Ottawa Senators: 2011-12 Regular Season Review

The Ottawa Senators finished 16th in the NHL with a 41-31-10 record for 92 points, which represents an 18-point (and 9 win) improvement over last year when they were 26th in the league.  The team was 5th in scoring (57 more goals than previous season), 24th in goals against (only a ten goal improvement from last year; they had the worst GA among playoff teams, but only 2 goals behind Chicago), 14th in goal differential (10th in team plus/minus and 2nd on the road), 11th on the powerplay, 20th in penalty-killing, 11th in 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio, 9th in shots per game, 29th in shots allowed, and 16th in faceoffs.  Finally, the Sens had the 7th best road record in the league (21-14-6) and were 5th in the league in fighting majors.  All of this was accomplished with the 26th highest payroll (Nashville was the only playoff team with a lower number at 27th).

Back in October, I made my prediction and thought the Sens would finish 13th in the conference.  While I correctly predicted that they would have a rough start, it did not last long and I didn’t guess that Ottawa would ride their offence to success.  Ottawa’s lineup from the start of the season changed radically, with Nikita Filatov back in the KHL, Mika Zibanejad loaned back to Djurgarden, David Rundblad traded to Phoenix, Stephane Da Costa sent down to Binghamton, Brian Lee traded to Tampa, and Peter Regin missing most of the season due to injury.  Players like Kaspars Daugavins and Kyle Turris rounded out the lineup while the team’s veterans enjoyed bounce back seasons.  As Scott Cullen points out, the Sens were a .500 team (13-13-4) prior to the acquisition of Turris, with Ottawa going 28-18-6 after his acquisition.  The Sens season has been a complete success.

Throughout the year I’ve posted ten-game segments looking at how the Sens performed, so here’s a brief recap of the season that was:
The first ten games the Sens were 5-5-0 with Spezza, Michalek, and Karlsson leading the way and the Zibanejad experiment over
The second segment Ottawa was 5-4-1 with Karlsson, Michalek, and Foligno leading the way
The third ten game segment the Sens were 3-4-3 with Foligno, Spezza, and Alfredsson leading the way and the Filatov and Da Costa experiments over
The fourth segment Ottawa was 7-2-1 with Spezza, Alfredsson, and Karlsson leading the way and Rundblad traded for Turris
The fifth ten game segment the Sens were again 7-2-1 with Spezza, Turris, and Karlsson leading the way
The sixth segment Ottawa was a season worst 3-5-2 with Spezza, Alfredsson, and Karlsson leading the way
The seventh ten game segment the Sens were 6-3-1 with Karlsson, Michalek, and Spezza leading the way; Lee traded for Gilroy; Bishop acquired
The eighth and final segment the Sens were 5-4-1 with Alfredsson, Spezza, and Michalek leading the way

