In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. First, some ongoing trends that are happening in the league: Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
First up are the Ottawa Senators who are in their 27th year as a franchise (after being reinstated in 1992 – previously a team from 1917-1934). They missed the playoffs the last two years after making it to the Eastern Conference finals in 2016-2017 where they lost to the Penguins in 7 games.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 31th
- Goals for Rank: 18th
- Goals against Rank: 31st
- PP Rank: 13th
- PK Rank: 22nd
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 31st
- Eastern Conference Standings: 16th
- Atlantic Division Standings: 8th
- Coach: DJ Smith (1st season in Ottawa)
On offense: Ottawa has potentially lost more stars over the last 15 months than any other team. Their top four now appears to be Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Chris Tierney, and Oscar Lindberg. This isn’t bad per say in that three of them are under 25 and on the rise. The big issue is that none of them exceeded 50 points last year and they lost a large amount of star power as the rebuild continues. Artem Anisimov provides more of what they already have.
Ironically, on defense, there is a chance that Thomas Chabot leads the team in points as he had 55 points last season including 16 power play points. I’m excited at the prospect of Erik Brannstrom coming up to play a full season after a brief 2 game stint last year. Erik played a combined 50 games scoring 32 points including seven goals between the Chicago Wolves and Belleville Senators last season (Erik was traded midseason from the Golden Knights to the Senators as part of the Mark Stone trade, Oscar Lindberg also came over to Ottawa). The addition of Nikita Zaitsev from Toronto gives them some strong positional soundness on defense but I would still put this among the bottom third in the league in terms of defensemen.
In net, Craig Andersson has now had back to back seasons with a goals against average north of 3.3 (putting him outside the top 35 goaltenders) and a sub .905 Save % (putting him outside the top 25 goaltenders) after previously posting better numbers than that for six of seven seasons with Ottawa. He’s now 38 years old and the mid-season trade for Anders Nilsson (on January 2nd) might be a strong sign for the heir apparent here. He played 24 games with Ottawa posting a 2.90 GAA and a .914 sv% . Ottawa supported this strong play by signing Anders to a 2 year $5MM extension. The big concern for me with Nilsson is playing time, he has not exceeded 27 games in any year in the NHL and the one time he did that he had a 3.44 GAA and a .901 sv%.
Behind the bench, Guy Boucher was coaching them for just under 3 seasons and he lead them to 95-108-26 record including one postseason run in his first year with them in 2016-2017 where he went 11-8 and was one goal away from a Stanley Cup Finals. On March 1st, he was fired in place of Marc Crawford who served as Interim Coach through the remainder of the year. This year in steps DJ Smith who was previously the assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs and will take over his first NHL head coaching gig. Ultimately it’s a young team who doesn’t have a star player at this point.
"I know how hard he plays and how good he is in the locker room. I'm looking for people to change the culture here and up the work ethic.”— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) July 8, 2019
Head coach D.J. Smith talks about Nikita Zaitsev and the newest #Sens coaches and players. pic.twitter.com/7V4775AbuO
- Ron Hainsey
- Nikita Zaitsev
- Artem Anisimov
Major Subtractions (mid-season)
- Mark Stone
- Matt Duchene
- Ryan Dzingel
- Zach Smith
Prospects and Picks
Erik Brannstrom: There are two things that have me excited about Erik. First is his ability as a puck moving defensemen, something he showcased in a partial season in the AHL last year. The second is the opportunity, with this young team, Erik has all the opportunity to really carve out a spot on the Power Play where he could excel and put up quite a few points this year. To me it’s not a question of whether he succeeds in the NHL but when. It would be tough as a 19 year old (will be 20 when season starts) to come in and dominate but the pathway is there for him to do so. There is always a chance Ottawa opts for him to spend more time in the AHL but his captainship with Team Sweden at the World Junior Championship shows me he has the maturity to land on the team this year.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Drake Batherson: Drafted in 2017 at 121 overall, Drake was a pleasant surprise for the Belleville senators last year scoring 62 points in 59 games, he was promoted to the Ottawa Senators mid-season for 20 games scoring nine points over that time including three goals. He went back to the AHL for the remainder of the year where he went on to play in the AHL All-Star game and won the MVP award. This is a deep sleeper, there is no guarantee with him but in his brief stints last year he wowed on all fronts.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$60MM Spent; $21.9M in Cap room; 20 players signed.