Ottawa Senators, 2009-10
Goals For: 225 16th
Goals Against: 238 19th
GVT: -13 20th
Points: 94 13th
Ottawa Senators, VUKOTA Projection for 2010-11
Goals For: 231 15th
Goals Against: 233 15th
GVT: -3 16th
Points: 90 16th
With their early season struggles, you wonder if VUKOTA was a bit too kind to the Ottawa Senators. Then again, while the likes of Daniel Alfredsson, Alex Kovalev and Jason Spezza are getting older, it makes sense that the addition of power play quarterback Sergei Gonchar and the development of young defenseman Erik Karlsson would offset that loss of offensive production. And while it’s strange to think that a goal prevention unit anchored by Brian Elliott and especially Pascal Leclaire could be league average, it’s not like they were in the bottom third to begin with, and that was even with the abysmal season put in by the former Blue Jacket netminder. That’s a testament to team defense, and regression to the mean.
In not re-signing trade deadline acquisition Andy Sutton and long time defensive stalwart Anton Volchenkov, the Senators bid adieu to their two top shot blockers and their biggest hitting blueliners.
Senators top forwards, by 2009-10 stats
Shots/60: Jesse Winchester 8.9, Jason Spezza 8.7, Mike Fisher 8.5
Hits/60: Jesse Winchester 10.4, Chris Neil 8.4, Mike Fisher 8.4
Blocked shots/60: Mike Fisher 3.2, Jarkko Ruutu 2.5, Jesse Winchester 2.3
Takeaways/giveaway: Ryan Shannon 3.1, Nick Foligno 3.0, Peter Regin 2.6
Net penalties/60: Milan Michalek +0.8, Jason Spezza +0.5, Alex Kovalev +0.4
Faceoffs: Mike Fisher 52.0%, Jason Spezza 50.5%
Senators top defensemen, by 2009-10 stats
Shots/60: Erik Karlsson 5.6, Sergei Gonchar 5.5*, Filip Kuba 4.5#
Hits/60: Matt Carkner 5.6, Chris Campoli 5.1, Chris Phillips 3.2
Blocked shots/60: Matt Carkner 5.5, Chris Phillips 4.7, Filip Kuba 4.3#
Takeaways/giveaway: Chris Campoli 0.7, Erik Karlsson 0.7, Filip Kuba 0.5#
Net penalties/60: Erik Karlsson +0.3, Chris Campoli +0.0, Chris Phillips -0.2
Minimum 40 games played
Senators goaltenders, 2009-10 stats
When netminding options range from nearly average (Elliott) to hideous (Leclaire), wouldn’t it be in the best interests of a playoff contender to discover if they have an elite option in their farm system? We understand that a 3-0 record with one shutout (Brodeur) doesn’t make a career, but it sure was a heck of a nice start.
Save percentage: .887
Even strength save percentage: .889
Power play save percentage: .873
Shorthanded save percentage: .944
Save percentage: .909
Even strength save percentage: .907
Power play save percentage: .904
Shorthanded save percentage: .963
Mike Brodeur (3 games)
Save percentage: .966
Even strength save percentage: .955
Power play save percentage: 1.000
Shorthanded save percentage: N/A
It probably shouldn’t surprise you that Ottawa’s below average goaltending is slightly below average in the shootout as well. Hello, Mike Brodeur? Anyone? The Senators do have a stable of good to very good shooters, though, which should serve them well in cases where the contest goes to extra frames. It would still be worthwhile for Ottawa to explore other options—Erik Karlsson comes to mind—to discover if the Senators have an Erik Christensen- or Jussi Jokinen-type shootout savant in their midst.
