What a season. That's the phrase I keep coming back to. There's really no way to describe it. There were lots of ups and downs all year, enough that in January, I'd say that the fanbase was equally split between tanking for Connor McDavid and still playing to win. Thankfully for us, the team didn't tank, they went on a historic run to the playoffs, and lots of players trended up this year.
Biggest gains: Mark Stone
This guy came in as a fourth-liner and occasional healthy scratch, who saw spot duty on the second powerplay unit. He finished the season as a Calder Trophy finalist, tied for first among rookies in points. He led the league (not just rookies) in takeaways. He was fifth in the entire league in points in 2015. Some of us who'd been following the Sens knew he had the potential to be a special player. Now the cat's out of the bag. Mark Stone will arguably be the Sens' most dangerous forward next year.
Second place: Andrew Hammond
WIthout a doubt, the Hamburglar was the Sens' feel-good story of the year. An undrafted 27-year-old, signed last year because the Sens needed someone to fill the net in Binghamton before guys like Marcus Hogberg showed up, who set the NHL on fire to end the season. His ridiculous start to his career has been talked about so much. No one knows how the dust will settle, but two things are for sure: Hammond will have an NHL contract next year with some team, and he will have free McDonald's for the rest of his life. Not bad at all.
Bronze medal: Erik Karlsson
A lot of possibilities here, but I pick Karlsson, because he finished as a Norris Trophy finalist for the second time in his career. We all know that Karlsson led defensemen in points once again. We also know that he accomplished this despite starting the year paired with Chris Phillips. What I saw most this year was the mainstream media noticing just how good he is. For a long time, Karlsson's had to deal with the label of being an "offenseman". This year, prominent people were championing him for the Norris trophy. When even Glenn Healy and Nick Kypreos are talking about how good Karlsson is at everything, you realize just how important this year has been for league-wide perception of him. It's also hard to remember now, but this was Karlsson's first year as captain. He was given more responsibility, and he rose to the occasion, proving once again that he is far and away this team's best player.
Big losses: Alex Chiasson
He was probably the centrepiece of the Jason Spezza deal, because he was the only NHL player in the deal. He was given every chance to succeed, with lots of time on the first couple lines and lots of powerplay time. His production dropped off as the season wore on. He finished the year as a fourth-liner, scratched a couple times for Chris Neil in the playoffs. Of the five RFA-to-be Senators who saw significant NHL time this past season, Chiasson has to be seen as the least important to the team's future.
Bigger losses: Chris Phillips
Phillips started the year in over his head, on the Sens' top pairing with EK. However, when Dave Cameron took over, he started to healthy scratch Phillips for some games. Most fans were confident that because of his history with the team, Phillips would never be scratched even though he had become slow and ineffective. Instead, Phillips was in-and-out right up until he set a franchise record in his 1179th game, after which he was out with "injury". He had surgery recently, and expects to be ready for the fall. With Cameron coming back as coach, I think it's reasonable to expect Phillips to show up in maybe a third of the games. That's a pretty big fall for an assistant captain.
Biggest losses: Jared Cowen
Two years ago, Cowen was the golden prospect on defence, offered an 8-year contract. In the 2014 offseason, he was touted as a bounce-back candidate. This year, he didn't bounce back. He was scratched a few games early in the year, came back and played OK, and then tailed off again. In the spring, he got himself suspended. Patrick Wiercioch stepped in, and Cowen never got his spot back. Management keeps saying they have faith in him. They also revealed he had a sports hernia that needs surgery. However, there's no way he got that from sitting in the press box. He lost his spot. I can't help but think that he's looking at being the sixth or seventh defender at best on this team next year.
|Craig Anderson||It's easy to forget in the wake of injuries, but he put up a .923 save percentage this season. He topped that off with a .972 in the playoffs to go along with a 0.97 GAA. If Andy gets shopped this offseason, it'll only be for a big return.
||His career NHL stat-line: 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%. Of course, it came in only 23 minutes of play. Next year the AHL crease will be his.
