Welcome to The Breakdown, a series in which we take a look at each team’s performance from the past season. Each team is graded in different categories, with 0 the lowest and 10 as the highest. Here, we take a look at the Ottawa Senators.
The Ottawa Senators had a phenomenal year from the coaching staff, including Paul MacLean’s debut year as head coach in the NHL, after serving as Mike Babcock’s assistant in Detroit for six seasons. MacLean may have not gotten off to the best start, but won the respect of his players and the media. His ability to make it in the playoffs with an underdog team, and come within one game of eliminating the New York Rangers brought up his stock quite a bit.
Additionally, goaltender coach Rick Wamsley proved to do wonders with Craig Anderson, who ended the season at 33-22-6, his best since the 2009-10 season of 38-25-7. The Sens then added depth with Ben Bishop from the St. Louis Blues organization, and allowed him to gain exposure in Ottawa’s depth with the help of Wamsley, who coached Bishop back in St. Louis and Peoria, as the interim coach of the Rivermen.
There’s plenty more to build on from a coaching perspective in Ottawa, but this is a good start to look at. And, lastly, MacLean is a Jack Adams nominee.
Jason Spezza led the Sens in points and was fourth in the NHL among forwards with 84 (34 G, 50 A). Meanwhile, Daniel Alfredsson ranked 59th with 59 points (27 G, 32 A). Milan Michalek had a great year with 35 goals and 25 assists. The Sens had some highs and lows in the offense, but came up as the fourth best scoring team in the Eastern Conference while sliding in as the eighth seed in the playoffs. And as for goals for per game, they ranked fourth in the entire league at 2.96. They shot a ninth-best, 31.4 shots per game.
They also ranked slightly above average as 11th in power play conversions at 18.1 percent in the regular season.
The Sens had some depth to the offense and exceeded expectations this season. Their offense should be only stronger next year, regardless of Alfredsson’s plans.
It may come to no surprise that the Senators are fairly talented on the blue line. But that talent is spread out among six players who take on different roles, and do so quite well.
In the playoffs — to this point — the Senators were represented by the No. 1 hitter in Jared Cowen, while forward Colin Greening rounded off the No. 3 spot. Cowen finished with 28 while Greening collected 23 hits. Those two guys were third and fourth in the regular season in hits with 217 and 189, respectfully. Cowen ranked 10th in blocked shots with 74.
And as for the point-getteres, it’s as simple as realizing Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson held the honour of top defender with assists at 59, while collecting 78 points.
Sergei Gonchar (32 assists, 5 goals) ranked 18th in D-men for points while Filip Kuba (26 assists, 6 goals) placed 28th among blue liners.
And whether you’re a fan of the +/- or not, Kuba was fourth with 26 while Karlsson (16) and Chris Phillips (12) placed in the top 30 in that category.
The Sens simply lose points with the fact that they allowed the most goals in the regular season (240) among playoff teams in the East.
Craig Anderson was underestimated by quite a bit this season. He endured a five-game losing streak in November and an eight-game losing streak in February. Yet, he was able to keep his composure, and place 11th in wins this season with 33, tied with Ilya Bryzgalov.
He also stopped 1,752 shots, enough for eighth best. His 165 goals against is a bit steep with a GAA of 2.84. But he was able to grab three shutouts.
Anderson wasn’t great, but he was good. He was good enough to get his team into the playoffs when they needed it the most — winning eight of his last 12 games between the pipes. That’s clutch. He gets a generous average ranking this year for his late turnaround that coincided with all other facets of the Senators. But look for the Chicago native to pick up where he left off next season.
Ottawa Senators final mark: 7.75
Again, the Senators probably shouldn’t have been able to take the New York Rangers to seven games. But such is the beauty of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Senators outlasted a very expensive Buffalo Sabres roster, and looked better than an offseason splurged Florida Panthers in their loss to the New Jersey Devils.
The Sens performance this season was years in the making after baby steps and set backs. Last year was a wreck, but a few new coaches, and shinning veterans and rookies alike brought Ottawa into optimism.