Northeast Preview: Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Watch

4 days left until the Bruins drop the puck. Yesterday we took a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs and their disaster behind the blue line. Today we take a look at a team that is a real up and comer in the Northeast Division, the Ottawa Senators. Last year our preview for the Senators was us basically saying we have no idea who they are and making a bunch of AHL jokes. I mean, what else could you say about that roster at the time? Pizz was right, 85% of those players were unknowns. 

A year later, though, we know who they are but are they for real? It's tough to make a case for the Ottawa Senators because there is no consistency. Two years ago the team was an utter disgrace. They finished 13th in the East, last in the division and looked BAD doing it. A year later? They finished 8th in the East and 2nd in the division with 92 points and currently have the Norris Trophy winner manning their blue line – as much of a sham as that was

So lets break it down: 

Top Five Scorers

Player Games Played Goals Assists Points
Jason Spezza 80 34 50 84
Erik Karlsson 81 19 59 78
Milan Michalek 77 35 25 60
Daniel Alfredsson 75 27 32 59
Nick Foligno 82 15 32 47

So why were the Senators so successful? It's due to Jason Spezza having a monster year after having a pretty good year in 2010-2011. Without Spezza (and the assists that Karlsson acquired from Spezza) the Senators are just the Maple Leafs, again. Unlike Toronto, though, the Senators do have a good core group around Spezza, Alfredsson, Michalek and Karlsson. Those are pieces you can build on.

Goaltending:

Player Games Played Wins Losses Overtime Loss GAA SV% Shutout
Craig Anderson 63 33 22 6 2.84 .914 3
Robin Lehner 5 3 2 0 2.01 .935 1
Ben Bishop 10 3 3 2 2.48 .909 0
Alex Auld 14 2 4 2 3.35 .884 0

After the jump, the 2013 Ottawa Senators...

Anderson had a pretty good 2011-2012 campaign, but there seems to be some issues with whoever is backing him up. Ottawa was still 24th overall in goals against per game with 2.88. So let's look at the transactions from the end of last season to today: 

Transactions: (and shout-out to my buddy Tony at STATS INC for quickly getting these for me)

 

Zack Smith 9/5/2012 Ott   Contract extended (Four-year contract extension)
Kyle Turris 8/29/2012 Ott   Contract extended (Five-year contract extension)
Cody Ceci 8/23/2012 Ott   Signed (Three-year contract)
Stephane Da Costa 7/25/2012 Ott   Re-Signed (One-year contract)
Kaspars Daugavins 7/23/2012 Ott   Re-Signed (One-year contract)
Jim O'Brien 7/18/2012 Ott   Re-Signed (Two-year contract)
Eric Gryba 7/18/2012 Ott   Re-Signed (Two-year contract)
Nathan Lawson 7/16/2012 Ott   Signed as Free Agent (One-year contract)
Andre Benoit 7/13/2012 Ott   Signed as Free Agent (One-year contract)
Chris Neil 7/12/2012 Ott   Contract extended (Three-year contract extension)
Tyler Eckford 7/10/2012 Ott   Signed as Free Agent (Two-year contract)
Hugh Jessiman 7/3/2012 Ott   Signed as Free Agent (One-year contract)
Shane Prince 7/1/2012 Ott   Signed (Three-year contract)
Mike Lundin 7/1/2012 Ott   Signed as Free Agent (One-year contract)
Guillaume Latendresse 7/1/2012 Ott   Signed as Free Agent (One-year contract)
Marc Methot 7/1/2012 Ott Cls Traded (for Nick Foligno)
Nick Foligno 7/1/2012 Cls Ott Traded (for Marc Methot)
Erik Karlsson 6/19/2012 Ott   Re-Signed (Seven-year contract)
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 6/6/2012 Ott   Signed (Three-year contract)

Ottawa

Offense:

First thing is first, Ottawa traded one of their top scorers in Nick Foligno for Mark Methot, a stay at home defenseman who has been in the NHL since the 2006-2007 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. While Foligno wasn't a huge cog in the offense, he ended up as their 5th leading scorer. It is believed that Kyle Turris, who signed a 5 year extension in August, will step up for the Senators. His 2011-2012 season was consistent with the rest of his career, but with a salary increase planned for the 2014-2015 season, 29 point isn't going to cut it. 

There's also the question about Daniel Alfredsson, who turned 40 years old in December. Alfredsson's career, as of the past few season, has been as consistent, but has not had the goal production one would want from their captain. Check the numbers:

alfredsson goals

Outside of a 40 goal explosion, Alfredsson has hovered in the 20-29 goal range since the previous lockout. So what type of player is going to show up in this shortened season? There's a good possibility that Alfredsson goes for 15-20 goals this year (which is adequate when only playing 48). 

But the offense goes as Jason Spezza goes. Spezza was a monster last year, there's no denying that. Spezza is good to pot about 30 goals a season so most of the offense (and Karlsson's inflated assist totals) will be ran through him. He's their sniper, he's their guy. We're talking about an offense that was 4th in the NHL in goals scored per game with 2.96 goals a game. They're a good, high scoring machine. 

karlsson

Defense:

This is where the Maple Leafs Senators fail. Their defense just isn't good outside of Karlsson. In goals against per game the Senators ranked 24th in the NHL at 2.88. Much like Toronto, they have trouble stopping someone. And let me go on record that Karlsson isn't a great "defensive" defenseman. The guy averaged 33 SECONDS of short handed time per game! That should show you how much the Ottawa coaching staff believed in his defensive ability. So add that to the list of defensive problems with Ottawa.

The Senators lost Fillip Kuba, one of their more experienced blue liners, in free agency which leaves Sergei Gonchar and Chris Philips as the 30+ guys of the group. I would expect some growing pains for the Ottawa defensemen. Jared Cowen has played one full season, Mike Lundin is working on his 5th, but has played more than 70 games at the NHL level once and the same goes for Methot (only this is his 6th season). 

I mean, outside of Karlsson (who can set-up plays but can't stop anyone) who on that defense scares you? My answer? No one. 

Goaltending: 

Craig Anderson is good. He's not great, but he's above average. Let's take a look at the chart above once more: 

 

Player Games Played Wins Losses Overtime Loss GAA SV% Shutout
Craig Anderson 63 33 22 6 2.84 .914 3
Robin Lehner 5 3 2 0 2.01 .935 1
Ben Bishop 10 3 3 2 2.48 .909 0
Alex Auld 14 2 4 2 3.35 .884 0

Those are respectable numbers for a guy whose defense was 24th is GA/G. The problem is the rest of their goaltenders aren't anything to look at. Alex Auld is gone, which is good because he's terrible so the Senators need to rely on either Robin Lehner or Ben Bishop. If I can remember correctly, which I usually can't, Lehner shut out the Bruins last February. I can't speak for which guy is going to get the backup role because neither of them have a large enough sample size to speak to their talents. 

Special Teams:

Last is the special teams department where Ottawa is good on the power play (12th overall in the NHL with a 18.2% conversion) and below average on the penalty kill (81.6% of all penalties killed, good for 20th overall). It's another case of a good offensive team playing well offensively and a shitty defensive team sucking defensively. 

Oh and Karlsson played 33 seconds of SH TOI per game, so fuck him. 

Predicted Standing: 3rd in the Northeast, 9th in the Eastern Conference

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