|Andrew Hammond||See Second Place
|Robin Lehner||Only finished with a .905 save percentage, and we've come to expect more. Looked like he was going to get a shot to be the starter early in the season, but faltered later, and then injury derailed everything. May have lost his spot as goalie of the future.
|Mark Borowiecki||I don't know what I expected from Boro. His season was good if you like fighting, was fine if you like hits, was mediocre if you like stable defence. We learned that he was playing with a sports hernia in the playoffs, so maybe he'll be better next year. Boro-Gryba was functional as a pairing, but not the kind of third pairing that wins you championships.
|Cody Ceci||A tentative up arrow because Ceci only got 21 points, but it's important to remember he's also only 21 years old. He had some lapses, but he definitely showed that he can grow into being a reliable top-four defenseman. It helps when he has a competent partner instead of Cowen. He looked nervous in the playoffs, but I think he's still growing. He can handle the point on a second powerplay unit, and has shown that he has sweet hand-eye.
|Jared Cowen||THIS YEAR'S BIGGEST LOSER
|Eric Gryba||Gryba gave you exactly what you expect from him this year: adequate third-pairing minutes, and the ability to clear the puck on the PK. Can't say it was a great year for him. In the playoffs, he seemed to get caught with the puck in his own end a few too many times. I'd guess that he's the D-man the Sens move this offseason: he has no offensive flair, he's not a gritty or enforcer type, and he's not from the Ottawa area.
|Erik Karlsson||See Bronze Medal
|Marc Methot||His return from injury gave the Sens a second top-four defenseman. Whether or not he's the ideal partner for Karlsson, he was the best partner on this team. For letting Karlsson do his thing, it's a big up year for Methot too.
|Chris Phillips||See Bigger Losses. #PhillipsRetirementWatch2015 will be a thing this summer, I promise you
|Patrick Wiercioch||From oft-scratched to the team's leading scorer in the playoffs. I can't imagine how frustrating the beginning of the year would've been, and how great the ending would've felt. Almost dealt at the trade deadline, and now he's on Team Canada at the World Championships. It took a while, but it ended up being a great season for him.
|Alex Chiasson||See Big Losses.
|Erik Condra||Went from being a common healthy scratch to part of what some called the best third line in hockey. Even if he is a cap casualty in Ottawa this summer, hard to see him not getting an offer somewhere else.
|Colin Greening||Probably could've been one of the biggest losers, but he played so little time for the time this year I didn't think it was fair to consider him. He's not part of Ottawa's future, that's for certain.
|Mike Hoffman||He may have faded in the back half of the season, but his 27 goals still led all rookies. He's come a long way from being waived last season.
|Curtis Lazar||Had a pretty good year for a 19-year-old. Any disappointment is probably because he was overhyped. Ended up being an important part of the 22-44-27 line down the stretch, and scored a couple of non-garbage goals near the end of the year
|David Legwand||I didn't expect Legwand to be a healthy scratch to end the playoffs. He was brought in as insurance for Zibanejad, but showed he couldn't play that role. Still, he held down the fourth line, and was the closest thing the Sens had to a veteran player who could still contribute.
|Clarke MacArthur||Had some fantastic stretches and some poor stretches this season. 36 points in 62 games isn't great production for making $23-million over the next five years, but this season definitely wasn't a failure.
|Milan Michalek||A big reason MacArthur doesn't get an up is that Michalek looked just as good on the top line. 34 points in 66 games is similar production, and Michalek is only owed $8-million for two more years. I expected more out of at least one of Milo or MacA
|Chris Neil||Neil did exactly what I expected of him this year: punch faces, do his patented pump-up gesture to the crowd, put up a few lucky points. I don't like what he brings to the team, but it wouldn't be fair to call this year a letdown.
|Played his way into a one-way contract for next year. Was easily Cameron's most relied-upon centre in the defensive zone, and formed the best penalty-killing forward duo this team's had in a long time with Condra.
||Only got into two games, but was a real sparkplug, and even got his first NHL point. I really hope this guy sticks around next year and gets a real shot at the NHL. Being named to the AHL's second all-star team hopefully grows management's opinion of him.