Here’s a look at how player performed throughout the season with my analysis and a grade for each player (A=outstanding season, B=above expectations, C=expectations met, D=below expectations, F=well below expectations), for players who played in the minors or other organisations, I’m only looking at how they did with Ottawa (TOI=time on ice, FO%=faceoff percentage, INJ=games missed due to injury, SCR=scratched, FM=fighting majors):
Jason Spezza 80-34-50-84 +11 TOI 19:55 FO% 53.5 INJ 2 Grade A
Lead the team in scoring and enjoyed his most productive campaign since 07-08 (finishing 4th in league scoring), managing to stay healthy throughout the season; this is the player the organisation expects year in and year out
Erik Karlsson 81-19-59-78 +16 TOI 25:19 INJ 1 Grade A
Lead the entire league in scoring from the blueline (25 points ahead of his nearest competitors, tied for the goal-scoring lead with Shea Weber, and tied for third overall among all players in assists), improved all aspects of his play and won the Norris Trophy
Milan Michalek 77-35-25-60 +4 TOI 19:33 INJ 5 Grade A
Enjoyed a career year in goals and points and was able to stay healthy throughout the season for the first time as a Senator; he’s a streaky producer, but good in all three zones
Daniel Alfredsson 75-27-32-59 +16 TOI 18:56 INJ 7 Grade A
The healthiest he’s been since 07, he enjoyed a bounce back season with his best goal-scoring output since 07-08 (he also lead the team with three short-handed goals); quietly played most of the year on the second line and remains the consummate leader of the team
Nick Foligno 82-15-32-47 TOI 14:38 +2 FM 3 Grade B
A career year in points for (including a career best in assists), but consistency remained elusive (bursts or productivity followed by long droughts); he was traded to Columbus in the off-season for Marc Methot
Colin Greening 82-17-20-37 TOI 15:35 -4 FM 4 Grade B
The big winger was the most productive rookie among the Bingo grads and his work ethic earned him a place in the top-six; does a lot of the dirty work for skilled players
Sergei Gonchar
74-5-32-37 -4 TOI 22:15 INJ 8 FM 1 Grade C
A bounce back year for the veteran, whose production is nowhere near his days with the Penguins; he does a lot of things to help the offensive flow
Filip Kuba 73-6-26-32 +26 TOI 23:36 INJ 9 Grade A
Fully healthy he returned to the form that earned him his three-year deal in 09, finishing with the team lead in plus/minus (a career high) and scoring the most goals since 07-08; he’s helped out Karlsson a lot (and vice versa); signed with Tampa in the off-season
Kyle Turris 49-12-17-29 TOI 16:51 FO% 46.8 +12 FM 1 Grade B
His most productive season to date, with career highs in goals, assists, points and plus/minus; took some of the pressure off of Spezza
Chris Neil 72-13-15-28 -10 TOI 12:47 INJ 10 FM 10 Grade C
Enjoyed his most productive season since 06-07 and tallied the most goals since 05-06; he was by far the worst minus on the team and as a veteran needs to be more responsible
Zack Smith 81-14-12-26 +4 TOI 14:04 FO% 48.9 SCR 1 FM 8 Grade B
While technically not a rookie, he played his first full season in the league and finished 7th on the team in goals despite minimal powerplay time; wasn’t consistently physical, but is more effective when he is; faded badly down the stretch
Erik Condra 81-8-17-25 +11 TOI 14:09 SCR 1 Grade B
The rookie was excellent defensively (including two short-handed goals); fantastic hockey IQ
Chris Phillips 80-5-14-19 TOI 19:06 +12 Grade C
A rebound season for the big rig who played his 1,000th career game; returned to his usual levels of production and enjoyed his best plus/minus since 07-08; he also had a career low 16 pim’s and a career high 4 powerplay goals; mental errors in his own zone remain a problem
Jared Cowen 82-5-14-19 TOI 18:53 -4 FM 2 Grade B
While the rookie slowed down considerably in the second half, he showed glimpses of what he will become in a few years; guilty of defensive lapses that should be ironed out in time
