Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators: The Maple Leafs Are Coming!

Let’s take a look at what the Ottawa Senators have done so far in free agency. 

Ceci/Zaitsev Swap

The Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Maple Leafs finally completed the Zaitsev trade. I am a little confused at this one. Ottawa paid Toronto to take on a bad contract, shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t like Cody Ceci as a player whatsoever and the Sens management finally answered longtime prayers from the fanbase by trading the struggling defenseman.

I believe that if Ceci were used in the right capacity, he could be an effective top 4 defenseman in the NHL. However, he was never used in the right capacity in Ottawa. Ceci is a puck moving defenseman who was used as a shutdown defenseman and he simply does not have the skill set to be a shutdown defenseman. Let’s see what happens with Ceci next, does he re-sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs? Or does he move on?

Ron Hainsey

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Next, the Ottawa Senators signed Ron Hainsey to a one year contract at a 3.5 million cap hit. I like this signing, he can help mold guys like Thomas Chabot and Erik Brannstrom into high caliber defenseman. While Chabot and Brannstrom are remarkable talents, it doesn’t hurt having a guy like Hainsey in the locker room to help them mature.

Hainsey is a decent defenseman, but he brings a lot more to the table than his on ice play. Remember, this guy won the cup his first two times playing in the postseason. He knows what it takes to win, he is a voice in the locker room and he can mentor everyone. As much as I think Ottawa overpaid for him, we need to get to the cap floor, and I think the signing is actually a pretty good one.

Tyler Ennis

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The next move was signing Tyler Ennis. Ennis signed with the Sens at 800k for one year.

I don’t know how to feel about this signing. He has jumped around the league recently and I don’t really get the point in this signing. Tyler Ennis went from Buffalo to Minnesota and then he went to Toronto. Does this show that he isn’t the most coachable player? Or does it mean that new Sens coach, D.J. Smith likes him a lot and just wanted him to come along?

Former Sens coach Guy Boucher had a few players like this, Tom Pyatt and Nate Thompson to name a few. I think Tyler Ennis is the same type of signing that Pyatt and Thompson were a few years back. Let’s see what happens.

Sticking To Rebuilding

Instead of using the massive amount of cap space the team to sign superstars, Pierre Dorion sticked to his rebuilding plan and made a few depth signings. I do not believe that Dorion is done yet tho, he has a few more things up his sleeves. For example, he needs to sign Colin White and he should sign Thomas Chabot as quickly as possible to avoid a situation like in Toronto where it took half the season to sign Nylander.

stats from hockey-reference.com

research from CapFriendly.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Who Has The Best Shot Of Winning The Vezina?

Usually when people talk about the Vezina trophy, and who wins it, most people mention names like Sergei Bobrovsky, Carey Price, Braden Holtby, amongst others. However, none of the names I have mentioned above were nominated this year.

The nominees are Ben Bishop, Robin Lehner, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. I’m gonna talk about each nominee and who I believe will win the trophy for the NHL’s best goalie this year.

Vasilevskiy

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Let’s start off with Andrei Vasilevskiy. From the get-go in his NHL career, the Russian goaltender was truly impressive. In his first two years that he was the starting goaltender, he’s been nominated for the Vezina both years.

This past season, Vasilevskiy posted a 39-10-4 record this year. Without Vasilevskiy, the Bolts would not have had as near as a good season as they did, and I won’t talk about the playoffs because we all know how those ended for the Bolts. But, looking back on the season, Vasilevskiy also posted a .925 SV%. That’s ridiculously good. Plus, he posted a 2.40 GAA.

Although the 24 year old has had yet another amazing year, I do not believe he will win the trophy this year.

Bishop

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Bishop played fewer games than Vasilevskiy, but outplayed him in the amount of games that he did play. He posted a 27-15-2 record while playing 46 games and finishing with a 1.98 GAA and .934 SV%. I believe Ben Bishop had one of the best years in his career. This year was a lot better for Bishop than his first year in Dallas (last season). Last season wasn’t a bad season for Bishop, but it was no where as close to what he was able to pull of this season. In 53 games played last season, he posted a record of 26-17-5, a 2.49 GAA and a .916 SV%.  

