Early Predictions for Ottawa’s 2011-12 Season, Part Three

Here’s an update on published predictions for the Ottawa Senators this year:

Part One (link)
The Hockey News predicts Ottawa will finish 15th in the East
The Ottawa Sun (Jeff Frank) suggets the team needs major rebound from its veterans to avoid being 15th in the East
Sportsnet‘s Mike Brophy isn’t definitive, but suggests Ottawa is in the running for the 1st overall pick in the 2012 draft
Senators Extra predicts Ottawa will finish 15th in the East
The Bleacher Report (Daniel Friedman) predicts Ottawa will finish 15th in the East
Senshot (Jared Crozier) provides a range where Ottawa will finish, but 9th seems most
likely using his analysis

Part Two (link)
The Hockey Writers (Brandon Schlager) has the Senators in last place
McKeen’s see’s Ottawa finishing 13th in the East

Various Senators News Segments
-Puck Daddy (Grey Wyshynski) see’s the Sens at the bottom of the NHL heap (link)
Senshot (Tony Mendes) expects Ottawa to be at the bottom of league standings (link)
The Hockey News (Adam Proteau) see’s the Sens to finish at the bottom of the heap(link)
USA Today (Kevin Allen) picks Ottawa to finish last in the Northeast (link)
Sportsnet‘s Ian Mendes picks Ottawa to finish 12th-13th (link)

The latest
-TSN announced its consensus picks and the Ottawa Senators were picked to finish 15th

2011-12 Ottawa Senators: My Prediction

With the season opener around the corner, here are my thoughts on this year’s Ottawa Senators.  The team is coming off a terrible year where they scored 192 goals (29th) and gave up 250 (24th).  I don’t think you can really assess where the team is at until you consider the changes they’ve gone through.  Bryan Murray began the rebuild prior to the trade deadline, so I think the proper comparison between this team and last year’s involves who was here prior to the fire sale (Zack Smith spent more than half of last season with the Sens, but I’ve slotted him as one of the changes since this is the first year he’ll be on the team full time and won’t automatically be slotted on the fourth line).  Not all the players below are comparables, but it’s as close as I can make it.

Forwards (in/out)
Colin Greening -> Mike Fisher (Nashville)
Zack Smith -> Chris Kelly (Boston)
Nikita Filatov -> Alexei Kovalev (KHL)
Erik Condra -> Jarkko Ruutu (SM-Liiga)
Bobby Butler -> Ryan Shannon (TB)
Depth
Mark Parrish -> Ryan Potulny (Washington)
Stephane Da Costa -> Cody Bass (Columbus)
Derek Grant -> Roman Wick (NLA)

Defensemen (in/out)
David Rundblad/Jared Cowen -> Chris Campoli (Montreal)
Depth
Jared Cowen/David Rundblad -> David Hale (unsigned)
Mark Borowiecki -> Andre Benoit (KHL)
Tim Conboy -> Derek Smith (Calgary)

Goaltenders (in/out)
Craig Anderson -> Brian Elliott (St. Louis)
Alex Auld -> Pascal Leclaire (unsigned)
Depth
Mike McKenna -> Mike Brodeur (unsigned)

That’s 60 goals out of last year’s lineup, but simply replacing that production won’t improve their lot.  Similarly, the team could significantly reduce their goals against and not be much further ahead (losing 2-1 is the same as 4-1 in the standings).  I expect the Senators will have a rough start to the season, potentially taking the first couple of months to gel.  This will put them behind the eight-ball and (like most experts) I don’t believe they will challenge for a playoff spot this year.  The team is overly dependent on young players and Craig Anderson.  When you look at the Eastern Conference (below), it’s hard to argue that they are among the better teams (for the prospects listed below I mean players expected to spend the year with the NHL team).

