The Ottawa Senators season is only six games old, but that doesn't mean we can't look at advanced stats to see how things are going. It's a small sample for sure, and I won't be making any conclusions. However, these six games are still significant, and the data that I looked into is valuable.
I took at look at how the team was doing as a whole, and also how all the individuals were doing. The team stats are pretty simple, and here is how they rank for various stats (at 5 on 5).
It's interesting, because if you look at their actual results based on goals scored, they don't look too bad. They are exactly average in GF%, and they are a top 10 scoring team in the league. However, you can see that a bit of that has been luck driven. Their corsi numbers do not look so great, as they are giving up the 4th most shot attempts per game. We know that that isn't a recipe for success, and maybe one team per season is able to somehow keep it up like Calgary or Colorado.
However, we can't bank on the team to shoot at high percentages as a whole. The team save percentage (at 5 on 5) is actually near the middle, so a PDO at 10th doesn't scream "unsustainable." The problem is, even with slightly above average luck, it's hard to consistently win games when you are being outshot. The game against Nashville was the first time Ottawa had outshot their opponent, and if I were to look at the stats before that game, the numbers would have looked even worse.
I am going to try to emphasize this very clearly so that I don't get blasted for this: I know that this is too small of a sample size to conclude anything, but if this trend stays the same, then it won't be looking good for the Senators. If you recall, last year the year began quite similarly. Ottawa actually had a good record of 4-1 to begin, but being outshot night in and night out proved to be a recipe for disaster.
By the time it was early December, it was looking like the Senators were heading for the basement. Luckily Paul MacLean was fired, and Ottawa began to improve their play with a much better lineup under Dave Cameron. We know that having such bad possession numbers may not last forever, but for the first few months of last season, they were not a good team. And if the first six games are a sign of things to come, then I don't see how they can improve on last season in a competitive Eastern Conference.
The beginning of the season has also shown that the Senators are very top-heavy. Here are some stats for all the players:
The possession stats are listed at 5 on 5, but the SH% and points are for overall numbers. As you can see, Ottawa's top players like Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, and Erik Karlsson are scoring at fantastic rates, whereas everybody else not so much.
While the HST line has been playing out of their mind, and they are legitimately great, Ottawa can't rely on them too much the rest of the season. Hoffman is shooting 16.8%, which is the lowest on that line. Perhaps the first line is able to keep this up, but good teams will have more than just one line that scores. Along with the HST line, only Erik Karlsson has actually produced so far. Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan have good point totals, but they got a bit of a boost thanks to two empty-net goals. Plus it isn't encouraging that the both of them are near the bottom of the team for possession.
Clarke MacArthur looks predictably fantastic in his underlying numbers, but now he is out indefinitely. So the Senators better hope that when the inevitable regression comes for the first line that the other three lines step up their game. Zibanejad and Ryan specifically need to be much better, although perhaps the only solution is to put someone like Hoffman on their line to even out the top six.
Only five players have positive possession numbers to start the year, which isn't exactly surprising. The good news is that the Senators have a lethal first line/first pairing to use, but the bad news is that the rest of the lineup has been underwhelming.
Hopefully some players can begin to turn things around, because I'm confident that a lot of these players can be much better than they have shown. I still think this is a playoff team, but that won't happen if they continue to play like they have in the first six games.
The possession stats are a bit concerning through the first two weeks, but if you think the sky is falling, just remember: the same thing happened last year, and their numbers ended up evening out. I still think they desperately need another defenceman, but even with the group they have now they are capable of being better.
As long as they show signs of improvement over the next few weeks, then I will be pretty happy. It's an extremely long season, and we aren't even close to drawing any conclusions with this team.