Even though he had a spectacular season, I do not think he wins it this year. I think he is a close second.

Lehner

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Robin Lehner. I could simply describe his season in one word. Wow.

To me he is the clear winner of the Vezina. Being a Senators fan, I’ve always had a liking for Lehner. Even though he was not the most solid net-minder when he played for the nation’s capital, I still enjoyed watching him play and still do.

This year, Lehner posted a 25-13-5 record in 46 games this year in his first year with Long Island. He also recorded a .930 SV% and a 2.13 GAA. Easily the best numbers in his rollercoaster of a career. For me, what makes Lehner the winner of this trophy is the way he took the challenge of being the starting goalie of a team that was believed by many to be in the dumps this year and took them to the playoffs. He helped the Islanders make the playoffs after the face of their franchise left the year before. And Lehner accomplished this while struggling with his inner demons. I think he’s finally found his home in the NHL and for me he wins the trophy.

Conclusion

In conclusion, all nominees have their own arguments for why they deserve the trophy, however I believe that Robin Lehner truly was the best goaltender in the NHL this year.

Ottawa Senators

A busy offseason for the Ottawa Senators

The Stanley Cup Playoffs aren’t even finished yet but the Ottawa Senators have made a lot of changes in their long and extremely important offseason.

The first very needed move came with firing coach Guy Boucher. In 228 games as the Senators coach, Boucher posted a 94-108-26 record. His first year as coach the Sens had an amazing year, finishing one goal away from the Stanley Cup Final. However, the next two seasons weren’t so pretty for the nation’s capital. Ottawa has since embarked on a complete rebuild, trading multiple star players and ultimately firing the coach.

When you fire your coach, you need to find a new one. Pierre Dorion decided to hire former Toronto Assistant Coach, DJ Smith as coach for the Ottawa Senators. This is going to be Smith’s first time as a Head Coach in the National Hockey League. Smith brings a lot of key characteristics in a coach that the Senators were looking for. Smith brings experience, having coached in successful teams, in junior and the NHL. He helped the rebuild in Toronto and has been through it all before. He brings a new mindset that the players will buy into. He brings good communication skills, and plenty of history of player development.

The next move came with signing top prospect Josh Norris to an entry level contract. Norris was involved in the Erik Karlsson trade. He has a lot of potential in the NHL, as he could be the Sens’ first line center of the future.

The next move came in locking up goaltender Anders Nilsson to a 2 year contract. I will not deliberate more on this move as my colleague Daniel Gagnon has already written about this move.

Another move that was not talked much about was the signing of Olie Alsing. A Swedish puck moving defenseman. He could potentially get a shot at the NHL with the Sens this year.

Changes to the front office came to as the COO, Nick Ruszkowski resigned. Eugene Melnyk decided to hire a bunch of his friends to fill in spots in the front office and the Sens will move into next year with a more empty front office. These hires include Brian Crombie, as CFO, Mark Bonneau, as Chief Revenue Officer, and Rob Mullowney, as Senior Director of Sales.

As of now, those were the moves made by the Ottawa Senators and it is safe to say, there will be many many more to come.

Featured Image Credit: Nikos Michals

Ottawa Senators

Ottawa Senators Prospect Report

Recently, our official twitter handle posted a poll asking which team had the best prospect pool in the NHL and that inspired me to evaluate the Ottawa Senators prospect pool.

Erik Brannstrom, D, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Brannstrom clearly gets an A+. He’s been outstanding with the Belleville Senators since coming over in the Mark Stone trade. Many scouts around the league compare him to a former Senator, Erik Karlsson. Brannstrom is a skilled puck-moving defenseman and has modeled his game after Karlsson. I believe that he’ll be a top 5 defenseman in the NHL for many years to come. He should be able to crack the full-time roster next season.

