6.7% CF Rel, joining Stone as the only Sen with a CF% above 50%. Not too shabby for a guy who led the league in time on ice this season.
That’s about it for their defense though. The only other defenseman who had more than 20 points for them was Cody Ceci’s 26 points, but he’s such a drag defensively that it basically kills any positive from his offense. The only other defenseman capable of playing defense is Patrick Weircioch, who was a +0.9% CF Rel this season. Dion Phaneuf and Marc Methot aren’t brutal defensively, but they’re aren’t spectacular either, and their offense isn’t exactly amazing as well, although Phaneuf had 8 points in only 20 games, but we’ll see how he does in a full season with the Sens.
The Sens ran with Craig Anderson as the starter again, after he took his job back in the playoffs in 2014-15. He wasn’t bad, with a 31-23-5 record, and a .916% save percentage, but those aren’t world beating numbers either. Andrew Hammond regressed this season (duh!), with a 7-11-4 record, and a .914% save percentage. He did better than I expected, but he wasn’t amazing either.
The Sens certainly aren’t in a terrible situation this offseason, as they’ll have close to $20 million in cap space, and the only free agents that they need to resign that might take a decent price (and by that, I mean more than $2 million) are Hoffman, Wiercioch, and Ceci. Except they aren’t going to qualify Wiercioch, and there are rumours that they might trade Hoffman, or let him receive an offer sheet. And Ceci’s the worst of the bunch, so…good job Sens!
Well, if I was the Sens, I would resign Hoffman and Wiercioch, as well as Ceci in hopes that his defensive game improves, and use the rest of the cap space to address the defensive depth issues, whether it’s a big ticket free agent like Brian Campbell, Keith Yandle, Alex Goligoski, or Dan Hamhius, or a solid, under-the-radar d-man like Yannick Weber or Christian Ehrhoff. Then, I’d try and add a few sneaky good forwards, like Darren Helm or PA Parenteau.
Does that sound like a good plan, Sens fans? Well, unfortunately, that’s not happening. Like I mentioned before, the only player the Sens would probably resign out of the bigger bunch is Ceci, and with this cap space that they will be saving, they probably won’t use it at all, or at least enough to get past the floor. Heck, they might even end up trading Karlsson if things go really south this offseason.
Unfortunately, the Sens are stuck in a rut of infinite torture. They are plagued by terrible depth, and they can’t address it because the owner is too cheap, so they look to their prospects, except the management isn’t good enough to draft properly, so then they can’t effectively fill out the bottom lines and pairs.
Actually, I can’t judge Pierre Dorion yet, but if ends up being similar to Brian Murray, then the Sens will be stuck until Melnyk sells the team, retires, or dies, so that they can get an owner with enough money to actually get free agents. Yeah, good luck with that.