|Matt Puempel||Had three points in 13 games. Likely would've got more games in if not for a season-ending injury. Didn't look impressive in the NHL though. I expect he's going to need more time in the AHL.
|Bobby Ryan||The first half of the year was huge for Ryan. He was scoring at an impressive clip, he was showing defensive responsibility, and he was becoming a leader on the team. The problem was that he faded down the stretch. Not good for a $50-million man. I considered still giving him an up arrow for his impressive start, but in his own words, "You're only as good as your last game." The last game left us wanting, Bobby.
|Zack Smith||At the beginning of the year, it was said he wanted a more offensive role. Now at the end of the year, it's not clear if he has a role at all. Injuries kept him out for most of the season (only 37 games played), but he was a healthy scratch a few times in the playoffs as well. 7, 93, 44, and 27 are centres who are clearly ahead of him on the depth chart.
|Mark Stone||See Biggest Gains
|Kyle Turris||Jason Who? Turris finished with two more points than Spezza, whilst maintaining his 200-foot game reputation. Turris and Stone are going to look great together for years to come.
|Mika Zibanejad||The start to the season was so slow for Z-bad. He got his first goal (and point) in the ninth game, and didn't get his first multi-point game until his 25th game. However, once Zibanejad was given Ryan and Hoffman as his wingers, he played extremely well and showed the promise that got him drafted sixth overall. 46 points in 80 games is pretty good, especially when 40 came in his last 59 . Of Ottawa's five RFAs this summer, it's easy to forget Zibanejad is the youngest, and therefore probably has the most room to grow.
And since it's the end of the year, I decided to do an Ups and Downs for all our Staff here at Silver Seven too!
|Amelia L||Nobody brings more to this place than our dear leader. This year, she made us laugh, she made us cry, and she made us reflect. This place wouldn't be as awesome as it is without the her stellar contributions|
|Adnan||In addition to his previews, Adnan wrote two articles this year! He also doubled his music collection, adding Shake It Off to a library which already included Friday|
|B_T||In addition to his contributions here, he also runs the S7S Facebook page. Not to mention this year he gave us the "2014-15 Ottawa Senators May Surprise You" memes, which were just golden|
|DarrenM||Around for the occasional recap and of course to let us know when someone is playing in their first NHL game. As a new writer, I'm glad to see one of the founding fathers of this place approves of our work
|nkb||Hasn't been here much longer than me, but writes like a seasoned vet. Knows his way around the stats, and has actually played the game. Also just an all-around great guy|
|Ross A||Advice for Jared Cowen: If you join the staff here at Silver Seven, you too can give yourself up arrows whenever you feel like it|
|theianalex||Did a fantastic job covering an awful team in Bingo. Can't wait to see what he does covering the big club this coming year|
|Ary M||Master of the Nuggets and of game-tape. Read any article by Ary. Is there someone who puts more time into breaking down footage for us to understand? Is there anyone who does it in a way that's easier to understand? I would say no to both questions.|
|Richard McCrae||A late-season pickup, with an eye for stats and the ability to turn them into compelling pieces. Definitely worth the signing, even though it took away our slim hope of tanking for McDavid|
|Michaela Schreiter||Be it recaps, opinion, five thoughts, or hockey strategy pieces, Michaela does it all. The kind of all-around excellent writer that all blogs crave, but we have|
|Jeff Ulmer||Signed just before the off-season, Jeff has put in excellent work covering the BSens for a long time. He's also been a fan for over 40 years! Looking forward to his future contributions|
|Chet Sellers and Luke Peristy||The Chet and Luke Podcast is always fantastic. Some would say that S7S overpaid in free agency, but I think these two were worth it. The theme song alone would have been worth it|
|The Tif||Did a great job of holding down the fort in Game Day Threads and elsewhere on the site. His gif game was en pointe. It's only a matter of time until the first time he mentions that Ottawa's gonna go on a 98-game winning streak next year|
|Peter Raaymakers||Other commitments took away some of his time around here this year, but his many years of contribution can't be overlooked. Also introduced us to the super adorable Benjaminute this season|
Special thanks to our friend winterion at Japers' Rink for our icons!