Northeast Division

Boston
46-25-11, 246 GF, 195 GA
-added Joe Corvo and Benoit Pouliot
-lost Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder, and Tomas Kaberle
-prospect who will play Jordan Caron
-top-six Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Rich Peverley/Tyler Seguin
-top-four Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, Joe Corvo/Johnny Boychuk
-tandem Tim Thomas/Tuukka Rask
They have depth at all positions, albeit lacking a truly elite top line; they have the best goaltending tandem in the league and play strong team defence; there’s no reason to believe they won’t repeat as division champs.

Buffalo
43-29-10, 245 GF, 229 GA
-added Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, and Ville Leino
-lost Tim Connolly, Rob Niedermayer, Mike Grier, Steven Montador, Chris Butler, and Patrick Lalime
-prospects who will play Marc-Andre Gragnani and Jhonas Enroth
-top six Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Ville Leino, Jason Pominville, Brad Boyes/Tyler Ennis
-top four Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Jordan Leopold, Robyn Regehr
-tandem Ryan Miller/Jhonas Enroth
The Sabres have excellent depth at forward and great goaltending from Miller, but are less dynamic on the blueline.  The issue for the Sabres is reducing their goals against and they haven’t addressed that.  Regardless, they should finish second in the division.

Montreal
44-30-8, 216 GF, 209 GA
-added Erik Cole, Chris Campoli, and Peter Budaj
-lost Jeff Halpern, Benoit Pouliot, Tom Pyatt, Roman Hamrlik, Brent Sopel, James Wisniewski, and Alex Auld
-prospect who will play Alexei Emelin
-top six Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Erik Cole, Max Pacioretty, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta
-top four Andrei Markov, Jaroslav Spacek, P. K. Subban, Josh Gorges
-tandem CareyPrice/ Peter Budaj
A talented and proven group if they can stay healthy, but the team lacks depth (as their limited scoring last year indicates).  They still have a better team than Toronto (below).

Toronto
37-34-11, 218 GF, 251 GA
-added Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi, John-Michael Liles, and Cody Franson
-no meaningful losses
-prospects who will play Jake Gardiner and Matt Frattin
-top six Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur, Phil Kessel, Tim Connolly, Joffrey Lupul
-top four Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn, John-Michael Liles, Mike Komisarek/Cody Franson
-tandem: James Reimer/Jonas Gustavsson
They lack a true #1 center, depth in their top-six, identity on their blueline and are reliant on unproven goaltending (remember when Jonas Gustavsson was going to be the guy?).  They have improved from last year, but not enough to climb over the other teams in the division.

Ottawa 32-40-10, 192 GF, 250 GA
-added Zenon Konopka and Alex Auld
-lost Marek Svatos, Ryan Shannon, and Pascal Leclaire
-prospects who will play David Rundblad, Jared Cowen, and Mika Zibanejad
-top six Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, Peter Regin, Nikita Filatov, Nick Foligno
-top four Erik Karlsson, Chris Phillips, Sergei Gonchar, Filip Kuba
-tandem Craig Anderson/Alex Auld
A lineup that features aging veterans and unproven young players; solid depth on the blueline and a good goalie, but the forward group is going to struggle to score.

Atlantic Division

Philadelphia
47-23-12, 259 GF, 223 GA
-added Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Maxime Talbot, Andreas Lilja, and Ilya Bryzgalov
-lost Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Daniel Carcillo, Ville Leino, Kris Versteeg, Nikolai Zherdev, Darroll PoweSean O’Donnell, Nick Boynton, and Brian Boucher
-prospects who will play Brayden Schenn and Matt Read
-top six Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux, James Van Riemsdyk, Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Scott Hartnell
-top four Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn
-tandem Ilya Bryzgalov/Sergei Bobrovsky
I liked the changes to the division champ; the team has great blueline depth combined with a strong forward group that has gotten younger; Bryzgalov is a big improvement in net.

Pittsburgh 49-25-8, 238 GF, 199 GA
-added Steve Sullivan
-lost Mike Comrie, Alex Kovalev, Maxime Talbot, Mike Rupp, and Chris Connor
-prospects who will play none
-top six Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jordan Staal, Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Tyler Kennedy
-top four Kristopher Letang, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek
-tandem Marc-Andre Fleury/Brent Johnson
Pulled a rabbit out of a hat last year, benefitting from other team’s taking them lightly in the absence of their stars–that won’t happen again.  Dependent on at least Malkin or Crosby being healthy to compete for the division title, but I don’t believe they can beat Philadelphia.

