Thursday, May 12, 2016

Pool Outlook for Ottawa

The title of Canada's best club wasn't a great distinction in the 2016 season, as it was one of the easiest titles to earn, but thanks to some poor performances from their counterparts, the Ottawa Senators took the crown and now look forward to bigger and better things in 2017.

The Senators finished with a 38-35-9 record and were 11 points out of the last wild card spot in the East, but they tried to give it a good go, as their inconsistent season was still good enough to be buyers at the trade deadline, when they acquired Dion Phaneuf in a package from their provincial rivals from Toronto.

The inconsistencies that were spoken about, mostly came from their offense's lack of punch, as the kids that were a huge boost to their efforts in 2015, came up a bit short in 2016 and wins didn't come as often as the brass would have preferred.  Also, the lack of a Cinderella story, like Andrew Hammond, didn't help their cause much either, but Craig Anderson returned to the net and played fairly well in his 60 appearances.

What we know for sure is that the Senators will have a new General Manager and Head Coach combination in 2017, which leaves a lot of question marks about how the team will operate, both in the off-season and when the puck drops at the regular season, but that's what we'll talk about, when we're left to speculate about the year.

In the draft this year, the Senators were not nearly as popular as half the teams in the NHL, only collecting 12 picks in September.  No one on the Senators were deemed a 1st round pick, but there were two 2nd round picks.  Injuries and a slow start meant that four Senators were dropped in Week Nine, while one was picked up for his PIM proficiency.  In Week Eighteen, the Senators were again looked at for their goonery, as no one was dropped and one was taken.  At the end of the year, after the trade deadline occurred, the Senators had 11 players on active rosters.

Erik Karlsson, one of the two Sens players that were taken in the 2nd round, was one of the best players in the pool, period, finishing 10th overall in pool scoring.  Karlsson was the top defenseman as well, finishing with 16 goals and 82 points in all 82 games for Ottawa this season, finishing at a point-per-game, well above projections on this blog site.

In the final rankings, 10 other Senators finished as pool worthy players, in terms of a 27-team pool.  Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan, Mika Zibanejad, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Zack Smith and Kyle Turris were all pool worthy from the forward slots, while Dion Phaneuf and Cody Ceci were the other worthy defensemen and Craig Anderson's hard work paid off in net.  The Senators were not short on players that could get on the scoresheet during the year, rather their clutch timing was hurting the most and that's why they were not invited to the dance in the Spring.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

The Senators 2016 season may depend highly on what the kids are able to do for them in the next go around.  With the emergence of Stone and Hoffman, there might be some who may forget about Curtis Lazar and his sophomore season upcoming, as he may not have shot the lights out, but he did play a very complimentary role for his club and when the rest of the league focuses on his teammates, he could come to the forefront and do well for this team.  Assuming the Senators can get close to the same kind of goaltending that they got in the back end of 2015, I think Ottawa will be strong again, especially with Karlsson still leading the charge.

Stone and Hoffman were good in 2016, but they just didn't do enough to help Karlsson lift this team into the playoffs, while Lazar wasn't quite an impact player in a sophomore slump of sorts.  This team was so terribly inconsistent, that their strengths were only on display from time to time and it wasn't nearly as good of a season that it could have been.

2017 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
Bobby Ryan 7.250 Dion Phaneuf 7.000 Craig Anderson 4.200
Mark Stone 3.500 Erik Karlsson 6.500
Kyle Turris 3.500
Mika Zibanejad 2.625
Zack Smith 1.888
Jean-Gabriel Pageau 0.900
Clarke MacArthur 4.650 Marc Methot 4.900 Andrew Hammond 1.350
Chris Neil 1.500 Mark Borowiecki 1.100 Matthew O'Connor 0.925
Curtis Lazar 0.925 Thomas Chabot 0.925 Chris Driedger 0.755
Francis Perron 0.703 Mikael Wikstrand 0.813
Nick Paul 0.670 Chris Wideman 0.800
Ryan Rupert 0.632 Andreas Englund 0.776
Vincent Dunn 0.611 Macoy Erkamps 0.655
Zach Stortini 0.600 Ben Harpur 0.653
Cody Donaghey 0.600

The injury to MacArthur was a tough pill to swallow for the Senators and it will be interesting to see if he can come back from his concussion issues to be a pool worthy forward again.  Otherwise, his $4.65 million will likely head back to the LTIR and give the Sens a little more flexibility this Summer.

The Senators have a number of young players waiting to make that jump into the big time, but no one really jumps out at us for the pool next season.  Nick Paul might be the closest of the bunch to possibly make the jump, but it looks like there is a much better chance that he will stick in the AHL for at least another season.  I don't think we'll see much in the way of rookie entries from Ottawa next season.

Needs at the 2016 Entry Draft

I don't think the Senators can say no to many players at any position right now, whether it is a scoring forward or if the best player available is a two-way defenseman.  For the Senators, their cupboards can use the best player available and so far in the mock draft, through these outlooks, the Senators will likely look upon a guy that can give them a bit of a boost in a year or two.  A scoring centre like Michael McLeod has some real upside for a Senators team that could always use a little more help down the middle.  The scouting reports say he can skate really well and has top end talent, which makes him into a great candidate for their club.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

Restricted free agency is where the team will have to put their priority, as Mike Hoffman and Cody Ceci are both in need of new deals this Summer.  Both are quality pool worthy players and will be relatively high on player lists, when it comes to the draft next season.  It will be interesting to see what effect these two will have on the overall budget for the team next season.

Unrestricted free agency will sort out a little bit of their depth, but there isn't anything too pressing out of their list this Summer.

The table above, with 29 total players, is coming in at a total cap cost of $61.9 million, so once this roster is pared down, flavoured with some more talent, like Hoffman and Ceci, this budget team should still be in great shape for the rest of the year.

It's hard to say what the new coaching regime is going to bring to this Senators team, which has a lot of the right pieces to go in the right direction in the 2017 season.  Having to guess today, I think the combination of Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford behind the bench will give an interesting dynamic about being responsible in their own zone and find new and exciting ways to break out of their zone and transition their game on the fly.  This team has the talent to make this possible, so I am leaning towards the Senators making a move for the playoffs next season, barring any unforeseen circumstances, of course.
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