Looking Ahead to the Sens Upcoming Season

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My eclectic article looking at Sens coverage is currently an unwieldy behemoth showing no signs of completion, so while that unfolds I wanted to get out thoughts on the Sens upcoming season. Dom Luszczyszyn‘s preview of the Senators for The Athletic is what I’ll work with and let’s open it with a quote:

Last season was an embarrassment for the Senators. Due to a penny-pinching owner and an organization in complete disarray, the team was forced to trade away its three best players, who were all pending unrestricted free agents.

That’s succinct and accurate. But Dom isn’t done:

Ottawa has, by my math, exactly three good players. That’s a joke I made in last year’s season preview and though all three have moved on to greener pastures, the sentiment remains in the form of the team’s new core, a younger and less-skilled version of what the Senators were previously building around.

He cites Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, and Thomas Chabot as the new core and I have faith in exactly one of those players (the latter). Let’s look at the org’s golden boy (our lad Brady) from Dom’s perspective:

[H]e didn’t create many chances for his teammates nor was he entering the zone with control very often. … Without Stone (before he was traded), that dropped to 6.4 per 60, which is significantly lower. That’s a bit of a red flag, especially considering those 14 tracked games suggest he may not be as strong elsewhere. … Tkachuk’s personal shot rate isn’t the only thing that dropped without Stone. His point rate went from 2.33 to 1.27 and that sterling expected goals share dropped from 58 percent with Stone to 50 percent without.

The litany of players buoyed by a talented linemate is nearly endless (most of you won’t know who Warren Young is, but he always comes to mind when thinking of phantom production). That doesn’t mean I think Tkachuk is that bad–when he was drafted I was sure he was a useful NHL player, but there were many reasons to worry he won’t be a star and that’s what fans think he is now. Dom is sounding that warning bell.

As for White, less needs to be said as I think the worries about him are better understood and accepted, but Dom inexplicably doesn’t do a deep dive on him, simply parroting baseline stats and calling him a second-line player–fortunately Nichols performed the autopsy back in June and his analysis isn’t a condemnation, but I do want to cite where my concerns are:

“[White’s] drop [away from Mark Stone] is more precipitous across the metrics [and] the sample size is larger. … Stone’s play has inevitably insulated and propped up White’s production to some degree as it has to players like Zack Smith and Pageau.”

Nichols’ point in the article is more about White‘s various intangibles and how he makes his teammates better, while mine is more about his production (something he echoed today). The org (and Dom echoes their expectation) believes he’s a solution to offensive woes, while my fear is that he’s a better version of Erik Condra/Pageau. There’s a big difference in what he brings to the team depending on how his development goes and the flags on his offensive capabilities were right there when he was drafted.

I want to include a few more choice quotes from Dom before summing up:

[Ottawa’s free agent signings] “None of the four move the needle much”

Max Veronneau and Jonathan Davidsson earning a spot in this initial look. Neither player’s numbers outside the NHL look all that special, though.”

“There’s a clear dearth of defenders with puck skills available to the Senators and watching that will be a frustrating experience as they try to get the puck out. The weak forward group likely won’t help much, either.”

[T]he team’s biggest weakness is likely goaltending. That’s especially true if Craig Anderson remains the team’s starter.

Dom concludes that the team is likely headed to a 70-71 point season (last year he projected 77 points), which would represent modest improvement, but I have a hard time believing a team that can’t score, can’t defend, and can’t stop the puck will improve (if we take the drop from last year as a guide, chop 10 or more points off the tally). Dom is the number cruncher so he has real analysis behind his guess, but just on the bare bones of reasoning even the modest, awful season he’s projecting seems optimistic.

Training camp hasn’t even started so there isn’t a plethora of other breakdowns, but most of what we’ll get is generic media coverage based on ougia boards and tarot cards rather than actual analysis, so I’m not expecting too many adjustments to this.

Bold in Thoughts

Nichols has graced us with his first column since July and there are two things to highlight as Pierre Dorion spoke (something I highly suggest Dorion refrain from doing, otherwise he’ll continue to embarrass himself):

[Nichols] What I find interesting is that the general manager is passing the buck and putting the onus on the coaching staff and players for the possibility of poor performance.

This is the norm for the organization. Since Dorion took over he has been responsible for nothing other than successes–Randy Lee echoed this even earlier, going back through the Murray regime, always having excuses for how the AHL-team did. Nothing is ever management’s fault and this idea is something the owner clings to as well–nothing is his fault.

Nichols goes through some roster speculation, but the org has never been very rationale when it comes to adding young players, so basing it purely on talent or position is a risky business. Given how bad the team will be it’s far better to send the talent to Belleville, but the org has always preferred to let players get their heads kicked in at the NHL-level in the hopes of eeking out a few more ticket sales–I think whoever has a high profile is the most likely to start in Ottawa.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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2 Comments

  1. Tank job looking to be on track, especially now that Wolanin is out for 4 months.


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