By Stephen Bierbrier (IG: @bytownboy)
Your Ottawa Senators start the 2017–18 campaign at home on October 5 versus Ovi8 and the Washington Capitals. Before they hit the ice, Apt613 wants to get you all caught up with the team, and what to expect this season.
In case you missed it:
Apt613 preview grade: B
If we are looking into the here and now, Ottawa’s goalie tandem is more than adequate for the next 82 games. Craig Anderson (25-11-4 record, 2.28 GAA, .926 SV% last year) has proven himself to be a solid number 1, but is his career trajectory on the downturn at age 36? It’s hard to say for sure because he has always been a solid netminder and last year’s games played is an anomaly due to his time off to be with his wife Nicholle during her successful cancer treatment. Anderson didn’t look rusty in the playoffs, but he also didn’t have the 82 game physical grind on his body either.
Mike Condon was the regular season saviour in net last year (19-14-6 record, 2.48 GAA, .918 SV%). He took on the challenge of more minutes and made it work for him. After stints in Montreal and Pittsburgh, Ottawa turned into the safe landing spot to ply his trade. GM Pierre Dorion smartly re-signed Condon to a 3-year extension. With solid Guy Boucher-like team support, he should prove to be a solid 1B to Anderson.
Andrew Hammond will be providing solid goaltending leadership to the newbies in Belleville. A call up, a buyout or a trade are all possibilities for The Hamburgler in his final contract year.
Apt613 preview grade: B– without Karlsson (B with Karlsson)
This is where it gets tricky since Erik Karlsson (17 G, 54 A, 71 P) is the straw that stirs the Sens drink. Is EK65 going to be fully recovered from the surgery early enough for him to impact the team’s season? A November return date was thrown out there by Karlsson – even though he hit the ice publicly on Saturday during training camp. Too much optimism? Perhaps, but the captain has never shied from a challenge.
Who will be EK65’s playing partner now that Marc Methot has left for Dallas (via Vegas during the expansion draft)? Could it be aging warrior Dion Phaneuf? EK65 plays best when he has the trust that his back is covered defensively. That’s when he can authentically shine his talents from the hockey gods.
Johnny Oduya fitting in nicely. #whammo
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) September 24, 2017
The NHL is now a young man’s game, but Thomas Chabot is very green, and putting too much expectation on a dman is very different than a forward that Boucher can strategically place in the lineup to minimize the possible damage. Chabot won’t be able to hide and Boucher needs to trust that he can put him out on the ice in tough situations against top lines. TBD.
Cody Ceci, Mark Borowiecki, and Chris Wideman are now steady contributors to the blueline. Nothing flashy, just sticking to the D plan set up by the coach.
Relative newbies Ben Harpur and Frederik Claesson are the wildcards since they will be thrown more minutes as injuries pile up. How will they handle the increased workload under the bright NHL lights?
Free agent signing Johnny Oduya brings a little more IKEA to the backline with the blessings of EK65. The veteran Oduya may be the temporary tonic needed by Boucher to help Sens fans forget the steady play of Methot. On the other hand, Oduya may be a step too slow in today’s fast paced NHL. Only time will tell.
Apt613 preview grade: B (B+ if Hoffman and Stone produce like they have for the last 3 years)
Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, Matt Stone, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Derick Brassard, Zack Smith. Those 7 forwards make up 2 pretty decent lines for the Sens if all are healthy and firing rockets. Now, even when Boucher says that in today’s NHL there are no 1st lines v. 4th lines, let’s be clear: these players are part of the scoring machine. Offence is needed in the NHL and there is only so many PP goals that will be scored by a healthy EK65.
Right now, there is a lot of hope:
Hope that Ryan continues to drink the playoff Kool-Aid and plays with that added urgency once the puck is dropped.
Hope that Brassard’s shoulder rehab is quick and he is back in action soon.
Hope that Pageau continues to spin his magical hockey spell and produces at the most opportune time. He is just plain ol’ clutch.
Hope that Stone (22 G, 32 A, 54 P) and Hoffman (26 G, 35 A, 61 P) keep up their scoring pace from last season.
Hope that Turris can handle 1st line centre duties again until Brassard returns. Turris is an A+ 2nd line centre, but is less a natural fit as the top dog.
Hope that the young guns (Logan Brown, Colin White – injured) can produce during the regular season grind.
Hope that Alex Burrows regains his feisty playing behaviour that he was known for in Vancouver.
Hope that Boucher can maximize the productivity of each player depending on the in-game situation by matching their strengths against the opponent’s weaknesses.
Down on the farm
Binghamt… Belleville Senators. A lot closer to home for Ottawa fans. It might be worth it to road trip it down to check out the BSens in action.
Dorion is a scout at heart and he loves to stockpile young talent for the club. Belleville should be fun to watch this year. The kids will get some call-ups when the inevitable injuries take place with the parent club.
Tomorrow: watch this space for Part 3 of our Senators season preview. Ottawa starts the 2017–18 campaign at home versus the Washington Capitals on October 5. Tickets cost $32–211 online