Bobby Butler 56-6-10-16 +8 TOI 11:28 INJ 6 SCR 20 Grade F
Defined sophomore slump despite not playing a full NHL season last year; couldn’t match last season’s production despite playing 20 more games and continually getting opportunities in the top-six; he was bought-out in the off-season and signed a two-way deal with New Jersey
Kaspars Daugavins 65-5-6-11 -2 TOI 11:19 INJ 1 SCR 8 Grade B
Unexpectedly earned his rookie campaign with the Sens and while his play tapered off towards the end of the season he provided intangibles for the bottom-six
Jesse Winchester 32-2-6-8 +2 TOI 10:38 FO% 53.6 INJ 50 FM 2 Grade C
Missed 50 games due to a pair of injuries; he was a plus for the first time in his career, but his production remained minimal; currently a UFA
Brian Lee 35-1-7-8 -2 TOI 14:40 INJ 11 SCR 18 FM 1 Grade F
Moved at the deadline for Gilroy, Lee was never able to establish his identity in the organisation; he resigned with Tampa
Jim O’Brien 28-3-3-6 +6 TOI 11:45 FO% 47.3 INJ 1 Grade B
Earned his call-up in February and hasn’t looked back; his defensive play and excellent skating put Konopka in the press box
Stephane Da Costa 22-3-2-5 TOI 12:09 FO% 36.9 -9 Grade D
Had a great opportunity to stick with the team at the start of the season, but wasn’t able to produce enough; needs to improve his conditioning
Zenon Konopka
55-3-2-5 -4 TOI 7:50 FO% 58.9 INJ 1 SCR 26 FM 18 Grade F
Brought in to be physical and win faceoffs, he was guilty of bad decisions defensively and taking dumb penalties; he signed with Minnesota in the off-season
Peter Regin 10-2-2-4 TOI 14:05 FO% 49.2 +3 Grade incomplete
Unable to stay healthy, his wonky shoulder required surgery again; he has great tools and was re-signed by the team
David Rundblad 24-1-3-4 -11 TOI 15:37 SCR 9 Grade C
Showed flashes of brilliance, but team needs saw him dealt for Turris; he’ll be a great player for Phoenix in time
Matt Gilroy 14-1-2-3 Even TOI 17:30 SCR 4 Grade D
Brought in as a replacement for Lee, he initially replaced Carkner in the lineup, but sloppy play saw him spend time in the press box as well; remains a UFA
Matt Carkner 29-1-2-3 Even TOI 11:54 INJ 24 SCR 24 FM 3 Grade D
Started the year injured and when he finally returned to the lineup he struggled with the speed of the game; virtually no one will fight him; signed a ridiculous deal with the Islanders
Rob Klinkhammer 15-0-2-2 Even TOI 11:26 SCR 1 Grade C
Acquired from Chicago to help Binghamton, he earned his call-up and helped keep Butler and Konopka in the press box; he signed a two-way deal with Phoenix
Nikita Filatov 9-0-1-1 +1 TOI 9:49 SCR 7 Grade D
Couldn’t impress the coaching staff and saw limited ice time before he was loaned to the KHL; he remains in Russia, but was qualified as an RFA
Mika Zibanejad 9-0-1-1 -3 TOI 12:54 Grade C
Lost his confidence and his cautious play saw him sent back to Djurgarden to avoid losing a year of his ELC
Mark Borowiecki 2-0-0-0 -1 TOI 12:29 SCR 3 Grade incomplete
Earned a call-up during a western swing for the Sens and was solid in his debut
Mike Hoffman 1-0-0-0 -1 TOI 9:01 Grade incomplete
Played well in his audtiionn
Andre Petersson 1-0-0-0 Even TOI 5:02 SCR 4 Grade incomplete
Barely played during his call-up
Craig Anderson 63-33-22-6 2.84 .914 INJ 12 Pulled 6 Grade C
Played the second-most games and earned the second-most wins of his career, but his save percentage and GAA were his lowest since 05-06; he was solid this year, but not great
Alex Auld 14-2-4-2 3.35 .884 INJ 3 SCR 4 Pulled 2 Grade F
I was one of the people who expected Auld to be awful and he produced a career worst GAA and save percentage (requiring the acquisition of Ben Bishop); he signed with EC Salzburg in Austria
Ben Bishop 10-3-3-2 2.48 .909 INJ 4 Grade C
Lost in the shuffle in St. Louis with the emergence of Brian Elliott, Bishop started on fire with Ottawa (3-0-2), but came back down to earth with three straight losses
Robin Lehner 5-3-2-0 2.01 .935 Grade B
He has been brilliant in limited action with the Sens; the most athletic of the four goalies

