If there were to be a ranking of teams based on whether or not they overachieved or underachieved, the Senators last season would lead the league for overachievers.
They dealt with a list of injuries to stay players Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza, was among the lowest scoring teams in the Eastern conference, and they still managed to not only make the playoffs but upset Montreal in the first round. That’s what happens when you have the Jack Adams Award winner behind the bench and a GM who made all the right moves when it came to scouting and introducing younger players to the lineup.
While Paul MacLean will deal with the loss of Daniel Alfredsson and Sergei Gonchar, he has the benefit of a younger squad who experienced a playoff win last season and will have additional firepower to make a deeper playoff run.
The Senators 2.41 goals per game last season was among the lowest in the league last season. They were 12th of 15 East teams and was easily the lowest scoring team to make the playoffs. But that’s what happened when you lose your most dependable scorer (Spezza) and a Norris Trophy winner who adds fire power on the offensive side of the blue line.
With both players back, expect the Sens to score more goals per game. Despite the loss of Alfredsson, the Sens replaced him with Bobby Ryan the same day. It’s hard to disagree that is an upgrade since Ryan is still on the upswing of his career while Alfredsson has a couple seasons left. Ottawa furthermore added Clarke MacArthur from Toronto, who has the potential to reach the 20-goal mark.
Look for forwards Kyle Turris and Cory Concacher to join Ryan as the leading scorers on the team. Concacher was acquired from Tampa Bay when the Sens traded away goalie Ben Bishop. Other depth players who will contribute include Milan Mihalek, Mika Zibanejad and Erik Condra. Expect those players to earn more playing time this season.
The power play unit was in the bottom half of the league at 20th, but the positive was they allowed only one shorthanded goal
For as inefficient the offense was, what was their saving grace was defense. They were the league’s best penalty kill unit at 80 percent, and the defensive unit came together to make up for the loss of Karlsson. The key to MacLean winning the Jack Adams Award was their ability to coach up the unit that featured one star, a few veterans and a few young players who flourished. Gonchar may be gone, but they still have Marc Methot, Chris Phillips and Patrick Wiercioch.
Last year they had a goaltending controversy between Craig Anderson and Ben Bishop, but it was Anderson who proved himself to be one of the best starting goalies in the conference and Bishop was used as a pawn in the trade to Tampa Bay for Concacher. Anderson had a standout season when he lef the league with a 1.69 GAA and .941 save percentage.
Robin Lehner turned in a respectful season as a backup in 12 starts. He went 5-3-4 with a 2.2 GAA and .936 save percentage.
The Sens can be a playoff team if they can replicate the play of key players from last season. They’ll have Karlsson and Spezza back, which can only help their offense. The defense and goaltending is expected to be good like they were last season.