Best options, shooters with 10 or more career attempts
Jarkko Ruutu, 44.4% (8 for 18)
Alex Kovalev, 40.5% (17 for 37)
Jason Spezza, 35.7% (10 for 28)
Best options, shooters with a limited track record
Ryan Shannon, 30.0% (3 for 10)
Milan Michalek, 25.0% (2 for 8)
Sergei Gonchar, 25.0% (1 for 4)
Pascal Leclaire: .638 career (44 for 69), .500 in 2009-10
Brian Elliott: .649 career (24 for 37), .667 in 2009-10
THE BIG QUESTIONS FACING THE SENATORS
Big Question #1: How does Ottawa improve their goaltending?
Goaltender Brian Elliott (on his play in a 5-4 preseason shootout loss—on 26 shots against—to the Rangers): “It was just one of those weird games, with lucky bounces on either side. I think [Lundqvist] played well. I think I played well for the most part. Thankfully, it’s still preseason. We get to a battle like this and it shows us where we need to be in our intensity level, and I think it’s a good measuring stick.”
And from the head coach: no comment. Heading into the season, Cory Clouston was reluctant to respond to questions about Ottawa’s goaltending situation. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire?
VUKOTA says: Brian Elliott 38 GP, .906 save percentage, 1.9 GVT. Pascal Leclaire 20 GP, .895 save percentage, -4.5 GVT. Mike Brodeur 16 GP .913 save percentage, 3.2 GVT.
Timo says: Dump Pascal Leclaire (e.g. trade, waive, abandon in wilderness), use Brian Elliott as a placeholder, give Mike Brodeur a chance to prove himself, pray that prospect Robin Lehner develops quickly and go with Plan E if/when all else fails. And yes, I still find it comical that so many pundits thought the Leclaire pickup last offseason was a great brainwave on behalf of GM Bryan Murray.
Answer: The answer’s not on the NHL roster. Go with Plan C, D or E.
Big Question #2: Will Sergei Gonchar vastly improve Ottawa’s mediocre power play?
Head coach Cory Clouston (on what he liked about Ottawa’s power play in preseason play against New York on October 1): “Puck possession and making better decisions. Obviously goaltending’s a very big part of [the Rangers’] game and without [Lundqvist] we could have had one or two more. We had some good shots with traffic and just couldn’t bang some rebounds, but…it’s definitely a good step in the right direction.”
VUKOTA says: Sergei Gonchar 57 GP, 9 G, 32 A, 41 P, 6.2 OGVT, 2.7 DGVT, 8.9 GVT.
Timo says: Gonchar was not to blame for the Penguins’ consistently below average power play of recent years—Pittsburgh failed despite his talent and contributions. While the veteran defenseman is a mediocre even strength player and penalty killer, his presence on the man advantage was immediately apparent on the Senators. Hopefully, Gonchar can connect with some of last season’s no shows, like countryman Alex Kovalev. In any case, there’s no doubt he’ll improve Ottawa’s power play.
Answer: If he can stay on the ice, definitely.
Big Question #3: How long can the old guard hold out, and where are the reinforcements?
VUKOTA says: Captain Daniel Alfredsson will drop to 60 points and 9.6 GVT, Alex Kovalev to 45 points and 5.6 GVT and Sergei Gonchar to 41 points and 8.9 GVT.
Hockey Prospectus 2010-11 says: Two Senators made our Top 50 Prospects (per Corey Pronman), puck-moving former University of Denver defenseman Patrick Wiercioch #20, and big 6’5” blueliner Jared Cowen #46, who’s rounding into shape after coming off a knee injury.
Timo says: Ottawa’s top prospects, such as Erik Karlsson, Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen are all on the blueline. The Senators’ farm system lacks high level forwards and features only one goaltending prospect of note, 19-year-old Swede Robin Lehner.
Answer: You might get one more representative season out of the old guard, but the end’s near—which is not to say that younger veterans, like Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher, don’t have several years left in their prime. While the farm system’s got talent, the blue chippers are almost entirely on defense…leaving plenty of holes at forward and goaltender that will need to be creatively filled by management.
Timo Seppa runs the statistical hockey site Ice Hockey Metrics and is co-editor of Hockey Prospectus 2010-11. Follow Timo on Twitter at @timoseppa.
Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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