The 2014-15 season was one heck of an exciting one for the Ottawa Senators. They came flying into the post-season via the amazing goaltending of Andrew Hammond, aka the Hamburglar. They flamed out against the Habs, but it was a thrilling year where the clawed their way into the playoffs on a stellar second half. Unfortunately for the Senators, the 2015-16 season happened, which left a lot fewer opportunities to write the expression “Sens-ational.” A shame, certainly. But how will they do in 2016-17?
What they did Last Year
Division: 5th in the Atlantic
Conference: 11th in the East
Last Season’s Record: 38-35-9 (85 pts.)
Home Record: 21-14-6
Road Record: 17-21-3
Goals For: 236 (9th)
Goals Against: 247 (26th)
Power Play: 15.9% (26th)
Penalty Kill: 75.8% (29th)
The Senators have been in a bit of a quagmire the past several years since losing Daniel Alfredsson to the Red Wings in 2013 and his subsequent retirement at the end of that season. Owner Eugene Melnyk insists they are one of the best teams in the NHL. Pretty much everyone else disagrees with Melnyk. This is standard fare. He is a classic example of an owner too vocally involved with his team, and as a result the Senators suffer for it. Unfortunately, there is going to be some more suffering in store in 2017.
The problem with the Senators last season was that, on some nights, they looked quite good. For a forward core that lacks any heady names, their offense was rather potent- 9th in the league. It certainly helps that Ottawa boasts perhaps the best offensive defenseman in the game in Erik Karlsson, and Mark Stone is a very underrated forward. But on most nights during the Senators last campaign they were a lot more lousy than brilliant. Despite having an admirable blue-line, the Sens lacked depth up front and they were inconsistent in net with Andrew Hammond coming back down to Earth and Craig Andersen’s injury issues. Most damning of all, they couldn’t keep the puck out of their own net, and (WARNING: SPORTS PLATITUDE INCOMING) when you can’t do that, it becomes real hard to rack up the W’s.
What they did this Offseason
The Senators made three major moves of note this offseason. First, they fired head coach David Cameron, who lasted a season and a half after taking the helm from Paul MacLean in December of 2014. The new head coach of the Senators is Guy Boucher, known for leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to an impressive Eastern Conference final in 2011 and employing a non-existent forecheck. Now that he’s back (from the Swiss League, no less) he will need to employ a system that makes greater use of his talent on the back end.
The Senators lost one of the stranger trades this summer when they sent Mika Zibanejad, a 23 year old winger with loads of potential to the Ranger in return for a 28 year old Derick Brassard. The Senators also lost a second round pick in the trade but picked up a seventh. Brassard is a very good player, but the move is one that you would expect to be made by a team on firmer ground than Ottawa.
They also re-signed Mike Hoffman to a 4-year contract. Hoffman is a 60-point player you’d hear more about if he played for a different team. It’s a good move for the Sens. It keeps Hoffman in Ottawa through his prime on a friendly contract that won’t revile other teams in the chance that the Senators need to unload talent for picks and prospects at the deadline or in the offseason.
Outlook for 2016-17
The Senators’ are stuck in the terrible limbo of mediocrity that can curse teams, and they are allegedly saddled by an internal salary cap much lower than the CBA-approved limit. That makes it tough for the Senators to know where they truly stand and the direction they should be taking. Their success is largely going to depend on new coach Guy Boucher implementing a system that takes advantage of Ottawa’s strengths, and getting some consistency out of either Craig Andersen or Andrew Hammond. If the stars are right, the Senators should find themselves in the post-season again, likely to the detriment of the Red Wing’s streak, which would be ironic considering that Ottawa’s 6-1 bombardment of the Bruins on the last day of the 2016 regular season guaranteed the Wings a place in the playoffs.
The far more likely situation is that the Senators finish about where they have this past season; not good, but not a serious lottery consideration at the draft. While it’s easy to look at the division standings and see that Ottawa wasn’t too terribly far out from a spot, Detroit and Boston are never easy outs and there are a boatload of metropolitan teams that will all be fighting for the two wildcard spots. Ottawa will most likely finish outside of the playoffs again this upcoming season, which may lead to a more serious look in the mirror.