New York Rangers 44-33-5, 233 GF, 198 GA
-added Brad Richards and Mike Rupp
-lost Chris Drury, Alexander Frolov, Vaclav Prospal, Matt Gilroy, and Bryan McCabe
-prospects who will play none
-top six Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Ryan Callahan, Wojtek Wolski
-top four Marc Staal, Daniel Girardi, Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto/Michael Sauer
-tandem Henrik Lundqvist/Martin Biron
An strong forward group is balanced by a thin blueline and complete dependence on Lundqvist between the pipes.  I think they’ll finish third if King Henrik stays healthy, but (just like every other year) he’ll be gassed come playoff time.

New Jersey 38-39-5, 174 GF, 209 GA
-added Petr Sykora, Cam Janssen and Eric Boulton
-lost Brian Rolston, Adam Mair, Colin White, and Anssi Salmela
-prospects who will play Jacob Josefson and Adam Larsson
-top six Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson/Nick Palmieri
-top four Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder, Andy Greene, Adam Larsson
-tandem Martin Brodeur/Johan Hedberg
The lowest scoring team in the NHL last year, Jersey has a thin lineup throughout and are dependent on young players delivering.  They will be in a dog fight to make the playoffs.

New York Islanders 30-39-13, 229 GF, 264 GA
-added Brian Rolston, Marty ReasonerSteve Staios and Evgeni Nabokov
-lost Trent Hunter, Zenon Konopka, Doug Weight, Jon SimBruno Gervais, and Radek Martinek
-prospects who will play Nino Niederreiter
-top six John Tavares, Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen, Pierre Parenteau
-top four Mark Streit, Andrew MacDonald, Milan Jurcina, Travis Hamonic
-tandem Evgeni Nabokov/Rick DiPietro/Al Montoya
A rising core of forwards has solid depth, but it’s a weak blueline and a goaltending core that could go sideways quick.  They will be an improved team, but not improved enough to escape the Atlantic basement.

Southeast Division

Washington
48-23-11 54 224 GF, 197 GA
-added Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Jeff Halpern, Roman Hamrlik, and Tomas Vokoun
-lost Jason Arnott, Matt Bradley, Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon, Marco SturmScott Hannan, Tyler Sloan, and Semyon Varlamov
-prospects who will play none
-top six Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, Brooks Laich, Mike Knuble, Marcus Johansson
-top four Dennis Wideman, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Mike Green
-tandem Tomas Vokoun/Michal Neuvirth
Struggled the entire year and still won the division; good depth at all positions I expect them to win it the division easily.

Tampa Bay 46-25-11, 247 GF 240 GA
-added Tom Pyatt, Ryan Shannon, Bruno Gervais, Matt Gilroy, and Mathieu Garon
-lost Sean Bergenheim, Simon Gagne, Randy Jones, Mike Lundin, Matt Smaby, and Mike Smith
-propects who will play none
-top six Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell, Ryan Shannon/Steve Downie
-top four Mattias Ohlund, Victor Hedman, Pavel Kubina, Eric Brewer
-tandem Dwayne Roloson/Mathieu Garon
Despite roster losses they have good depth on the blueline and one of the best backups in the league (Garon); their forward group is thin and the lack of top-six depth keeps them out of the running for the division title.

Carolina 40-31-11, 236 GF, 239 GA
-added Alexei Ponikarovsky, Tim Brent, Anthony Stewart, Tomas Kaberle, and Brian Boucher
-lost Erik Cole, Cory Stillman, Troy Bodie, and Joe Corvo
-prospects who will play Zac Dalpe
-top six Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu, Jussi Jokinen, Brandon Sutter, Chad Larose/Zac Dalpe
-top four Joni Pitkanen, Tomas Kaberle, Tim Gleason, Jamie McBain
-tandem Cam Ward/Brian Boucher
Despite additions the team lacks depth throughout the organisation and I don’t like their blueline when its healthy.  They will remain in the middle of the pack in the division.

