Like most of us, I'm deeply concerned about the direction of this team, and I'm especially concerned about what this team will look like in in 2 years if a lot of our free agents, Mac and Bobby in particular, can't be re-signed.
I decided to look at some underlying numbers a bit more in my effort to better understand what this team might be able to do next year and determine whether we can be competitive under unfortunate circumstances, at least in the very short term. I wanted to know if we could score enough goals, play a decent possession game, and outscore our opponents this coming season.
For the purpose of this, I tried to be really conservative with what I feel we'll get done this summer. I traded Spezza to St. Louis for Sobotka and picks/prospects... this is not my ideal scenario. I also had us sign Anton Stralman to shore up our top four- we needed to spend money somewhere to hit the cap floor.
I further assumed that Andy, Gryba and Borowiecki won't be with the team next year, and that again, we got picks or prospects in return. I assumed that Da-Costa wouldn't accept our offer and that Pageau gets a full shot with Ottawa next year.
My 2014-15 cap floor Sens would line up like this
Veteran UFA goalie.
Clearly, with Maclean's propensity to shuffle line-ups, it's not realistic to assume that this is how everything would stay, but for my purposes, this is the line-up and pairings I'm going to work with.
I looked at stats for the last 2 seasons and averaged them out. I assumed some regression in cases of small sample sizes- Stone, Pageau, Hoffman and Ceci.
First I looked at goals, these are the totals I came up with for each line based on past perfomance.
Mac-Turris Ryan 69
This would give us a total of 212 goals, or 2.85 G/G for the season.
The other important thing to look at, I thought, is whether or not we'll be able to outscore our opponents.
I feel like this is something fans badly need to focus on in the wake of losing Spezza and Michalek this year. The guys could score, but 5 on 5 they got absolutely killed this past season. Between the two of them they were on the ice for 97 even strength goals for and 134 even strength goals against. That's a difference of 37 goals.
On the other hand, last year Turris and MacArthur were on the ice for 113 goals for and only 76 goals against at even strength. A difference of .... 37 goals.
This is an area where my math may not be perfect and I apologize. What I did here is average out the 5v5 GF% for each line and pairing and apply that to their above presumed goal totals- it's not perfect as it doesn't take into account how many of the goals above came on the PP or how many goals against will be scored on the penalty kill.
There's also the distinct possibility that i've simply fundamentally done my math wrong- but I think the principle is solid regardless.
Here are the GF% for each line and pairing
Mac-Turris Ryan %55.6
Phillips %42 ( I'm fantasizing that Phillips will not play a lot)
Again, while my math likely wasn't perfect in the numbers I wound up with 193 for goals against, I think the principle should be pretty obvious: The guys who are going to be scoring the most goals for us and getting the most ice time, should, based on past performance, score considerably more goals than the competition. Reducing ice time and sheltering Phillips and Zack Smith's line should only serve to amplify this outcome. In an ideal world Neil, Phillips and Greening wouldn't be on my hockey team anymore- but I get the feeling they're going to stick around.
Based on my (likely faulty) math this would mean that, at these percentages, the senators should only allow 193 goals this season.That would give us a goal differential of +19. It doesn't put us in the realm of the Boston's and Pittsburgh's of our conference, but Philly and Detroit made the playoffs with differential's of +1 and -8 respectively. No team with with a positive goal differential missed the playoffs. Even if we get smoked in special teams like we did last year, those numbers still give us a decent shot at the playoffs.
It doesn't seem reasonable, prima facie,as it would mean our goalies posting a collective GAA of 2.35 over the season. I think a massive part of getting there next year will be taking less penalties and being better on the penalty kill, and Lehner was considerably better on the penalty kill last year than Anderson:
One thing that I think will help us stay out of the box is a strong possession game
Here are the Corsi for % numbers for this lineup:
*I've left the numbers for those with small sample size the same as last year and that should be taken into account especially as these are players who are potentially most vulnerable to regression based on increased responsibility and higher quality of competition.
Mac-Turris Ryan %51.5
So, what we potentially have here, is a barely 52 Million dollar team that I think could have a reasonable shot at the playoffs next year based on really solid possession numbers across the board, and pretty pervasively positive GF/GA numbers from the last two years. I think the additions of Sobotka and Stralman really help to strengthen our possession numbers and our depth, and in all honesty I believe that we'll get more than Sobotka and picks for Spezza.
I think that Stralman and Wiercioch would be really dynamic together and help take some of the pressure off Karlsson to do everything. I would be pretty afraid of the Cowen, Ceci pairing, but I'd still take it over Phillips. I doubt management shares my sentiment though. I think their underlying numbers aren't too bad, and that giving them extremely sheltered minutes to start the season could really help them build confidence and develop into a balanced pairing that we could really lean on in the future.
I understand that this presumes that we won't have any major slumps or injuries, but it also presumes that none of the players above, or others in Binghamton will have seasons that wildly exceed expectations.
Again, this is by no means my ideal scenario, but I don't think we need to crap our collective pants if the return for Spezza isn't as exorbitant as we're all hoping. The team does have more revenue coming in this year, and Melnyk has claimed in the past that we will be a "mid-cap" team,. if that means we have up to an extra 8 million to put towards another solid D man or top 6 winger, I think that puts us in an excellent position to be a team worth keeping an eye on next year.
Ultimately though, with the right lines and deployment, a bounce back season from Lehner, Cowen and Wiercioch and some fairly reasonable moves this off season, I don't think we necessarily have to be a terrible team next year.