Looking at performances as a whole, four players enjoyed career years (Karlsson, Michalek, Foligno, and Turris), while all the veterans who struggled last year had at least average seasons if not better (only Auld had a career worst year).  None of the key players were out with extended injuries and the players who struggled were either rookies (like Da Costa) or peripheral players (like Konopka).  The team had two 30 goal-scorers, three with at least 20, but more importantly nine players with at least 12 goals, providing the scoring depth Ottawa has lacked for quite some time.  Ten rookies dressed for at least nine games or more (eleven if Lehner is included), indicating a general depth the organisation hasn’t had post-lockout.  By any measure the roster as a whole has enjoyed a fantastic season.

I made predictions for player productions throughout the summer via player profiles and here’s how I did (in many cases I offered a range of points, so to simplify things I’ve given the average; the actual results are in brackets and my close calls are in bold and my big misses are in italics):
Spezza 82 (84) -2
Alfredsson 63 (59) +4
Karlsson 50 (78) -28
Butler 50 (16) +34
Gonchar 40 (37) +3
Regin 40 (injured)
Michalek 42 (60) -18
Foligno 34 (47) -13
Kuba 33 (32) +1
Condra 30 (25) +5
Greening 28 (37) -9
Rundblad 23 (7; 19 over a full season) +4
Phillips 20 (19) +1
Neil 18 (28) -10
Winchester 18 (injured)
Smith 15 (26) -11
Konopka 11 (5) +6
Lee 10 (16) -6
Carkner 8 (injured)
Filatov – I predicted success (50) or KHL
Cowen – I thought he’d spend significant time in the AHL
Daugavins – see above

Anderson 33 Wins (33)
Auld 6 Wins (2) +4

Overall I did quite well, with my biggest error being my Bobby Butler projection.  Nine players are within 5 points (or wins) of the projections, while six are 10 or more off the reality.

Throughout the year I watched 80 of the teams 82 games and named players as top-performers or as ones who struggled.  Throughout the year no player was named among the best more than Erik Karlsson (19 times), while Chris Phillips earned the opposite honour (15 times).  Simply being named isn’t the only way to assess performance however, and when the combination of both is factored in the player who stood out most was Daniel Alfredsson (beating out Filip Kuba and Milan Michalek).  Among rookies Colin Greening and Erik Condra tied for the lead.  The worst player was the under achieving Bobby Butler.  The full numbers are below:

Senators best/worst throughout the season
Daniel Alfredsson 17/0 (+17)
Milan Michalek 17/3 (+14)
Filip Kuba 16/2 (+14)
Colin Greening 12/0 (+12)
Erik Condra 12/0 (+12)
Erik Karlsson 19/8 (+11)
Zack Smith 11/1 (+10)
Craig Anderson 17/12 (+5)
Chris Neil 8/3 (+5)
Sergei Gonchar 4/1 (+3)
Jim O’Brien 2/0 (+2)
Robin Lehner 2/0 (+2)
Peter Regin 2/0 (+2)
Jesse Winchester 2/1 (+1)
Kaspars Daugavins 1/0 (+1)
David Rundblad 2/2 (even)
Ben Bishop 3/3 (even)
Kyle Turris 4/5 (-1)
Nikita Filatov 0/1 (-1)
Jason Spezza 10/12 (-2)
Matt Gilroy 1/3 (-2)
Jared Cowen 9/12 (-3)
Nick Foligno 2/5 (-3)
Mika Zibanejad 0/3 (-3)
Alex Auld 1/5 (-4)
Matt Carkner 0/4 (-4)
Chris Phillips 10/15 (-5)
Zenon Konopka 0/5 (-5)
Stephane Da Costa 1/6 (-5)
Brian Lee 1/8 (-7)
Bobby Butler 1/10 (-9)
Rob Klinkhammer, Mark Borowiecki, Mike Hoffman, and Andre Petersson were never named to either category



  1. Although I realize the link was in the last post, your thoughts of rangers/sens were apparently common. THN playoff preview comments are 90% how a rangers sweep is moronic.

    • I don’t think anyone would have a problem with THN picking the Rangers to win per se, but there’s not much actual analysis in the piece which creates the problem. The entire article seems to have been put together hastily and without much thought.

  2. […] Ottawa Senators: 2011-12 Regular Season Review […]

  3. […] spent the summer wondering why I didn’t include my point projections for Sens players in my regular season review, your wait is over as I’ve added them into the article.  My two biggest errors from last […]

  4. […] Silver Seven re-visit their predictions for the 2011-12 season (welcome to the club)–gotta love Dave Young and Adnan picking Sergei Gonchar as the surprise […]

  5. […] -Last night I posed my predictions for the Sens this season.  You can see how my predictions faired last year. […]

  6. […] of 25-17-6 for 56 points; this represents a pro-rated 3-point (and 1 win) improvement over last season (when they were 16th in the league).  The team was 26th in scoring (dropping from 5th last year), […]

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