2013 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 surprising season where they finished 8th in the Conference.  They scored 249 goals (t-4th) and gave up 240 (24th).  Oddly enough, the Sens did not improve in the goals against category relative to the rest of the league (they were 24th last year as well, but gave up ten more goals), so clearly the primary change was in scoring (along with limited injuries)–the Sens tallied 57 more than last season.

Despite the success the Sens are still in the midst of a rebuild and the roster continued to change:

Forwards (in/out)
Jakob Silfverberg (SEL) -> Bobby Butler (NJ)
Guillaume Latendresse (Min) -> Nick Foligno (Clb)
N/A -> Zenon Konopka (Min)
N/A -> Jesse Winchester (Finland 2)
Depth
Hugh Jessiman (Cal) -> Rob Klinkhammer (Phx)
N/A -> Corey Locke (SM-Liiga/DEL)
N/A -> Mark Parrish (retired)

Defense (in/out)
Marc Methot (Clb) -> Filip Kuba (TB)
Mike Lundin (Min) -> Matt Carkner (NYI)
Depth
Andre Benoit (KHL) -> Matt Gilroy (NYR)
Tyler Eckford (Phx) -> Tim Conboy (DEL)

Goaltending
Ben Bishop (AHL) -> Alex Auld (Austria)
Depth
Nathan Lawson (NYI) -> Mike McKenna (Stl)

The team lost 34 goals from the lineup, while adding 6, granting that neither of the three NHL additions played a full season last year.  To my mind the Sens lost only two significant players (Foligno and Kuba) and with the season-long injury to Jared Cowen the loss of Kuba is going to be most acutely felt.  The Sens will be very dependent on their goaltending, which despite some hype did not have remarkable numbers last season (some of that falls on the hapless Alex Auld).

The Sens won’t face the Western Conference in the lockout shortened season, narrowing down their competition.  Unlike last year when most saw Ottawa as a lottery team, coming into this season journalists are largely slotting the Sens inside (or on) the bubble to make the playoffs.  So how has the Eastern Conference improved (last year’s finish in brackets)?

Boston (2): say goodbye to Tim Thomas, hello Tuukka Rask; if Rask stays healthy this isn’t a much of a negative for the Bruins and there are no other significant changes to their roster.
Buffalo (9): no significant changes in the off-season for the Sabres, who are going to remain reliant on Ryan Miller.
Carolina (12): the biggest changes are the addition of Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin and the departure of Brandon Sutter.  The Canes are better, albeit how much remains to be seen.
Florida (3): unimpressive goaltending mixed in with a hodgepodge lineup; it will be interesting to see how Huberdeau does at the pro level.  I think last season was largely a mirage.
Montreal (15): virtually no changes; the team is going to rely on Carey Price.
New Jersey (6): lost Parise and their goaltending is a combined 79 years old.
New York Islanders (14): remains a patchwork roster needing a larger injection of talent.
New York Rangers (1): landed the big fish in Rick Nash and they should be better.
Philadelphia (5): Luke Schenn is the main addition; it’s a scary lineup, although goaltending remains a question mark.
Pittsburgh (4): nice move to pick up Tomas Vokoun in case Marc-Andre Fleury goes into the tank again; the Jordan Staal/Brandon Sutter switch remains to play its way out.  Most teams couldn’t get away with just two scoring lines, but the Pens (when healthy) have the talent to do it.
Tampa Bay (10): goaltending is iffy, blueline is slightly better; no major off-season additions.
Toronto (13): goaltending remains an open question; only major addition if James Van Riemsdyk who (when healthy) should help the offense, but doesn’t address the team need at center.
Washington (7): no significant changes, but should be a lock for the playoffs.
Winnipeg (11): Thin in net and on the blueline, and no top-end talent at forward.

I think the Panthers and Devils will fall out of the playoff picture, while Carolina and Buffalo should slip in.  To my mind the conference hasn’t meaningfully changed in that only one team that missed the playoffs (Carolina) made a significant roster move.  That makes the Sens’ prospects based largely on their own play.  They need to stay healthy, get solid performances from support players, and continue scoring like they did last season.  I think at least one of those three factors won’t happen (health primarily) which is going to make it even harder for the Sens to make the playoffs.  Given that I think Ottawa will finish on the outside looking in (9th in the conference).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Senators News: January 18th

James Gordon speculates that Mark Borowiecki will be a healthy scratch against Winnipeg and that Andre Benoit and Patrick Wiercioch will play as the third pairing (although the line combinations I’ve seen posted don’t necessarily mesh with that idea; Nichols thought what he saw indicated Borowiecki would play ahead of Benoit).

Stu Hackel lists questions for teams in the East and for Ottawa he says:

Some don’t believe that Erik Karlsson is the real thing, but there’s no doubts about that here. The defense corps as a whole, however, could be a problem. Matt Carkner and Karlsson’s partner Filip Kuba are now elsewhere, Jared Cowen will miss the season with injury and both Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips are well on the back nine of their careers. Can the new d-men brought in by GM Bryan Murray — local boy Marc Methot and Mike Lundin — and/or perhaps some of the Sens’ prospects capably fill the gaps? Some other areas of concern may be team toughness with the departure of Carkner and Zenon Kenopka. Also, can captain Daniel Alfredsson continue to play at a high level in what might be his final go-around?

It’s a pretty generic list, but shows Hackel has kept tabs on the team’s coverage.

5Dimes lists Ottawa at 30-1 favourites for the Cup (tied for the 19th best odds).

-Most of the Silver Seven staff believe Ottawa will be a playoff team this year.  The boys at WTYKY also offer up a wide variety of predictions.

Adam Proteau believes the Sens will finish 10th in the Conference saying:

The Sens were another team that overachieved in the eyes of many – and unfortunately for them, injuries to defensemen Jared Cowen and Mike Lundin have thinned out the back end in a big way, at least to start the season. They’ll still be competitive, but it may not be enough to keep pace in the increasingly tough East.

The Hockey Central staff had to relive the embarrassment of their Ottawa prediction from last season and other than Brad May (who thinks they need more goons–you know, like Brad May the player) they all see them making the playoffs.

-Binghamton faces Toronto (22-11-3) tonight; the Marlies are lead by Ryan Hamilton (25 points)–in the absence of players at camp or lost through waivers–and backstopped by Jussi Rynnas (6-3-1 1.96 .937).

Mike Hoffman was returned to Binghamton while Cody Ceci was sent back to junior.

Andre Benoit and Robin Lehner were named AHL all-stars.

-Elmira plays Trenton tonight; the Titans are 15-27-5 and feature Brad Peltz (if he plays); they are lead by Nick Mazzolini (40 points) and backstopped by Scott Wedgewood (11-11-2 3.07 .898).

Jeremy Milks advises fans temper their enthusiasm to move on from Craig Anderson to give either Robin Lehner or Ben Bishop the reigns.  I think realistic expectations are good, but there are a couple of things in Jeremy’s piece that stuck out to me as worthy of comment:

Most fans look forward to the Entry Draft more than they do the Stanley Cup finals.

Ignoring the hyperbole, it’s worth considering that 29 of 30 teams have nothing else to celebrate after the Cup finals, so the draft is the next major team event where they can hope to improve their cause.

He’s [Anderson] now a respected veteran in the league

Is he?  Three seasons as a starter he’s been great, awful, and good–that’s it.  Keep in mind Jeremy is trying to convince fans to be patient, but given that fans have no impact on who play or not and if Craig Anderson plays well than all the discussion goes away.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)