Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators disappointed in 2015-16. After going on a miracle run to make the playoffs in 2014-15, the team never really gelled. Many players performed worse than last season. Coach Dave Cameron made many questionable decisions and often looked like a rookie coach in over his head. The Sens were the most outshot team in the league, and depended on a 34-year-old Craig Anderson to bail them out.

Not all was bad though, as team captain Erik Karlsson became the first defenceman to finish top-five in scoring since Paul Coffey in 1985-86, and the first defenceman to lead the league in assists since Bobby Orr in 1970-71. GM Bryan Murray also somehow turned problem contracts Colin Greening and Jared Cowen into a top-four NHL defenceman in Dion Phaneuf, though how long Phaneuf remains an effective NHL defender remains to be seen.

The offseason brought a lot of change. Long-time GM Bryan Murray stepped down into an advisor role, opening the door for former assistant GM Pierre Dorion to take over. He immediately made his mark, firing Dave Cameron and his staff, and bringing in Guy Boucher and Marc Crawford from the Swiss League as head coach and associate coach respectively.

He also traded young centre Mika Zibanejad for cost-controlled centre Derick Brassard from the Rangers. Though the Senators are not old, perhaps they’re realizing that with Karlsson on a bargain contract for only three more seasons, it’s time to turn some of their potential into results.

THREE QUESTIONS

  1. The Senators traded Mika Zibanejad for veteran Derick Brassard over the summer. How will that change the Sens' dynamic on forward?
  2. Who will be the Sens' top six defencemen this year? How well will they perform?
  3. What impact will new coach Guy Boucher have on the team?

BEST CASE SCENARIO

by Trevor Shackles

New coach Guy Boucher totally overhauls the team's systems, as he takes their abysmal special teams to above average while also turning the defense corps from unplayable to solid. Cody Ceci and Dion Phaneuf finally stabilize their second pairing and the third pairing doesn't get killed every single shift. Kyle Turris stays healthy and is able to return back to form, while Derick Brassard proves to be a better linemate with Bobby Ryan in comparison to Mika Zibanejad.

The team is able to get contributions from young players like Ryan Dzingel, Matt Puempel, Nick Paul, etc. in bottom-six roles. Clarke MacArthur is able to get back on the ice and play for at least most of the season, keeping the top-six forwards intact. Ottawa does not become so reliant on their high-end players and their possession numbers improve because of it. Mike Hoffman thrives under his former QMJHL coach, and Boucher helps the Senators finish in the top-3 in a crowded Atlantic Division with no clear playoff teams besides Florida and Tampa Bay.

WORST CASE SCENARIO

by Trevor Shackles

The hiring of Guy Boucher only helps so much. The small moves made in the offseason prove to be not enough, as the defense is not much better than last year, with Ceci not taking the step forward that everyone had hoped. The team stays reliant on Erik Karlsson and their possession numbers drop off dramatically without him. The team struggles to stay completely healthy, which ultimately shows their lack of depth.

The young players fighting for depth roles do not move the needle very much, meaning the bottom-six and bottom pairing stay just as bad as last season. Craig Anderson begins to show his age a bit, and so does Karlsson's partner, Marc Methot. Zack Smith and Jean-Gabriel Pageau regress after enjoying breakout seasons while the other forwards stay at about the status quo. The team’s results look no different than last year besides different systems from Boucher. After nothing breaks right for them, they finish 7th in the Atlantic Division.