The Ottawa Senators are bad! Everyone knows it! They finished 31st in the league for a reason in 2018-19. Now, this year, they are even worse as it is “Laissez-Faire For Alexis LafrenIere”. Finishing the worst in the league does not guarantee the top pick as Colorado (via Ottawa’s pick) found out the hard way. It guarantees them no worse than the fourth pick.
There are on and off-ice reasons why the Ottawa Senators could be compelling for the media this upcoming season. Let’s dig in.
First, there is Thomas Chabot.
Chabot made us briefly misremember Erik Karlsson last season. He finished on a bit of a cold streak but still had 55 points in 70 games. That included 14 goals and 16 power-play points. The young defenseman was playing nearly 25 minutes a night by season’s end. That experience should serve him well this year even if the points are a little lean at first.
The defenseman plays with his head up constantly and moves the puck extremely well. His speed is probably the fastest or among the quickest on the team. That may be a low bar for some, but it is important. He will be a key and vital player going forward along with Erik Brannstrom – Ottawa’s other “top” defenseman.
Second, there is Ottawa and social media
It must be mentioned. Ottawa and Eugene Melnyk shoot themselves in the proverbial foot and often. From the classic quote “We’re a team” to the hopes of almost every Ottawa fan that Melnyk sells the team. For better or worse, Ottawa seems to always be in the headlines no matter how poor their record is.
How much worse could it get from a public standpoint? Do not underestimate Ottawa management and their ownership. Just when one thinks the bar is low, they may be able to lower It further. Again, the off-ice chaos is arguably enough to not completely turn away for non-Ottawa fans anyway.
Third, what can Brady Tkachuk do for an encore?
Alas, the forward turned in a 45-point campaign in 2018-19. What could he do in 2019-20? The roster is worse than what last season started out as but Tkachuk is expected to play more than the 16 minutes a night he did last year.
Could he play 18+ minutes? It is quite possible. That boost in ice time alone should mitigate any production concerns (he was a 20-20 player). The forward was physical as well averaging over 2.5 hits a game along with nearly 3 shots a night. There is reason to believe Tkachuk could end up around 50 points or so. Plus, he seems to have no shortage of opposing players he can rankle.
Fourth, how many shots will Craig Anderson and Anders Nilsson face a night?
Again, this was a team defense that yielded 35-36 shots per 60 over the second half of the 2018-19 campaign. The defense is demonstrably worse going into this year. So, could they be Anaheim Ducks bad from the blueline to their goaltender? That answer deserves an “it’s plausible” response.
With Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev likely playing a ton of minutes, teams should have little trouble rushing wide into Ottawa’s defensive zone. The youth on Ottawa’s back end will not help either. There is an expectation, the Senators lead the league in scoring chances and shots allowed. Anderson and Nilsson figure to see 40+ shots a night on an all too often basis – especially early on. At the very least, from a betting standpoint, the Senators will be quite watchable.
Finally, does Bobby Ryan finally get traded?
It feels like Bobby Ryan has been involved in trade rumors for years now. The real question is can Ryan stay healthy long enough to get teams to cough up assets for him. If Ryan’s hands hold up, he could top 45 points (had 42 points in 78 games). The right winger was banged up for most of the second half last year.
The key is this is all about timing. Can Ottawa get a team to bite on that $7.25 million AAV for 2+ seasons? This is along with aligning that with a favorable production spike. This is honestly a tough ask of teams. However, all it takes is one or more teams to bite the carrot. Ryan’s chances of getting traded are lukewarm at best currently.
By Chris Wassel