Winnipeg 34-36-12, 223 GF, 269 GA
-added Eric Fehr, Kyle Wellwood, Tanner Glass, and Randy Jones
-lost Eric Boulton, Radek Dvorak, Rob Schremp, and Anthony Stewart
-prospects who will play none
-top six Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Nikolai Antropov, Eric Fehr
-top four Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian, Ron Hainsey
-tandem Ondrej Pavelec/Chris Mason
They lack an elite top line, depth at forward, and I don’t like their goaltending.  They’ve marginally improved on last year’s lineup, but will need a lot of steps forward to move up the standings.

Florida 30-40-12, 195 GF, 229 GA
-added Sean Bergenheim, Matt Bradley, Tomas Fleischmann, Marcel Goc, Tomas Kopecky, Kris Versteeg, Scottie Upshall, Brian Campbell, Ed Jovanovski, and Jose Theodore
-lost Sergei Samsonov, Nicklas Bergfors, Steve Bernier, Darcy Hordichuk, Rostislav Olesz, Marty Reasoner, Alexander Sulzer, and Tomas Vokoun
-prospects who will play Erik Gudbranson
-top six David Booth, Stephen Weiss, Tomas Fleischmann, Mike Santorelli, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky
-top four Brian Campbell, Ed Jovanovski, Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov
-tandem Jose Theodore/Scott Clemmensen
Massive turnover rarely works in the short-term, but the team has much better depth in the forward ranks and an improved blueline compared to last year (it’s not a good blueline, just a better one).  Their subpar goaltending and the lack of an elite first line mean they’ll again settle at the bottom of the division.

So to summate my points about Ottawa above: 1) the team will struggle to score when healthy and it will only get harder if they suffer key injuries, 2) the team is dependent on too many things going their way to make a push for the playoffs (young players reaching their potential quickly; veterans having bounce back years; goaltending rescuing them throughout the year).  Despite saying all that, they will be a much more entertaining team to watch and I do not believe they will finish 15th in the conference (as much as I’d like them to get Nail Yakubov).  To my mind they are better than both the New York Islanders and Florida Panthers (goaltending and the blueline make the difference), but otherwise they don’t stack up better against other teams.  Here’s how I think the Conference will finish (I’ve included the rankings of McKeen’s, The Hockey News, and TSN):

1. Washington (McK 1st, THN 1st, TSN 1st)
2. Boston (McK 4th, THN 3rd, TSN 3rd)
3. Philadelphia (McK 8th, THN 4th, TSN 4th)
4. Pittsburgh (McK 3rd, THN 2nd, TSN 2nd)
5. Buffalo (McK 2nd, THN 6th, TSN 6th)
6. Tampa Bay (McK 6th, THN 5th, TSN 5th)
7. Montreal (McK 5th, THN 9th, TSN 8th)
8. New York Rangers (McK 7th, THN 7th, TSN 7th)
9. Carolina (McK 11th, THN 10th, TSN 11th)
10. New Jersey (McK 10th, THN 12th, TSN 9th)
11. Toronto (McK 9th, THN 8th, TSN 10th)
12. Winnipeg (McK 14th, THN 13th, TSN 12th)
13. Ottawa (McK 15th, THN 15th, TSN 15th)
14. New York Islanders (McK 11th, THN 11th, TSN 13th)
15. Florida (McK 13th, THN 14th, TSN 14th)