Logan Brown, C, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Logan Brown was drafted by the Sens in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He projects to be the ideal middle 6 center in the NHL in my opinion. I grade Brown as a B+/A- prospect. While I do like Brown, I prefer Colin White in a top 6. I believe that Logan Brown needs a bit more seasoning in order to make the full time jump to the NHL. While call aren’t out of the question, I believe that he will start the 2021-22 season with the Senators.

Drake Batherson, C/RW, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Drake Batherson is an A prospect. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He’s a solid play-maker and has been leading the Belleville Senators in assists with 35. In addition, he’s averaging 1.08 points per game this season in the AHL. Those are excellent numbers and he’s clearly shown that he’s ready for the NHL. He projects to be a top 6 centre, but does have experience playing right-wing. 

Vitali Abramov, LW/RW, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Acquired in the Matt Duchene trade, the Russian winger is seen as a high risk, high reward type player. Abramov was drafted in the third round in 2016. He projects to be a top 6 winger. From what I’ve seen from Abramov. he very much looks like a grade A prospect. The best way to describe this player is with the EA NHL game series potential of “low elite”. He is a player who could either pan out to be an elite player in the NHL or be a complete bust and not fail to make it onto an NHL roster. I believe he has a chance to make the NHL starting next season.

Filip Gustavsson, G, Brampton Beast (ECHL)

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This Swedish goaltender was acquired in the three-way trade that sent Derick Brassard to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Gustavsson is regarded as one of the better goaltender prospects in the NHL. Gustavsson projects to be an amazing starting goaltender in the NHL. He’s had a rough year in North America as he’s jumped between the AHL and ECHL’s Brampton Beast.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t much success in either league. However, it is his first full season in North America, so I expect him to bounce back next season. Gustavsson gets an A rating from me. I expect him to crack the NHL lineup in the 2020-2021 season.

Joel “Joey” Daccord, G, University of Arizona (NCAA)

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The 22 year old American goalie has been phenomenal this season in the NCAA. He’s posting numbers that are out of this world. Daccord was drafted in the 7th round in the 2015 draft and at the time was regarded by many as a throw away pick. From discussions with my peers and after conducting my own research, I expect Daccord to be a grade A- prospect. I consider him as a low risk, high reward type goalie. He could become elite, but if he doesn’t, he was just a 7th round pick. I expect him to make the jump to the NHL in a few years, possibly in the 2021-22 season as a 24 year old, backing up Filip Gustavsson.

Filip Chlapik, C, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Centre prospect Filip Chlapik was drafted in the second round in the 2015 draft and has been a question mark for the Sens. My opinion varies on this player as he has just been a weird player in my opinion. In 50 AHL games, at the time of this article, he has 33 points. While it’s a respectable season points-wise, I don’t know if Chlapik will be very pivotal in the NHL and my prediction is that Ottawa will trade him for assets as the Sens have a tremendous amount of centre depth. I see him as a B- prospect.

Jacob Bernard-Docker, D, University of North Dakota (NCAA)

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The first round pick of this past draft is an interesting player too. Before the draft, I do not remember ever hearing his name in anybody’s mock draft.  Jacob Bernard-Docker strikes me as a potential top 4 defensemen on an NHL roster. He’s stellar in the offensive zone and tallies points, but he’s solid all around. My prediction is that Ottawa will keep either him or Max Lajoie and trade the other. I see him as a B+ prospect and I predict he will jump to the NHL in a couple years, possibly the 2020-21 season.

Jonny Tychonik, D, University of North Dakota (NCAA)

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Like his teammate Bernard-Docker, I believe he is an ideal top 4 defensemen. I think he will take Cody Ceci‘s spot in the lineup in two years, as he and Bernard-Docker should make the jump at the same time. The Senators need Jonny Tychonik as he is easily the best right handed defensemen in the system. He’s a B+ prospect.

Jonathan Davidsson, RW, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)

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Offensive winger Jonathan Davidsson is seen as a good offensive prospect. Currently playing overseas with Djurgårdens IF in the Swedish Hockey League, he’s a former 6th round selection and was acquired from Columbus at this year’s trade deadline. While he started the season well, he is currently dealing with a concussion. He’s a couple seasons away from joining the Senators full-time at the NHL level.  

