The Ottawa Senators missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. They could make it back again for 2015, but they will need to catch a few breaks on the NHL odds.
What Went Wrong Last Season?
The Senators finished with 88 points last season, which was five points out of the final spot in the Eastern Conference. They ended strong, though, with five straight wins to close out the season. Still, the rally came too little, too late as the Sens defense was terrible, finishing 27th in the NHL in goals allowed. That was really what did them in as the Sens led the NHL in fewest goals allowed in the lockout-shortened season but fell off the table last year. If they’re to compete again, they’ll need their goaltending to perk up again.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Senators can maintain their scoring prowess after trading Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars, where he was joined later in free agency by Ales Hemsky. Spezza was second on the team in points and has been one of Ottawa’s top offensive players for years while Hemsky scored 17 points in 20 games with the Senators, so players will have to step up and fill that void. They did bring in David Legwand, but he isn’t going to be able to do it by himself. That means Milan Michalek and Clarke MacArthur will be looked at to validate their big-money contracts as the Sens re-upped with the duo in the summer.
The offense should do OK with those two, and Kyle Turris – if he can carry over his performance from his career year. Bobby Ryan is as good a pure goal scorer as there is in the NHL, but he is prone to slumps at times, so he will be have to be more consistent. And of course, you can’t forget about Erik Karlsson charging up the ice from the back. It isn’t often that a defenseman leads the team in points, but that is what Karlsson did and at 24 years old, he is still getting better.
However, none of those points will mean anything if the Senators can’t stop the puck and while they gave extensions to Anderson and backup Robin Lehner in the summer, the defense in front of him have to improve. It is well known that Karlsson isn’t a defensive whiz at all and even though he has gotten better, that is the next step of his game because he can sometimes take risks to leave his teammates to fill in, and that is how you end up with odd-man rushes. The Senators might have to move to bring in another defensive-minded blueliner because even though Chris Phillips is a longtime Senator and he tries hard, he is 36 years old and has had three seasons in the last four in which he has finished in the minus and that isn’t good for a defenseman.
That being said, when making your NHL picks keep in mind the Senators have a great coach in Paul MacLean, and that should be enough to get Ottawa back in the playoffs – although they won’t last long.