Senators Player Predictions
Players marked with an asterisk (*) are injury risks; players in italics may spend time in the minors/Sweden (for Zibanejad) or as a regular healthy scratch
Forwards
Jason Spezza* – 25-30 goals with 65-70 points
Daniel Alfredsson* – 20-25 goals with 55-60 points
Milan Michalek* – 15-20 goals and get 35-40 points
Nikita Filatov – 15-20 goals and 35-40 points
Nick Foligno – 15-20 goals and 30-35 points
Peter Regin* – 10-15 goals and 30-35 point range
Bobby Butler – 15-20 goals and 30-35 points
Mika Zibanejad – 10-15 goals and get 25-30 points
Erik Condra – 5-10 goals and get 20-25 points
Colin Greening – 5-10 goals and get 20-25 points
Chris Neil* – 5-10 goals and get 15-20 points
Zack Smith – 5-10 goals and get 15-20 points
Zenon Konopka – 3-5 goals and earn 8-10 points
Jesse Winchester – 3-5 goals and get 10-15 points
Blueline
Erik Karlsson* – 10-15 goals and earn 45-50 points
Sergei Gonchar* – 5-10 goals and get 35-40 points
Filip Kuba* – 2-3 goals and get 15-20 points
David Rundblad – 5-7 goals and 20-25 points
Jared Cowen – 2-5 goals and 15-20 points
Chris Phillips – 3-5 goals and 10-15 points
Brian Lee – 1-3 goals and 8-10 points
Matt Carkner* – 1-2 goals and 8-10 points

Senators News: October 5th

Today’s news roundup (incidentally, I’ll be posting my Sens prediction this evening):

The Ottawa Sun‘s Bruce Garrioch interviewed an unnamed NHL executive about the Sens (link) who had some interesting things to say.  About Ottawa’s prospects he said, “A lot of people at the draft felt he [Zibanejad] was like Gabriel Landeskog and he was NHL ready. He’s got high-end skill and he was chosen No. 6 overall for a reason.  The good news is they’ve got those kids [the prospects]. Nobody’s sure what role they’re all going to play, but they’re all prospects.”  On Craig Anderson, “Can Anderson handle it? The way I look at it, the situation is the same as it was in Colorado, he’s got absolutely nothing to lose. He seems to thrive in that scenario. There’s not a whole lot of pressure and he’s going to face some quality chances. He’s not like Carey Price, he doesn’t have to win. He’s not going to be under the microscope with expectations of winning.”

The Ottawa Citizen‘s Wayne Scanlan wonders who will score for the Sens this year (link).  There’s not much new here, but Scanlan comments that Bryan Murray “dismisses Butler’s ineffective pre-season as a lack of opportunity and suggests  Butler will re-establish himself when the fur flies in the regular season.

-Rod Brodie, writing for the Sens website, has an article on Nikita Filatov (link), where the winger says “The atmosphere is getting way easier, way better and I just feel more comfortable here. I also need to say the veteran group is very easygoing helping a lot … (there are) lots of jokes and it’s easy to get into the atmosphere here.”

Sportsnet‘s Ian Mendes offers his prediction for the Senators (link).  It’s worth reading the entire piece, but some highlights: “Anderson is probably the fourth-best goalie in his own division. That’s not a knock against the Sens netminder, so much as it’s a credit to the strength of goaltending within the Northeast. Tim Thomas and Ryan Miller have combined to win the last three Vezina trophies. And Carey Price strongly deserved mention in both the Vezina and Hart conversations last year.” And “Look for the Sens to finish somewhere in the same neighborhood as they did last year — maybe 12th or 13th in the conference. But unlike a year ago, the expectations have been drastically lowered in Ottawa so missing the playoffs won’t be viewed as a disappointment by the fan base.”

The 6th Sens Scott writes that it’s a bad idea for Mika Zibanejad to stay with the Sens the whole year (link, where he compares him to other Swedish teenagers) while The Silver Seven‘s Dave Young disagrees (link), comparing him to Jordan Staal.

-Joy Lindsay has posted Binghamton’s lines and combinations at practice (link): Hoffman-Locke-Parrish, Grant-O’Brien-Daugavins, Cannone-Dziurzynski-Petersson, Cowick-Hamilton-Lessard, Gratchev-Caporusso-Downing/Radja; Borowiecki-Conboy, Gryba-Wiercioch, Raymond-Schira, Godfrey-Ratchuk.