Marcus Hogberg, G, Belleville Senators (AHL)

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Marcus Hogberg grades out at a B-. Hogberg had a good stretch earlier in the year in the NHL, but he was only in the big leagues due to necessity. Hogberg projects to be an ideal backup in the league and once Ottawa decides on either Daccord or Gustavsson, Hogberg could serve as either’s backup.

Young Guns on the Roster

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Some Senators prospects have made the jump to the NHL already, including Brady Tkachuk, Colin White and Thomas Chabot. All three have had breakthrough seasons in the NHL and they are all regarded as A+ prospects. Tkachuk and White were second and third in rookie scoring for a good chunk of the season and Chabot has been in the top 10 in points for defensemen almost all season.

The Ottawa Senators have a promising future and I hope all the prospects will realize their full potentials. Please tweet me @GrindLikeJags with your opinions and if I missed anyone significant.

All stats and references come from hockey-reference.com, eliteprospects.com and NHL.com.

Feature Image credeit to Nikos Michals

Ottawa Senators

Is Adding Duclair The Best Thing To Happen To The Ottawa Senators?

After trading away Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Mark Stone away this past trade deadline, I believed, just like many other Ottawa Senators fans, that the Ottawa Senators has lost all of their goal scorers. I even joked saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sens didn’t score a goal for the remainder of the season. It’s safe to say that I have been pleasantly surprised.

Anthony Duclair

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The trade that sent Matt Duchene to the Columbus Blue Jackets involved Anthony Duclair finding his fifth NHL team in his young career.

At first I was skeptical, hearing that he was “impossible to coach” or a tyrant in the locker room. Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella did not like him and did not give him enough chances in Columbus to prove his worth and I believed that acquiring Duclair was a mistake.

But, I was wrong. Duclair has bounced back tremendously and has easily been one of Ottawa’s best players. While making the league minimum at 650k for the remainder of this season, Duclair is showing that he’s worth a lot more as he’s been scoring a ton in Ottawa.  He’s also been a very complete player. The young 23 year old has complemented the rebuilding Senators roster greatly and has proven his worth as a former first rounder draft pick.

It is not clear however if GM Pierre Dorion will decide to keep the winger past this season, as his contract expires. I believe moving on from Duclair will be a mistake, but at the same time he should not be given a massive contract… yet. The Ottawa Senators has easily been the best thing to happen to Duclair, but it could all be an illusion, and paying big bucks to keep him in the red and gold could be a mistake. I believe that he should receive a bridge deal for 2-3 years to see if he can continue to succeed in the rebuild. This would easily be the best move for Ottawa under Pierre Dorion’s reign should Duclair grow to become an elite top 6 winger in the NHL at a consistent level.

Brady Tkachuk

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Another pleasant surprise is Brady Tkachuk.

Entering the year, all Ottawa Senators fans knew that the first rounder was something special, but nobody expected him to be a 20 goal scorer in his rookie year. As of the time of this article, Brady Tkachuk leads the team with 19 goals and it is highly likely that he reached the 20-25 mark by the end of the season.

This will help Ottawa Fans regain hope in a struggling team. Brady Tkachuk has thrived under the pressure ever since Mark Stone, whom many fans believed would be the next Captain was traded. In my opinion, the best way to describe this would be that Mark Stone was to Brady Tkachuk what Erik Karlsson was to Thomas Chabot. Last year was Thomas Chabot’s rookie year and he played surprisingly well. Ottawa fans knew how great he was, but didn’t expect him to excel as much as he did in his rookie year. Karlsson mentored the young defenseman and the time that he spent with Chabot truly paid dividends. Thomas Chabot leads the team in points and is already seen as a legitimate number one defenseman in the NHL.

The Future Is Bright

In conclusion, the rebuild has been a tough pill to swallow, however bright spots like Brady Tkachuk, Thomas Chabot, Anthony Duclair and more have been crucial to the Senators hopes at one day becoming competitive again. And this is why, I believe that acquiring Anthony Duclair could be one of, if not the best thing to happen to the Ottawa Senators in recent history.

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals